Michigan football’s Jim Harbaugh speaks to the media on Monday, Nov. 5, 2018, in Ann Arbor.
Nick Baumgardner, Freep
So many hypotheticals, so little time.
It’s what-if season in college football. More important, it’ll all take care of itself.
Welcome to another edition of the Michigan football mailbag. Let’s get started.
Q: I don’t see a reason as to why Harbaugh would play (Joe) Milton this week. It would just be garbage time for him anyways and he only has three more games he can play, while still being able to redshirt. So who would you play as backup in the Rutgers game specifically? — @JakeeyBoiiii
A: If Milton’s ahead of Brandon Peters on the depth chart, then he’s the guy you go with. If not, then you can certainly do your best to protect his redshirt.
The top mission should be to find the best possible backup quarterback in case something happens to Shea Patterson.
I would think taking the opportunity to get both of those guys snaps in a game like this would be prudent. You never want to think about something happening to your starter, but if that happens, I’d think you’d want to make sure you have all prepared hands on deck — especially with Dylan McCaffrey already out.
This is all hypothetical, of course, as Michigan’s best-case scenario is that backups stay as backups. But you’re down a man. Which means the No. 2 and No. 3 quarterbacks should be prepped and ready to play.
If Milton’s good enough to play in an every-down situation, then maybe you’re not worrying about his redshirt any longer. But if he’s just a package player, keeping his redshirt would be the move, which means he can’t play in more than four games.
Q: Notre Dame, Clemson, Michigan, Georgia and Oklahoma win out. Who’s in? — @smeaton_chad
A: It’s that time of year when all we can do is speculate for a month. It’s an impossible task, and it always sorts itself out, but that didn’t stop every national talking head from trying to figure out how there could be disaster scenarios for the College Football Playoff committee.
Part of the game, I suppose.
In Chad’s scenario, Clemson and Notre Dame would be undefeated. So they’re in. The Big 12 is not viewed as better than either the Big Ten or the SEC by the CFP committee at the moment, and I’m not sure how that would change in this scenario. So Oklahoma’s out.
Georgia winning out would mean it has beaten Alabama in the SEC title game. Presumably an unbeaten Alabama, as the Crimson Tide look like a machine. Georgia would most likely be in as an SEC champion, and this is what has Michigan fans concerned.
Because the decision could come down to Michigan and Alabama in that scenario. Georgia’s not getting in this thing unless it wins out, and the same can be said for Michigan. But would the committee put a one-loss, non-league champion Alabama in over 12-1 Big Ten-champion Michigan?
You never say never with this group, because its process is rather non-transparent. That said, if Michigan’s 12-1 with a league title, that’s a pretty strong resume. Michigan has two wins over ranked teams right now and would have at least three in this scenario. Alabama has one. It’s just too early to speculate on all this.
But could the committee leave out a 12-1 Michigan in favor of an 11-1 Alabama? Absolutely it could. Would I predict it? Not necessarily. But it’s possible.
That said: Alabama’s going to be a heavy favorite vs. Georgia. And it’s still a month away.
Q: IMO Michigan fans should root for whoever or whatever gets them closer to winning the division. They can’t win the B1G title before they get there. That goes for the CFP as well. So why would anyone root for OSU this weekend against MSU? Am I crazy to think this way? — @andrewhth
A: My original thought on this was that, if you’re Michigan, you’d like to have Ohio State be as highly ranked as possible for the season finale in Columbus. Because a win in that game would be even more impressive.
Michigan already has a victory over Michigan State. So if the Spartans close out strong, the value of that victory only goes up.
Still, Ohio State’s a one-loss team. The best chance for Michigan to add another top-level win to its resume is if Ohio State’s 10-1 entering the last week of the season.
I understand the logic there that Michigan State beating Ohio State would make it much easier for the Wolverines to clinch the Big Ten East.
I suppose I look at it from a playoff standpoint. Because while Michigan can get to Indianapolis as a two-loss team, it won’t be in the playoff that way.
Q: Do you think the intensity is a function of recruiting different kinds of personalities? Being ticked off about how last season went? Saving all those receipts from naysayers? — Darrell via email
A: It’s a function of several things for several different people, but ultimately I believe they all found out what it feels like around here when you have a season get away from you.
None of that is very fun. Rewind the clock a bit and remember what it felt like in January. Fans were furious. Jim Harbaugh was undergoing a deep review of his entire program: coaching staff, strength program, nutritionist, scheme. Everything was being analyzed harder than usual because nothing was good enough.
That was a young football team, but there were issues that needed to be fixed and corrected and no one wanted to go back to that. This is the case for every team that goes through a rough season.
The difference here is that Michigan has the talent (on the field and on the sideline) to do something about it.
Contact Nick Baumgardner: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @nickbaumgardner.