ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Championship week. It’s become the worst week of the season for Michigan football fans over the last seven years.
With the exception of 2011, the first year of the Big Ten Championship Game, Michigan has gone into the first week of December after a loss to Ohio State. To make matters worse, either Michigan State or Ohio State has played in the title game six of the eight years. MSU has made three appearances and Ohio State has made four.
Championship week has been a reminder that Michigan can’t beat Ohio State. It’s a reminder that the Wolverines haven’t been atop the conference since 2004.
Some Michigan fans probably can’t bring themselves to even watch the conference championship games, especially after their own hopes were ripped away in Columbus last weekend. But many of these games will have a major impact on Michigan’s bowl game.
Here’s a look at how the conference championship games will affect Michigan.
Pac-12: No. 17 Utah vs. No. 11 Washington
Game details: 8 p.m. Friday at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California
The Pac-12 title game won’t have much of an impact on the national picture, other than to determine which team will play in the Rose Bowl and which will settle for a lesser bowl game.
If Michigan lands in the Rose Bowl, the winner of the Utah-Washington game will be its opponent. That’s really the only way this conference title game affects the Wolverines.
The loser will have four losses, so there’s no danger of Michigan getting bumped out of a New Year’s Six game by the Pac-12 runner-up.
Big 12: No. 14 Texas vs. No. 5 Oklahoma
Game details: Noon Saturday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas
There are three conference championship games that will play a big role in determining where Michigan lands, and the Big 12 is one of them.
If Alabama beats Georgia this weekend, all signs point to Oklahoma getting into the playoff if it can take care of business against Texas. That means Ohio State would be left out and the winner of the Big Ten Championship Game would end up in the Rose Bowl.
In that scenario, Michigan would likely land in the Peach Bowl or Fiesta Bowl.
Texas winning the Big 12 would complicate the picture because the Longhorns would lock up a spot in the Sugar Bowl and eliminate the conference from the playoff picture. Ohio State would be the next logical team to move into the No. 4 spot, sending Michigan to Pasadena for the first time since 2006.
If Texas wins and either Ohio State or Alabama loses, Michigan could end up playing against Oklahoma’s high-powered offense in the Peach Bowl or Fiesta Bowl.
American: Memphis at No. 8 UCF
Game details: 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Spectrum Stadium in Orlando
The American conference title game typically wouldn’t have much of an impact on the rest of the nation, but UCF’s dominance over the last two years has put it on the edge of the playoff picture.
Since Michigan sits at No. 7 in the College Football Playoff rankings, it would need absolute chaos this weekend to have an argument to crack the top four. Ohio State would have to lose to Northwestern, Oklahoma would have to lose to Texas and Alabama would have to destroy Georgia.
If that unlikely scenario plays out, it’s still possible a 12-0 UCF team would get selected over a two-loss Michigan team because of the ugly loss at Ohio State. UCF would likely need to lose to remove that possibility.
UCF could also be the team Michigan plays in the Peach Bowl or Fiesta Bowl if the Wolverines don’t get a Rose Bowl invite. The Knights have been dying for a crack at one of the top-tier teams, and it could be a battle for Michigan if it doesn’t give UCF its full attention.
SEC: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Georgia
Game details: 4 p.m. Saturday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta
How good is Georgia? We’re about to find out.
The Bulldogs haven’t played a team that finished with fewer than three losses, so Alabama will be the first elite test of the season. It’s not only the result that matters, though. The final score could also be a factor in who gets into the playoff.
The winner of this game will certainly be in the playoff, while the loser could also get in. If Georgia wins the game, Alabama has a good chance to stay in the top four, giving the SEC two teams once again.
If Alabama wins, Georgia will likely end up in the Sugar Bowl, although it could still be alive if Oklahoma and Ohio State suffer upsets.
Michigan fans with any shred of hope for the playoff should root for Alabama to win by as many points as possible. There’s no way Michigan could end up playing either of these teams in the bowl, because they’ll either be in the playoff or the Sugar Bowl.
