Michigan’s players still hope there is a slim chance they can earn a spot in the four-team College Football Playoff, but they also admit it is highly unlikely.
Still, the Wolverines are a catch for any postseason appearance with their strong alumni base, and they drive television ratings. Based on most bowl projections, Michigan will be playing in the Orange Bowl, a New Year’s Six Bowl, against Florida State on Dec. 30.
There is still some wiggle room for the Wolverines to reach the Rose Bowl, but nabbing one of the four playoff berths seems an incredible stretch after the Wolverines lost 30-27 in double-overtime at Ohio State on Saturday.
Michigan, 10-2 with two losses in its final three games – at Iowa and Ohio State by a combined four points – controlled its destiny heading into Columbus as the No. 3 team in the CFP facing No. 2 Ohio State. A win would have put the Wolverines in the Big Ten championship game and given them a great shot at the national playoff.
The Buckeyes, although they will not play in Saturday’s Big Ten championship, appear to be a lock for the four-team playoff, along with No. 1 Alabama.
“I’m sure our chances are slim to none now,” Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight said after Saturday’s game. “It’s a bummer that we don’t get another shot at those guys this year.”
Could the Wolverines play in the Rose Bowl? It’s possible. If Wisconsin beats Penn State on Saturday in the Big Ten title game and the Badgers are included in the four-team playoff, a two-loss Michigan might be more appealing than a three-loss Penn State which lost to UM in the regular season.
If Penn State beats Wisconsin, the Badgers would have three losses, including one to Michigan and Penn State. Assuming the Nittany Lions aren’t part of the CFP, they would head to the Rose Bowl and Michigan to the Orange.
The next CFP rankings will be released Tuesday and the final announcement is next Sunday when the teams will know their postseason destinations.
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh spent most of his post-OSU news conference making clear he was disappointed with the officiating. Michigan had seven penalties for 59 yards and Ohio State had two for six, and he was critical of the first-down call in the second overtime when it appeared Michigan had stopped J.T. Barrett short.
So he was in no mood to lobby for a playoff spot.
“We make our case on the field,” Harbaugh said. “I’m not here to make any arguments or cases. I feel like our team has done everything it can possibly do and done it very well.”
Michigan finished the regular season as the nation’s second-ranked defense after being ranked No. 1 for weeks. The Wolverines yielded an average 252.7 yards a game, while Alabama is now No. 1, allowing 246.8 yards.
They are No. 2 in scoring (12.5), 14th in rush defense (116.8) and first in pass defense (135.9).
Offensively, they are No. 49 in total offense (439.3), 30th in rushing (223.3), 82nd in passing (216.1) and 13th in scoring (41.0).
It was unclear whether the Wolverines would have Speight ready to play at Ohio State. Speight had suffered a left shoulder injury at Iowa two weeks earlier and sat out the game against Indiana.
He accounted for three turnovers, including a fumbled snap at the goal line. One of his interceptions was returned for a touchdown. The other, which gave the Buckeyes the ball at the Michigan 13-yard line, two plays later was converted for a touchdown.
Speight had helped direct Michigan to a 17-7 lead in the third quarter.
“Doctors had cleared him to practice this week,” Harbaugh said after the game. “He showed he was functional right up to the level he has been playing all year. After he practiced on Tuesday, Wednesday, we made the decision he would start.”
Now the players will wait on their postseason destination.
While they think they are worthy of national playoff contention, they said they plan to prepare for whatever is next.
“If we would have won this game or got a call here or there, would have turned the game in our favor, and you guys would have been saying we’re a playoff team, we’re a shoe-in,” defensive lineman and co-captain Chris Wormley said. “I think we are. I think we have the talent, I think we have the players, and I think we’ve proven ourselves all year we’re a playoff contender.
“Hopefully people see that and put us in the playoff.”
Here are remaining games for College Football Playoff contenders. Teams are listed in the order of this week’s Associated Press poll.
Alabama (12-0): SEC championship vs. Florida, Saturday, 4 p.m. (CBS)
Ohio State (11-1): None
Clemson (11-1): ACC championship game vs. Virginia Tech, Saturday, 8 p.m. (ABC)
Washington (11-1): Pac-12 championship game vs. Colorado, Friday, 9 p.m. (FOX)
Michigan (10-2): None
Wisconsin (10-2): Big Ten championship game vs. Penn State, Saturday, 8 p.m. (FOX)
Oklahoma (9-2): Home vs. Oklahoma State, Saturday, 12:30 p.m. (FOX)
Penn State (10-2): Big Ten championship game vs. Wisconsin, Saturday, 8 p.m. (FOX)