Michigan makes leap in College Football Playoff rankings; Michigan State moves up

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Michigan has moved up to No. 2 in the College Football Playoff rankings released Tuesday night, just days after clinching the Big Ten East Division title with a win over rival Ohio State.

Georgia remains No. 1 in the CFP rankings, Alabama is No. 3 and Cincinnati No. 4. Ohio State (10-2), which was No. 2 last week, dropped to No. 7. Michigan State (10-2), which defeated Penn State in the regular-season finale, is No. 11 under Mel Tucker, who on Tuesday was named Big Ten Coach of the Year.

This is the highest-ever CFP ranking for Michigan, which began the season unranked coming off a dismal 2-4 season. The Wolverines are 11-1 after beating Ohio State, 42-27, last Saturday at Michigan Stadium. Michigan, ranked No. 5 last week, clinched a spot in the Big Ten Championship Game on Saturday against West division winner Iowa, ranked No. 13 in the CFP rankings.

Linebacker David Ojabo and Michigan are No. 2 in this week's College Football Playoff rankings.

Gary Barta, the CFP selection committee chair, said Tuesday night the Wolverines continued to impress the committee. He singled out edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson, who had three sacks in the win over Ohio State and was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, and running back Hassan Haskins who had five rushing touchdowns to bring his total to 18 this season.

“The committee has been referring to Michigan as a complete team now for three or four weeks as we were watching the team,” Barta said during a conference call. “I just think about what the defense was able to do. Hutchinson, but not just him, but he had an incredible performance. They were able to put pressure on Ohio State’s offense and really contain an incredibly explosive offense both passing and running. And on the flip side of that, for Haskins to do what he did, and they were able to run the ball in kinda difficult conditions

“I would tell you the committee was not surprised at the way Michigan played. Maybe, like everybody, a little surprised at the way the score ended up but just a complete team. That’s the way the committee has felt about Michigan for quite a while, and they showed it in a championship environment. This was certainly a playoff game and under that kind of environment, Michigan showed they were able to find a way to win and win convincingly against a great Ohio State team.”

It is the Wolverines’ first appearance in the Big Ten title game. The program has not won a Big Ten championship since 2004. A win would likely advance Michigan to a national semifinal game.

The final rankings will be released Sunday at noon. Barta said the committee will watch the conference championship games together on Saturday.

It was an emotional victory over Ohio State, which had won eight straight in the rivalry and dominated the last two decades in the series. Michigan tight end Luke Schoonmaker said Tuesday night after practice that the players quickly flipped the switch after the win to focus on Iowa, which has the nation’s 13th-ranked defense (315.7 yards average) and is ninth in scoring defense (17.2 points).

“Just the best day of our lives this past weekend,” Schoonmaker said. “We came back in on Monday, and we all kinda said that that the job’s not done. That was the common message with everybody, and you could feel it, too, that hungriness to keep going.”

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said Monday that he will continue to have his team take the playoff-game approach.

“That mindset of, we play, we win this game, then we’ll advance to the semifinals,” Harbaugh said.

The stakes for Michigan could not be more defined.

achengelis@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @chengelis