This is where things get weird and interesting this season.
Outside of the Michigan Football program, there was a lot of gloom and doom following their first loss of the season to Michigan State, a narrow 37-33 defeat in East Lansing.
Head coach Jim Harbaugh said on Monday that the grieving is over, edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson was already trying to attain optimism in the post-game press conference when he declared that the season isn’t over, the team has a lot to play for, and they’re still in contention.
Still in contention they are, a reflection of that being the newly released College Football Playoff rankings — the only ranking that will matter moving forward, as the committee decides who the top our teams are, who makes the College Football Playoff. The AP Top 25 and USA Today Coaches poll no longer carry weight or impact.
Michigan is ranked No. 7 in the College Football Playoff Top 25.
Michigan’s biggest rivals are ahead of the in the rankings, with Ohio State at No. 5 and Michigan State at No. 3.
The rest of the season is no cakewalk for the Wolverines, not by a long shot — Michigan plays a struggling Indiana team that usually plays UM tough, then heads to Happy Valley to take on Penn State, then a road game at Maryland, and the season finale is a date with Ohio State. Tough tests are ahead, and Michigan can’t afford to slip ahead. As quarterback Cade McNamara said, their backs are against the wall.
While Michigan’s margin for error greatly decreased after losing to the Spartans, the loss wasn’t fatal — the committee didn’t penalize Michigan much for losing a close game against a top tier opponent. The committee clearly thinks that Michigan is a pretty good darn team that just doesn’t happen to be undefeated anymore.
7-1, No. 7 team in the nation — far from bad, far away from having nothing to play for. The team needs to get added juice and motivation wherever they can get it, and this ranking had to give them a bit of a morale boost as they try to shake off the agony of Saturday’s defeat.
“I’ve seen the team for a long time now — the way they respond, whether it’s a setback or chatter,” Harbaugh told the media on Monday.
The Michigan coaching staff and team has to be excited being ranked No. 7 in the College Football Playoff Ranking. If they somehow take care of business the rest of the way, if Michigan does the unthinkable Nov. 27 versus the Buckeyes, they’re still in it (we’ll dive into the Big Ten East tiebreakers in the near future). This how a locker room works — despite the outside noise, players are trying to attain optimism in their daily lives, not clinging to a ‘we’re doomed’ mentality and energy.
“The Michigan Football team, the 2021 team is gonna be defined on what’s already taken place, and what they do this Saturday, what they do the Saturday after that, and the Saturday after that. That’s what’s gonna define us. The resolve is to get back to work, get prepared for this next opponent. That’s why I woke up today,” Harbaugh said. “Determined to attack with the resolve that it’s a new season, it’s a new day, it’s a new week, a new four-game season. Let’s get at it.”
The team isn’t packing it in, and as Harbaugh said, their previous games will define the 2021 Michigan Football team, but so will their next four.
Michigan can’t lose another matchup during their 12-game season, can’t lose another round during their 12-round fight.
“My approach, very similar to a fighter getting knocked down. You get up, referee wipes the gloves and you come back even more determined, with even more resolve,” Harbaugh said. “To prepare, to work harder, to find a way, to finish, and to win.”