Michigan fans find themselves with an excruciating choice this week.
Go Green and White or Go Scarlet and Gray.
Ask a Michigan fan what they root for when Michigan State plays Ohio State, and the answer may be a scoreless tie that leaves both teams in an infinite time loop.
But Michigan’s rivals will presumably play their game to completion in East Lansing on Saturday.
And the result could have an impact on where the Wolverines stand in the conversation for the College Football Playoff.
Where you stand on Saturday’s game between Michigan State and Ohio State depends on what you want most for the Wolverines.
If the goal is simply to reach the Big Ten Championship, a Michigan State victory would help. Michigan is 6-0 in the Big Ten. Ohio State is right behind in the Big Ten East at 5-1. The Spartans are 4-2. Ohio State taking another loss would mean that Michigan could lose its Nov. 24 matchup in Columbus and still win the East.
(Provided, of course, Michigan holds up its end of the bargain and beats Rutgers and Indiana.)
Michigan is a 39-point favorite at Rutgers this Saturday. The Wolverines host Indiana (1-5 in the Big Ten) the following Saturday, Nov. 17.
If the goal is to get to the playoff, Michigan fans might be better served by an Ohio State win on Saturday.
With the Wolverines currently ranked fourth in the College Football Playoffs, it would seem they are in good position to reach the playoff if they win their final three regular season games and the Big Ten title on Dec. 1.
But there is a potentially problematic scenario in which Notre Dame and Clemson finish undefeated, and a one-loss Georgia hands Alabama its first loss in the SEC Championship.
In that scenario, voters could be forced to choose between a one-loss Michigan team and a one-loss Georgia team that just beat the reigning college football champion. (If you think the playoff committee is leaving out a one-loss Alabama team, we have some prime swamp land in Tuscaloosa to sell you.)
For Michigan, a win in Columbus over a top-10 Buckeye team would look a lot better than a win against a two-loss Buckeye team that lost to an unranked Purdue.
Sure, Michigan could point to its road victory over the Spartans (as well as home wins against Penn State and Wisconsin) but none of those wins would shine as brightly as beating a one-loss Ohio State team on the final day of the regular season at Ohio Stadium.
Of course, upset losses by Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame or Georgia between now and Selection Sunday on Dec. 2 could render the outcome of Saturday’s OSU-MSU game far less important.
One thing is certain: If Jim Harbaugh’s team doesn’t take care of its own business the rest of the way, none of it will matter anyway.