Last week, the Michigan Wolverines fell to the Wisconsin Badgers, 35-14. With 359 yards rushing on 57 carries, it was a complete and utter annihilation. The score indicated the game was closer than it really was – Wisconsin led 28-0 at halftime and had the ball for 41 of the game’s 60 minutes. With the loss, many people think Michigan’s college football playoff chances are over.
Where do Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines go from here? While it won’t be easy, the Wolverines do have a path back to glory. There are three things the Wolverines need to do the rest of the way to put themselves in championship contention.
Here’s what Michigan needs to do to qualify for the 2020 College Football Playoff.
Michigan needs to win the rest of their games
With Michigan’s resume thus far, it’s pretty clear they need to win out to have any chance of qualifying for the college football playoffs. A one-loss team could certainly qualify, and in fact, one or two probably will.
But Michigan’s looked so underwhelming so far, that they need to go on quite a run to erase the stink of their early-season performance from the voters’ minds.
Michigan also has a fair number of contenders in front of them who right now have a much better shot at the CFP, including:
- Clemson. As the defending champion playing against a weak ACC this year, it would be shocking if they didn’t go undefeated. You can pencil the Tigers in for a slot.
- Alabama. Much like Clemson, the Crimson Tide need to be considered a contender for the championship until they prove otherwise. They may slip up in SEC play once, but they’re still likely to do enough damage to qualify.
- Ohio State. More on them below.
- Wisconsin. Behind running back Jonathan Taylor, they’ve looked impressive so far (including their big victory over Michigan).
- Georgia. Last week’s huge victory over Notre Dame proved they’re an elite team who isn’t going anywhere.
That’s only five. There are many more teams ahead of the 20th ranked Wolverines right now. If you assume two of the four playoff spots will go to Alabama and Clemson (and why in the world wouldn’t you?) that means the rest of the nation is playing for only the two remaining spots.
That gives Michigan zero margin for error in trying to make the college football playoffs. All this in a season where they’ve already looked shaky at best. They need nothing less than a spotless record the rest of the way, including a Big 10 title.
Win in convincing fashion
Michigan’s drubbing at the hands of Wisconsin was embarrassing. Also embarrassing? Needing to go to overtime to beat a scrappy yet overmatched Army team on September 7.
They also had a fairly nondescript 40-21 victory over Middle Tennessee State, which is not an opponent anyone will confuse with Alabama anytime soon.
Michigan has yet to look impressive in victory or defeat. From here on out, they don’t just need to win. They need to win big.
They have a few opportunities for signature victories that don’t need to be by a wide margin. Wins over Notre Dame, Iowa, Michigan State, Ohio State, and Penn State can afford to be slim.
But everyone else? The Wolverines need blowouts. They’ll need to take Big 10 also-rans like Rutgers, Illinois, and Indiana to the woodshed.
Beat Ohio State…finally
Of course, if Michigan wins out it will mean they’ll end their regular season with a win over Ohio State. But while it counts the same as the rest of the wins in the record book, this win would mean so much more to the team and fans.
For all the hype about Jim Harbaugh’s return to Michigan, he has yet to do the one thing that the Wolverine faithful require from their coaches: beat their most dreaded of rivals, Ohio State.
Harbaugh is in his fifth year as Michigan’s head coach. He’s lost all four matchups to Ohio State. His inability to best them is more than about just the rivalry, however.
Michigan and Ohio State play in the same division of the Big 10. In order for Michigan to qualify for (and eventually, win) the conference championship game, they’ll likely need to beat the Buckeyes. Ohio State isn’t just keeping Michigan out of the national title picture each year. They’re also keeping them out of the Big 10 championship discussion.
Above all else, Harbaugh drastically needs a victory over OSU in 2019. He can survive Michigan not making the college football playoffs. However, he probably can’t survive an 0-5 run against the bane of every Michigan fan’s existence.