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Discussion: Can Michigan realistically return to the CFP this year?

Michigan came in at No. 5 in the first set of CFP rankings. We look at history to see what that means for where the Wolverines might end up.

Playoff Semifinal at the Capital One Orange Bowl - Georgia v Michigan Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The first CFP rankings were released this week and I, like many of you when you saw the Michigan Wolverines at No. 5, was shocked yet not surprised. Of course the Committee would need Michigan to pass the Ohio State test before even considering them in the top-4. Then when people started defending Clemson over Michigan, it was brought up that Michigan’s lone strong win came against Penn State. That sounds much like our rival that’s three spots ahead, but who am I to truly know the inner workings of the committee.

So once more, the fate of Michigan to go to the playoff is contingent on The Game. With the way it ended a year ago and the current trajectory of both the Wolverines and the Buckeyes, it’s hard to judge whether it will be a slugfest or a blowout like the last three games have been. Ohio State should still have its 42-27 loss hanging over its head and I highly doubt the Buckeyes will have a repeat performance this year at home. At the same time, the Wolverines honestly look better than they did a year ago and look poised to snap their losing streak in Columbus.

With all things considered I asked myself, can Michigan realistically return to the CFP this year?

I did some quick searching and came across some interesting information for all of you to also consider. Since the CFP came to be a guiding factor for a national champion in 2014, on average around two of the four teams (more specifically, 19 of 32) that were ranked in the initial CFP rankings appeared there on Selection Sunday.

It was only in the first year that three of those initial teams fell out and were replaced by the final CFP selection, and never has that happened to all four schools at the top. Michigan has only appeared in the initial release of the CFP rankings once, back in 2016. Obviously the Wolverines made the CFP last year, as they and Cincinnati both appeared on Selection Sunday, replacing Michigan State and Oregon who were in the initial rankings.

Obviously Michigan is on the outside looking directly in so the chances of making the leap into the top-four are high. What do you think about its chances when seeing statistically that the top four changes by at least two teams by Selection Sunday?

I started thinking more into how expansion will impact responses to CFP rankings in the future. Having a 12-team field as opposed to four would definitely open the possibilities for Michigan making the initial rankings more on the regular and then there wouldn’t be much need to discuss why Michigan was left out. It’s not like finding out the answer is difficult, but at the same time it’s hard to ignore the Wolverines’ performance through eight games.

While Michigan’s name didn’t appear in the first rankings, I think the Wolverines are building a strong case to appear on Selection Sunday. It feels reflective of two weeks ago when Michigan got jumped in the AP top 25 and had to go out and get the win to be back in the top four. With four games left in the season and the final full month of college football upon us, it’s time to see if this Wolverine team can outmatch their performance from a year ago.

Can Michigan win out its final four games to return to Indy? Can the Wolverines make the final CFP rankings before the end of November? How realistic are their chances to return to the playoffs? What about this team leads you to believe they can return?

Share with us your thoughts and opinions in the comments below!