With a Clemson win in the ACC Championship Game, a Washington win in the Pac-12 Championship game and a Penn State win in the B1G 10 Championship Game, the Michigan Wolverines found themselves on the outside looking in on the College Football Playoff on Sunday afternoon, right where they belong.

While the College Football Playoff system remains flawed — or fractured depending on who you ask — the system in place is designed to reward those who put the work in on the field. Wins and losses and the level of competition faced are absolutely valid metrics to gauge the four teams most deserving to play for a National Championship. Knowing this, Go Blue put themselves in the position of being the kid without a present on Christmas day.

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh is the most boisterous personality in all of college football— strap yourself in and prepare for what will arguably be the loudest bitchfest in the playoff’s three-year history. Michigan has head-to-head wins over Penn Sate, (the B1G 10 Champions), Wisconsin (who played for the conference championship), Colorado (ranked eight coming into the weekend), and lost twice by a combined four points, each on the game’s final play, one of which in double overtime.

It’s a decent case, but doesn’t stack up to the other teams vying for a top four slot. For starters, their schedule was a joke— Comedy Central is actually televising a roast of Michigan’s schedule during May sweeps. The Wolverines’ first five games were all at home. Six of their first seven games were at The Big House, with the one road game being at (the reprehensible) Rutgers. Michigan’s opener was against a Hawaii team that had to fly into Ann Arbor a week after playing their opener in Australia.

Sidebar: No, literally Australia! Can you imagine flying from Honolulu, to Australia, back to Honolulu, then to Ann Arbor, Michigan within roughly a week’s time? No wonder they lost 63-3. 

They concluded a garbage non-conference schedule by beating a then unranked Colorado team at home, whose quarterback was injured in the third quarter (Colorado was up 28-24 when he left the game and lost 45-28). Michigan also didn’t play back-to-back road games all season.

Harbaugh’s boys didn’t play a legitimate road game until they traveled to Iowa on November 13…where they lost, failing to score even 14 points. Compare that to Ohio State, who played three road prime time games, all against teams who found themselves in the top 10 at one point during the season, winning two and dropping the third to Penn State, who they controlled for about 55 minutes.

Their playoff hopes were still alive sliding into Thanksgiving weekend, but the Ohio State game was a low point for Michigan. Not just because they lost, but the whining that followed the game was unseemly. There were two or three incorrect calls at UM’s expense, no more than any team faces in any given game, and none single-handily swung the contest. The J.T. Barrett spot on 4th and 1 was 50/50 and would’ve been upheld regardless of the call on the field, and the officials still got it right.

Lost in all the “Michigan outplayed Ohio State” rhetoric that came out of this classic was the Wolverines’ abysmal performance in the second half, lowlighted by a 0% success rate in the most important quarter of their season. The offense did nothing, while the defense gave up two fourth quarter drives that combined for 23 plays, 138 yards, 9:07 and three points that would force overtime.

Does a team (whose calling card is their defense) worthy of the college football playoff allow that?

Does a team worthy of the college football playoff turn the ball over three times against their arch nemesis, including once on a pick-six and once on a goal-line fumble?

Does a team worthy of the college football playoff rack up five yards of total offense in the fourth quarter of a game of this magnitude?

Does a team worthy of the college football playoff drop two of their last three games and fail to qualify for their conference title game?

Michigan curling up into a shell against the Buckeyes was confirmation that this team had not been tested throughout the course of the season, and that the team scoring a mere 13 points at Iowa two weeks before was not a fluke.

From a matchup standpoint, Michigan probably would’ve given Alabama a tougher and more entertaining game than either Washington or Penn State. But the truth of the matter is they didn’t earn it a seat at the table— surly the young scholars at the University of Michigan are smart enough to realize this, even if they would never admit it.

For the record, the playoff should’ve been Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Penn State; rather than Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Washington. Penn State won the toughest conference, had a tougher schedule than the Huskies, and had arguably the most impressive victory in all of college football this year when they took down Ohio State. If this were SEC, nobody would’ve had an issue with putting in two teams from the same conference. Still, the committee should be praised for correctly identifying a team that had an outstanding season, but simply did not belong with the elites of college football.

Schedule tougher games, don’t stumble at the end of the season and beat Ohio State for a change— then maybe your ticket to the final four will get punched. Until then Michigan, you’ll have to settle for being…

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that close.

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