How many teams have better playoff resumes than Michigan football right now?
ANN ARBOR, Mich. – It’s only been four weeks since the start of Michigan football, but a third of the regular season has already come and gone.
The Wolverines have won their first four games heading into their bye week, landing them at No. 8 in the AP Poll and No. 7 in the Coaches Poll.
It might seem too early to talk about the College Football Playoff, but in the current landscape, that’s what’s on everybody’s mind as the season plays out. And four games provide plenty of data to use to start understanding which teams are for real and where they stand on the national scale.
To put Michigan’s current playoff standing in perspective, here are the teams that currently have better resumes than the Wolverines.
Narrowing the field
Right off the bat, we can eliminate any teams with a loss, because no one-loss team has a big enough win to justify an imperfect record at this point in the season.
That leaves 23 teams other than Michigan eligible for this list, though many don’t have a quality win, as the Wolverines do over Florida.
Michigan also has a true road victory in its back pocket, even though it was against an overmatched Purdue squad.
In my eyes, Clemson probably has the best resume in the country.
Not only are the Tigers 4-0, they have won three of their games by at least 26 points. Clemson has defended its national championship with two early wins over top-20 teams, including the dismantling of Louisville on the road.
Purdue proved Louisville might not be as good as it was last season, but Lamar Jackson is still an electric player, and Clemson’s 47-21 road victory was one of the best of the year.
Clemson also knocked off Auburn in a defensive battle at Memorial Stadium. It wasn’t pretty, but you can’t knock the Tigers for beating a strong opponent.
Auburn and Louisville are two of the four highest-ranked one-loss teams in the country, which means Clemson has two of the best four wins so far this season.
One of those other top wins belongs to TCU, which went on the road this weekend and stomped then-No. 6 Oklahoma State by 13 points.
Oklahoma State dropped to No. 15, but it’s still an excellent win for the Horned Frogs, especially on the road.
That’s not the only dominant Power Five road win for Gary Patterson’s crew, which also went to Arkansas and pounded the Razorbacks 28-7 during the nonconference season.
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Wins over Jackson State and SMU don’t move the needle much, but TCU’s two road victories give it one of the top resumes through four weeks.
Nick Saban’s team has quietly sprinted out to another 4-0 start, putting Alabama back near the top of the playoff race.
Alabama’s win over Florida State doesn’t look as strong after the Seminoles lost to North Carolina State, but the Crimson Tide dominated Florida State with Deondre Francois, and that team was a legitimate ACC title contender.
Alabama also blasted upstart Vanderbilt by 59 points on the road after the Commodores won their first three games. Vanderbilt probably isn’t one of the top teams in the SEC, but it is a much-improved group under Derek Mason, and Alabama embarrassed the Commodores on their own turf.
Georgia has an interesting resume in that two of its wins came against awful competition and two came against fringe top-25 teams.
Neither Notre Dame nor Mississippi State are ranked as high as Florida, but the fact that Georgia beat the Fighting Irish in South Bend gives its resume a slight edge over Michigan’s resume.
Georgia outlasted Notre Dame with a freshman quarterback, proving how good Kirby Smart’s defense can be.
Georgia also smashed Mississippi State 31-3 one week after Mississippi State dominated LSU 37-7. I’m no math whiz, but some would say that makes Georgia 58 points better than LSU. That’s how this works, right?
In a world where only four teams can make the playoff, and many of those teams might have the same record, style points do matter against lesser opponents.
Oklahoma struggled mightily at Baylor, a team that has yet to win a game. The Bears lost to Liberty, UT San Antonio and Duke before sticking with the Sooners for 60 minutes.
But that performance doesn’t erase what I believe to be the most impressive win for any team so far this season: Oklahoma’s 31-16 stomping of Ohio State in Columbus. Baker Mayfield solidified himself as a Heisman Trophy candidate and launched Oklahoma into the top five.
Lincoln Riley is doing a nice job in his first year as head coach, and even though three of the Sooners’ opponents have been cupcakes, that Ohio State victory is enough to give Oklahoma a better resume than Michigan.
CLOSE, BUT NOT QUITE
San Diego State
This was the toughest call to make, especially because San Diego State has two road victories and a win over what was a ranked team at the time.
But Stanford doesn’t look like a better win that Florida at this point, and I’m not convinced Arizona State is tougher than Purdue. So Michigan’s resume is slightly stronger than San Diego State’s.
Like San Diego State, USC has a resume that is very similar to Michigan’s. But the Trojans’ top win came over a team with two losses, so they fell just short.
There’s a good chance Stanford and Texas will both turn out to be quality victories for USC by the end of the season, but at this point, neither has a winning record.
USC was less dominant in its win over California than Michigan was at Purdue, so that’s not a huge selling point.
Virginia Tech started the season with a nice win over West Virginia, but we don’t really know how good West Virginia is because it has only beaten two 1-3 teams and a winless FCS opponent.
The Hokies have a chance to pick up by far the best win of the month Saturday as they host Clemson.
There’s no offensive trio in the country more deadly than Saquon Barkley, Trace McSorley and Mike Gesicki. Barkley single-handedly saved Penn State from its first loss against Iowa, but it’s very difficult to win at Kinnick Stadium.
Unfortunately, the rest of Penn State’s schedule is extremely bare. Georgia State, Pittsburgh and Akron are a combined 3-8 with only one win over an FBS opponent, and even that win came against the winless Charlotte 49ers.
The Nittany Lions picked up a very good win at Iowa, but they need to add to their body of work.
OTHER UNDEFEATED TEAMS
Here are the other undefeated teams in the country, which don’t yet have resumes that stack up to the ones listed above:
- Central Florida
- Miami (Fla.)
- South Florida
- Texas-San Antonio
- Texas Tech
- Wake Forest
- Washington State
Michigan doesn’t have the quality victories it earned last year against Colorado, Penn State and Wisconsin early in the season, but it still owns one of the top resumes in college football.
With games against Penn State, Wisconsin and Ohio State still on the schedule, Michigan will have plenty of chances to prove itself. For now, it’s just important for the Wolverines to avoid a blemish on their record.
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