Georgia getting into the playoff would basically eliminate Michigan from the Rose Bowl, because Ohio State would be kept out of the top four unless Clemson loses and drops.
Mountain West: No. 25 Fresno State at No. 22 Boise State
Game details: 7:45 p.m. Saturday at Albertsons Stadium in Boise, Idaho
The Mountain West Championship Game would only have an impact on Michigan if UCF loses to Memphis.
If UCF loses, then the winner of the Fresno State-Boise State game would automatically get a bid to a New Year’s Six game. They would get one of the at-large bids to the Peach Bowl or Fiesta Bowl, so if Michigan doesn’t get into the Rose Bowl, it could play the Mountain West champion.
While playing Fresno State or Boise State wouldn’t be as attractive as playing another powerhouse such as Oklahoma, Michigan would certainly have the talent edge.
ACC: No. 2 Clemson vs. Pittsburgh
Game details: 8 p.m. Saturday at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina
Clemson is probably in the playoff no matter what happens this weekend, but it’s not set in stone.
If the Tigers lose to Pittsburgh and the rest of the games go as planned, the committee would have to decide between Clemson, Oklahoma and Ohio State, which would all be 12-1.
If Clemson gets left out, the ACC would steal two of the New Year’s Six at-large bids, because Pittsburgh would be guaranteed a spot as the conference champion and Clemson would surely be chosen.
That means Michigan could end up playing either Clemson or Pittsburgh in the Peach Bowl or Fiesta Bowl — two polar opposite scenarios. Michigan would be a heavy favorite against Pittsburgh and a heavy underdog against Clemson.
A Clemson loss would also set up the only possible way Michigan gets knocked out of the New Year’s Six. If Pittsburgh wins, Northwestern wins and Texas wins, the four at-large spots could be taken by Pittsburgh, Ohio State, Oklahoma and the highest-ranked Group of Five champion.
Northwestern would be in the Rose Bowl and Texas would be in the Sugar Bowl, knocking Ohio State and Oklahoma into the at-large pool, where they could possibly be selected ahead of Michigan.
That scenario is extremely unlikely, but it’s still possible.
Big Ten: No. 21 Northwestern vs. No. 6 Ohio State
Game details: 8 p.m. Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis
Ohio State’s fate directly impacts Michigan because the Wolverines will likely land one step behind the Buckeyes no matter what happens.
If Ohio State goes to the playoff, Michigan will go to the Rose Bowl. If Ohio State goes to the Rose Bowl, Michigan will go to the Peach Bowl or Fiesta Bowl.
Michigan fans holding out hope for a playoff appearance need Northwestern to win, possibly in a blowout. Michigan fans hoping for a Rose Bowl trip need the Buckeyes to win.
To simplify the picture, here’s a brief breakdown of how Michigan could likely get to each bowl.
Rose Bowl: Michigan probably goes if Ohio State beats Northwestern, Alabama beats Georgia and Texas beats Oklahoma.
Peach Bowl or Fiesta Bowl: Michigan likely goes if the winner of the Big Ten Championship Game plays in the Rose Bowl.
College Football Playoff: Michigan likely can’t make it. It’s possible if Northwestern beats Ohio State, Texas beats Oklahoma, Alabama destroys Georgia and Memphis beats UCF.
Non-New Year’s Six bowl: This is even more unlikely. It’s possible if Pittsburgh beats Clemson, Texas beats Oklahoma and Northwestern beats Ohio State. Georgia beating Alabama would also increase the likelihood slightly because another playoff spot would be unavailable.
Other conference championship games
These conference title games don’t have any impact on Michigan.
MAC: Northern Illinois vs. Buffalo — 7 p.m. Friday at Ford Field in Detroit.
Sun Belt: Louisiana vs. Appalachian State — noon Saturday at Kidd Brewer Stadium in Boone, North Carolina.
Conference USA: UAB at Middle Tennessee — 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Floyd Stadium in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
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