Michigan’s players say they’re relishing the role as “villains,” with an opportunity to play spoiler over the next two weeks.
How big could that role be? Of nine games CBS Sports writes will determine which teams will reach the College Football Playoff, the Wolverines could be involved in as many as three.
It starts, of course, with Saturday, when No. 19 Michigan (8-2, 5-2 Big Ten) plays at No. 5 Wisconsin (10-0, 7-0) in a showdown that includes ESPN’s College GameDay crew.
“This is a huge date point for Wisconsin in the eyes of the committee,” writes Chip Patterson of CBS Sports. “Though the game is at home, it’s still a big step up in competition from the average Big Ten opponent on Wisconsin’s 2017 schedule. Wisconsin needs to have multiple quality wins, including the Big Ten title game, in order to make the College Football Playoff. Style points help, but a win is the most important result for Wisconsin.”
In terms of intensity, it’ll only be a warmup act for Michigan, which is home Nov. 25 in its annual grudge match with bitter rival Ohio State, ranked No. 8.
“There’s a backdoor opportunity, again, for Ohio State,” Patterson writes. “The Buckeyes should be rooting for Alabama to hand Auburn and Georgia its third and second loss, respectively, in the next three weeks to give Ohio State a strong argument for the playoff as a two-loss conference champion from the Big Ten. Any loss drops Ohio State from this field of contenders, giving Michigan a chance to play spoiler to its rival in Ann Arbor.”
Winning both games gives Michigan a shot to win the Big Ten East, though the Wolverines still need plenty of help. If the dominoes fall its way, though, Michigan would face Wisconsin again in the Big Ten title game — which is also a game on CBS Sports’ list. Of course, victories against Wisconsin and Ohio State might render the Big Ten title game meaningless in terms of its impact on the College Football Playoff.
“By the time the game kicks off,” Patterson writes, “we’ll have the results from the Big 12 and SEC Championship Games, setting the stage for the implications of this title game.”