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How Harbaugh’s Michigan teams would have factored into a 12-team College Football Playoff

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A look at the new 12-team format and how it would have impacted Harbaugh team’s of old.

Wisconsin v Michigan Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images

While the decision to move to a College Football Playoff was a step in the right direction, the calls are growing larger for the field to expand beyond four teams.

A sub-group of the College Football Playoff management committee recently proposed to change the current four-team format to a 12-team event. It seems like expansion of the playoff, albeit at a slow pace, is inevitable.

With that in mind, here’s a look at how Jim Harbaugh’s team’s would have factored into a 12-team College Football Playoff — four years of which they were in the thick of things with two years where they wouldn’t have been in contention (2017, 2020).

Two years that were close but no cigar

  • Harbaugh’s first year at Michigan was actually a pretty good one. Transfer-QB Jake Rudock turned into a solid starter and their only losses of the year were against Utah (Week 1), the “trouble with the snap” final-second defeat against Michigan State, and a 42-13 loss against Ohio State in the season finale. Michigan was ranked No. 14 in the final College Football Playoff Top 25. Michigan finished the season 10-3, beating Florida in the Citrus Bowl.
  • In 2019, 9-2 Michigan was sitting at No. 14 in the CFP rankings when they took on Ohio State at Michigan Stadium. Michigan would lose the game 56-27, which kept them at No. 14 in the final CFP Top 25. Michigan finished the season 9-4, losing to Alabama in the Citrus Bowl.

Two years they would have been in

  • Michigan had a really good team in 2016, the best of the Harbaugh era. They had a painful 14-13 loss at Iowa but were still ranked No. 3 heading into their tilt at No. 2 Ohio State. The matchup against the Buckeyes would go into overtime where ‘The Spot’ occurred with OSU QB J.T. Barrett picking up a 4th & 1 first down that will forever be disputed and refuted. Michigan lost to Ohio State 30-27. Even with the loss to OSU, it wouldn’t have done U-M in. Michigan was ranked at No. 6 in the final CFP Top 25 and would have faced No. 11 Florida State in the proposed 12-team format. Michigan finished the season 10-3, losing to Florida State in the Orange Bowl.
  • QB Shea Patterson had a pretty good first year at Michigan in 2018 and the Wolverines had momentum heading into the season finale at Ohio State. Michigan was ranked at No. 4, while OSU stood at No. 10. Michigan was expected to win this one, and was part of Michigan’s ‘Revenge Tour’, something started by Chase Winovich that the team embraced. While Michigan did get revenge against teams like Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Penn State, the same couldn’t be said with their 62-39 loss to OSU. Michigan finished the year at No. 7 and would have faced No. 10 Florida in the proposed 12-team format. Michigan finished the season 9-4, losing to Florida in the Peach Bowl.