Every possible playoff match, bowl recreation, opponent for Michigan football goes into champion week
ANN ARBOR, me. – The postseason scenarios for football in Michigan are simple: win the Big Ten championship game and get into the playoffs. Lose and settle for a New Year’s Six At Large bid.
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Here’s a look at every combination of playoff matchup, bowl game, and postseason opponent Michigan could get after this weekend’s game against Iowa.
CFP semi-finals: Cotton Bowl
The most likely destination for Michigan if it wins the Big Ten title is the Cotton Bowl at the AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Currently, the Wolverines are ranked 2nd behind Georgia on the CFP poll, which means Georgia, as the # 1 team, would receive the most advantageous geographic location in the semi-finals.
The Orange Bowl in Miami is closer to Athens, Georgia than the Cotton Bowl (about 200-300 miles). That said, as long as Georgia beats Alabama this weekend, the Bulldogs will likely be playing closer to home.
Michigan’s possible opponents: Cincinnati, Oklahoma State, Notre Dame, Georgia, Alabama
If Michigan plays in the Cotton Bowl, Cincinnati and Oklahoma State are by far the most likely opponents. All three teams are playing for the conference championships this weekend, and if they all win they’ll get second, third, and fourth on the poll (assuming Alabama loses to Georgia and falls).
Notre Dame would need both a Cincinnati loss to No. 21 Houston and a Oklahoma State loss to No. 9 Baylor to advance to No. 3. Even in this scenario, the Irish are no guarantee they will rise that much without playing.
Georgia will likely be No. 2 or No. 3 if it loses to Alabama this weekend, and either way, if Michigan beat Iowa, the two would face each other in either semi-finals (Tuscaloosa is a little closer to the Cotton Bowl than .) the Orange Bowl, so who knows which teams would go where?) Obviously, I’m assuming Alabama will take 1st place with a win.
The only conceivable way Michigan could face Alabama would be if Georgia and Michigan both win, Cincinnati and Oklahoma State both lose, and Alabama remains number 3 despite their second loss. The only reason I think this is a realistic scenario: the committee may want to avoid falling Alabama to fourth place and having an immediate rematch with Georgia in the semifinals.
Most Likely Matchups When Michigan Is Playing in the Cotton Bowl:
Cincinnati or Oklahoma State
CFP semi-finals: Orange Bowl
Aside from the above scenario, where Alabama hypothetically takes # 1 and makes it into the Cotton Bowl, there aren’t many situations that would get Michigan into the Orange Bowl.
Even if Alabama beats Georgia and Michigan is somehow seeded No. 1, it is a bit awkward which semifinals it would end up in. The distances from Ann Arbor to the two locations are not that different.
Michigan’s possible opponents: Georgia, Cincinnati, Oklahoma State, Notre Dame
If the slightest chance Michigan will jump to # 1 and go to the Orange Bowl becomes a reality, the potential opponents will be the same. It’s almost a guarantee that one of Cincinnati, Oklahoma State, or Notre Dame will take 4th place.
Peach Bowl or Fiesta Bowl
If Michigan loses to Iowa it will be dropped out of playoff talk, Iowa will go to the Rose Bowl, and the Wolverines will have to settle for a big offer for New Years Six. That means they end up in the Peach Bowl or Fiesta Bowl.
Michigan’s possible opponents: Cincinnati, Oklahoma State, Notre Dame, Ole Miss, Pittsburgh, Wake Forest
Cincinnati and the state of Oklahoma would join the New Year’s six pool if they lose this weekend. If Michigan lost in this scenario, a win would put either team in the top four, no matter what happens to Georgia and Alabama.
Notre Dame is likely to be headed for either of these bowls as it is unless there is chaos in the Conference championship games this weekend. Pitting Michigan against Notre Dame – two rivals who haven’t played against each other this season – would be a classic college football postseason move.
Ole Miss is currently number 8 on the CFP poll, and if Georgia beats Alabama, the Crimson Tide will likely represent the SEC at the Sugar Bowl, making Ole Miss a great team.
Since the Orange Bowl is a CFP semi-final this year, the Pittsburgh vs. Wake Forest winner will play in the Peach Bowl or Fiesta Bowl as the ACC champion.
Reasons for exceptions:
Michigan cannot play Alabama in these bowls because Alabama will be in either the playoff or the Sugar Bowl to replace SEC Champion Georgia.
Michigan can’t play against Baylor because if Baylor beats Oklahoma State, they’ll go to the Sugar Bowl as the Big 12 champion. If Baylor loses to the state of Oklahoma, it will go to the Sugar Bowl as a replacement for the Big 12 for the state of Oklahoma, which would be in the playoff.
Michigan can’t play BYU because Iowa would take a spot in the New Year’s Six (Rose Bowl) in that scenario, dropping the # 12 BYU one more place on the poll and putting it out of consideration.
Obviously Michigan isn’t going to play Ohio State or Michigan State. The Buckeyes ended up at either the Fiesta Bowl or Peach Bowl, Michigan in the other. Michigan State would likely go to the Citrus Bowl.
If Oregon loses to Utah, it will likely miss out on a New Years Eve bowl entirely.
Georgia doesn’t make the top four no matter what.
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