Michigan No Lock For College Football Playoff -- Even If Wolverines Win Out

It's not as cut and dried as it might seem.

Jamie and Stoney
November 01, 2018 - 1:43 pm

With No. 5 Michigan sitting at 7-1 and 5-0 in the Big Ten with four regular season games to, there's a growing consensus the Wolverines will be in the College Football Playoff as long as they win out. No questions asked.

At first blush, it seems to make sense.

Gary Danielson, a college football analyst for CBS Sports, joined the Jamie and Stoney Show on 97.1 The Ticket to break it all down.

“I think Michigan is one of four teams,” Danielson said. “I believe the SEC will get a spot. I don’t think anyone’s going to beat Clemson because (the ACC) is pretty weak and Clemson has the easiest road. And, of course, Notre Dame has a spot if they finish it out. So I think the fourth spot, and the committee has no say, is Michigan’s if they do their job. They don’t have to depend on the committee to pick them. They are going to be in.”

But it may not be that simple. The wild card, believe it or not, is No. 1 Alabama.

Should the Crimson Tide lose at No. 4 LSU Saturday night, LSU would claim the SEC West. If LSU wins the conference championship game, and No. 2 Clemson, No. 3 Notre Dame and Michigan take care of business themselves, the College Football Playoff committee would have to weigh the possibility of leaving Alabama, quite arguably the best team in the nation, out of the conversation.

Even if Alabama wins Saturday night, things could get dicey. What happens if they lose in the SEC championship game to No. 7 Georgia? The Bulldogs, assuming they still have one loss, would be in. Clemson and Notre Dame would be, too. Then the committee would be forced to choose between Michigan and Alabama. What then?

Would they really keep Alabama, the No. 1 team in the country since the start of the season, out of the playoffs in favor of Michigan, the Big Ten champion?

“I’m not confident in that,” Danielson said. “I think I might do that, but this has been a tough subject, especially in this league and especially looking at the committee. The committee has thrown this word ‘best’ into the formula. I don’t think it belongs there, but they put it there and they have set a precedent by saying that they will pick the best team, like they chose Ohio State (in 2016).”

The Buckeyes made the playoffs that season despite not winning the Big Ten. Penn State, the conference champion, ended up playing USC in the Rose Bowl.

“I do think Alabama is going to have to get to the SEC championship and lose their game, should everybody else (win) out. If Michigan wins out, Notre Dame wins out, Clemson wins out, I think a loss in the championship is going to be necessary (for Alabama). But I don’t know for sure,” Danielson said. “It’s going to be tough for that committee to stand in front of the TV and say that Alabama’s not one of the four best teams. That’s going to be a tough thing for them to hang their hat on because that’s been the precedent before.

“I do think they’re one of the four best, but if they play one less game and Michigan wins the Big Ten championship and let’s say Georgia’s playing LSU (in the SEC championship game), boy, that’ll be a controversial one. Maybe the most controversial since 2006.”

As Michigan fans are well aware, Florida edged out the Wolverines by the slightest of margins that year for the right to play Ohio State in the BCS National Championship. Could another disappointment be in the cards for Michigan?

Don’t count on it, but don’t rule it out. There are questions still to be answered.