After back-to-back Big Ten Championships, College Football Playoff appearances, and wins over Ohio State, the narrative surrounding the Michigan Wolverines is finally changing. Fans and analysts alike are seeing this team as a legitimate title contender, and the advanced analytics are in agreement.
Bill Connelly’s SP+ system is the best out there in the world of college football, and his initial projections had Michigan sitting third (28.8) behind Georgia (31.7) and Ohio State (30.0). After updating the numbers based on transfer portal movement, Connelly released his May rankings, which are similar to the previous version but do feature some changes.
The biggest takeaway in Ann Arbor is that the gap at the top closing. Georgia (29.9) and Ohio State (29.6) still own the top two spots, but the Wolverines are barely behind in third (29.2). Compare that to fourth-place Alabama (27.9), fifth-place LSU (25.2), and sixth-place Tennessee (23.9) and it shows that there is a very clear three-team bunch right at the top.
SP+ is far from perfect, but historically grades out pretty well compared to any other system. One area where it excels is providing a relative gauge on what to expect heading into a season. While close wins and losses have a big impact on the record, the analytics are not as swayed by final score. With that in mind, here is where Michigan’s 2023 opponents fall in the latest update:
- East Carolina: 132
- UNLV: 107
- Bowling Green: 125
- Rutgers: 73
- Nebraska: 49
- Minnesota: 31
- Indiana: 71
- Michigan State: 42
- Purdue: 48
- Penn State: 8
- Maryland: 40
- Ohio State: 2
A couple quick takeaways: first, the non-conference schedule is only slightly less embarrassing than last year, as none of the opening three games should provide any sort of trouble. The same can be said for much of the conference schedule as well, with the strongest Big Ten West foes (Wisconsin: 19, Iowa: 29) not on the slate.
The exceptions are Ohio State and Penn State, who both enter the season as top-10 competition. It feels like any of these three could win the conference, and it is very possible that two will again end up making the playoff. Because of this, while the caliber of competition is weak for much of the schedule, Michigan has very little margin for error.