Michigan's Path to the Playoff is Still Open

Michigan's Path to the Playoff is Still Open

Football

Michigan's Path to the Playoff is Still Open

0-1 doesn’t mean you’re not a good football team. 0-1 doesn’t mean the season is over. 0-1 doesn’t mean you still can’t win a championship. 0-1 doesn’t mean you throw in the towel.

It means you pick yourself up off the floor, shake off the dust and get to work NOW.

Michigan started off their season rough with a 24-17 loss to Notre Dame last week and suddenly their playoff chances are at 0% and Jim Harbaugh is on the hot seat. Suddenly, Michigan needs to re-think about starting Shea Patterson at quarterback again. Suddenly the defense isn’t as good as it used to be. Suddenly the team did a complete 180 in just one game.

Take a breather for a minute and let’s look at this as a whole.

Michigan starting out 0-1 isn’t helpful at all, everybody knows that. But it doesn’t mean the season is a wash and you should look towards 2019 for a better chance. There are 11 games left to play in this season, anything can happen.

This team overall reminds me of the 2015 squad that Harbaugh had in his first year. An away loss against a good opponent to start the year out before losing to Michigan State on a wacky punt play, getting blown out by Ohio State at home, but destroying Florida in the Citrus Bowl to finish out the year on a high note.

While the beginning is the same, the other part is unknown for right now, but it certainly can change. Michigan will take some time to get its groove back together and these first few games are to do that, have the offensive line gel together, Patterson learns the new offense and his receivers, the defense gets adjusted to their opponent. This stuff doesn’t happen overnight, it takes time. Sure Harbaugh has had four years to turn this program around, but a winning team doesn’t always start out the way they want to.

With Michigan falling to 21 in the new AP poll, they will have some work cut out for them for the rest of the season if they want to be in one of the top four spots come December. Here are some things to watch out for in the next 11 weeks.

Teams Ranked 1-5

Alabama is a powerhouse and most likely will be in those top four spots come December, but their road, while mostly easy, will have its bumps. Alabama has the 37th toughest schedule in NCAA Division 1 football according to teamrankings.com. Their toughest challenges will be AT #11 LSU and home against #6 Auburn, and their SEC championship game if they make it there.

Clemson has an even easier schedule than Alabama, with their only game against a ranked opponent is the final game of the season against #24 South Carolina. Expect Clemson to be in the final four as well unless they slip to a team they should beat or possibly lose in the ACC Championship game if they make it there.

Georgia has some good challenges ahead of them. #24 South Carolina this week, at #11 LSU later in the season, in Florida against the #25 Gators, and against #6 Auburn in November. They will have many chances to lose and Michigan fans should be cheering against them in these games.

Ohio State without Urban Meyer for three games doesn’t seem like a big deal, and while the first two games aren’t (against Oregon State and Rutgers) the third one against #16 TCU could be huge. Ohio State also has to go into Happy Valley against #10 Penn State this season AND East Lansing to take on #15 Michigan State.

Wisconsin has the best chance after Alabama and Clemson to make it to the playoffs. They play the #21 Wolverines in October in what should be another close game, along with #10 Penn State in November at Happy Valley. Those two games are the only tests for Wisconsin until the Big Ten Championship game if they make it there.

Teams Ranked 6-10

Oklahoma is one of the favorites to win the Big 12 Championship and their path isn’t too challenging. They have to play #16 TCU at TCU and they finish the season at #14 West Virginia, and while those games won’t be cakewalks, they are the only bumps Oklahoma faces until their conference championship if they make it.

Auburn started off the season with a win over then #6 Washington and they take on #11 LSU next week before getting some easier games until they travel to #3 Georgia and #1 Alabama. According to teamrankings.com, they have the sixth toughest schedule in the NCAA. They could also be in contention for the SEC title.

Notre Dame is independent, so that means their schedule is usually tougher than others, and they have some good games this season. They host #10 Stanford later in September before going to #12 Virginia Tech the following week, and they close out the season against #17 USC in California. All three games are 50/50 and could go either way.

Washington is the first team ahead of Michigan with a loss, so a second one could really do some damage here. They are favorites to win the PAC-12 and with two tough games at #23 Oregon and home against #10 Stanford, their road to the conference championship game is still possible.

Stanford has a tough matchup this weekend at #17 USC, then they get a break with UC Davis before they travel to #23 Oregon and #8 Notre Dame. Don’t forget about #9 Washington in November, as this team has a lot of games they could lose.

Teams Ranked 11-15

LSU is the hottest team in college football right now after taking down Miami (FL) and if they can keep their roll going they could be the lone SEC team standing in December. Their schedule isn’t easy either, they have #6 Auburn next week before traveling to another away game against a ranked opponent in #25 Florida. They do play three ranked teams in a row against #3 Georgia, #18 Mississippi State, and #1 Alabama, but luckily they are all at home.

Virginia Tech is the other team to challenge Clemson for the ACC title and with only games against #8 Notre Dame and #22 Miami (FL) being the toughest ones to get through, this team could be an underdog in December.

While Penn State did win week one, it wasn’t pretty and that could be a good sign for Wolverine fans as Penn State might struggle against the Wolverines, Spartans, Badgers, and Buckeyes in Big Ten play, but Penn State will be home for three of those games, so that can help them.

West Virginia has an easy schedule for the most part, only taking on #16 TCU and #7 Oklahoma at home, and Oklahoma could be part one of a two-part series as they could meet in the Big 12 Championship game.

Michigan State, like Penn State, didn’t look good in their season opener and moved down in the rankings despite winning week one. They travel to #13 Penn State the week before they host #21 Michigan, it what is a tough back-to-back schedule, then in November, they host #4 Ohio State.

Teams Ranked 16-20

TCU will take on #4 Ohio State next week without Urban Meyer, as that could be the lone loss for the Buckeyes. TCU then takes on #7 Oklahoma at home later in the season, and at #14 West Virginia in November. They could lose two of those games and be out of the playoff picture.

USC goes to #10 Stanford this week in a tough game and they close out the season against #8 Notre Dame. USC could be in the PAC-12 title picture as that could be their last hope in making the college football playoff.

Mississippi State has a tough road ahead as they host #6 Auburn, and travel to #11 LSU and #1 Alabama. They lose just one of those games they could be done and out of the SEC title picture, thus eliminating them from the playoffs.

The defending college football champions UCF Golden Knights have an easy schedule ahead of them with no ranked opponents on their schedule as of now. While that is good for them to get to the American-Athletic Conference title game, it could hurt them when compared to other teams that are undefeated and even with a loss or two.

Boise State is in the same boat as UCF as they are the kings of the Mountain West Conference and have an easy schedule for the rest of the season, but one slip could ruin their chance at a New Years Six Bowl.

What Does It All Mean?

It means a good majority of the teams ahead of the now #21 ranked Wolverines have plenty of tough games ahead of them, not that Michigan doesn’t either as they according to teamrankings.com have the third hardest schedule in the NCAA. Michigan’s path isn’t easy, as they host #5 Wisconsin and #13 Penn State, and travel to #15 Michigan State and #4 Ohio State, and they certainly will need some help from some of these other teams if they want their shot at winning it all.

First, though, it starts with them and they shouldn’t have to rely on others if they win the rest of their games this season. When you start relying on other teams to get you places, you aren’t doing enough to get their yourself and right now Michigan can get there by themselves, wins against all of those 11 teams would be enough to easily put them in a top four spot, they just have to beat whoever they play each week and not let themselves get in the way.

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