Red-hot Michigan emerges as popular College Football Playoff pick
Michigan appears to have the look of a College Football Playoff team.
The aftermath of Michigan's 21-7 pasting of in-state rival Michigan State on Saturday appears to be threefold: The Wolverines emphatically halted a run of recent dominance by the Spartans in the past decade — Michigan State had won eight of the past 10, though the teams now have split the last four since Jim Harbaugh has returned to Ann Arbor — in a series that also saw an infusion of fresh bad blood.
The Wolverines also moved into first in the Big Ten East, and control their own destiny in the race for a spot in the Big Ten title game, following Ohio State's loss at Purdue.
The Wolverines, also, could be in line for much bigger things.
Michigan, which moved up to No. 5 in the Associated Press and coaches polls on Sunday, is now a popular pick to reach the College Football Playoff, with numerous publications slotting the Wolverines into college football's final four in their updated bowl projections.
Among them: Jerry Palm of CBS Sports, ESPN's Kyle Bonagura and Mitch Sherman, Bill Bender of The Sporting News, and Yahoo! Sports all have Michigan as a No. 4 seed taking on top-ranked Alabama in the Cotton Bowl.
Likewise, Brett McMurphy of Stadium also has Michigan in the playoff, facing Clemson in the Cotton Bowl.
Michigan (7-1) is rolling, having won seven straight after a season-opening loss to now-No. 3 Notre Dame. That includes back-to-back convincing victories over Wisconsin and Michigan State — two programs that entered the season as Big Ten title contenders.
There's still work to be done, of course, with Penn State visiting Ann Arbor on Nov. 3, and the annual grudge match with Ohio State on Nov. 24 in Columbus, with the Big Ten championship game slated for Dec. 1 in Indianapolis, should Michigan make it that far.
As far as Michigan State (4-3), the Spartans' projections are all over the map, with ESPN's duo predicting either the New Era Pinstripe Bowl in New York on Dec. 27 against Syracuse (Bonagura) or the Redbox Bowl on Dec. 31 against Oregon in Santa Clara, Calif. (Sherman).
Palm has Michigan State facing Missouri in the TaxSlayer Bowl on Dec. 31 in Jacksonville, Fla., while Bender sees the Spartans in the San Francisco Bowl on Dec. 31 against Utah.