Michigan is still alive in the College Football Playoff conversation even after dropping two spots to No. 5 following the Wolverines’ double-overtime loss to Ohio State.
The final rankings will be announced Sunday after a weekend of conference championships and they will determine the four-team national playoff and the New Year’s Six Bowls.
Alabama remains No. 1 in the CFP rankings announced Tuesday night, Ohio State is No. 2, Clemson is No. 3 and Washington is No. 4.
Michigan is ahead of No. 6 Wisconsin and No. 7 Penn State; those teams meet in the Big Ten championship this weekend.
Kirby Hocutt, the CFP chair stressed on multiple occasions that the separation between Washington and Michigan is “razor thin”. He described Michigan as having a “strong resume” with three wins over top-10 teams — Wisconsin, Penn State and Colorado — and praised the Wolverines for their “impressive game” against Ohio State.
Hocutt emphasized over and over that the Washington-Michigan separation is incredibly slim, which seemed to translate into this — if Colorado beats Washington in the Pac-12 championship on Friday night, Michigan will have an excellent chance to move into the No. 4 spot in the playoff.
“The separation between Washington and Michigan is very small, and I bet over the course of the last two days we’ve spent if not two hours, very close to two hours in the details and comparisons of those two particular teams,” Hocutt said on a conference call Tuesday night. “I know there were a number of selection committee members that were really struggling with who was the better team there.”
ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit was more definitive during the CFP show.
“If Washington loses, my opinion, Michigan goes to four,” Herbstreit said.
Michigan (10-2) is coming off a 30-27 double-overtime loss at Ohio State last Saturday. The Wolverines lost two of their final three games by a total of four points. After their one-point loss at unranked Iowa, Michigan did not drop in the rankings setting up a No. 3 Michigan versus No. 2 Ohio State matchup.
"The selection committee looks at Michigan with the strong resume,” Hocutt said. “They have three wins against top-10 teams. They played an impressive game this past weekend against No. 2 Ohio State despite the loss. Small separation — I can’t emphasize that enough — between No. 4 and No. 5.
“We talked about Michigan’s additional loss to an unranked loss sitting there on their resume. So again, can’t look forward and anticipate what may or may not happen this weekend, but Michigan does have an impressive resume in the eyes of the selection committee.”
Had Michigan defeated Ohio State, the Wolverines would have faced Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game on Saturday.
If Washington does beat Colorado, Michigan most likely will play in the Orange Bowl against Florida State.
After the loss to Ohio State, the Michigan players said they felt the Wolverines are one of the four best teams in the country and made their case for remaining in the running for a playoff berth.
Jabrill Peppers, shortly after being named the Big Ten’s Defensive Player of the Year, told the Big Ten Network, the team will continue to work hard while it awaits its postseason destination.
“We just talk about controlling the controllables,” Peppers told BTN. “There’s nothing we can do. All that wishing and hoping people lose stuff is nice, but it’s also out of your hands. Our mindset is, we’re going to keep preparing for whoever we may play, whatever bowl game we may end up in or even if we do end up the playoffs.
"We’ll just keep preparing and keeping our bodies in top-notch shape and keep our focus, because even though this was a tough loss we still have a chance to do something special. We’re very aware of that. We’re just going to keep putting in the work and see how things play out.”
1. Alabama, 12-0
2. Ohio State, 11-1
3. Clemson, 11-1
4. Washington, 11-1
5. Michigan, 10-2
6. Wisconsin, 10-2
7. Penn State, 10-2
8. Colorado, 10-2
9. Oklahoma, 9-2
10. Oklahoma State, 9-2
11. Southern California, 9-3
12. Florida State, 9-3
13. Louisville, 9-3
14. Auburn, 8-4
15. Florida, 8-3
16. West Virginia, 9-2
17. Western Michigan, 12-0
18. Stanford, 9-3
19. Navy, 9-2
20. Utah, 8-4
21. Louisiana State, 7-4
22. Tennessee, 8-4
23. Virginia Tech, 9-3
24. Houston, 9-3
25. Pittsburgh, 8-4