By JERAMY STOVER, Sports Editor
The College Football Playoff committee announced its four team playoff Sunday afternoon and as expected, the Michigan Wolverines didn’t make it.
The Wolverines, who were ranked fifth heading into conference championship weekend, actually were jumped by Big Ten conference champions Penn State.
With Michigan missing out on the playoffs they were selected to play in the Capital One Orange Bowl on Dec. 30 against Florida State. The Orange Bowl is a part of college football’s New Year’s Six bowl package that awards highly ranked teams that missed out on the playoffs.
Florida State finished the season with a 9-3 record and has played well in their last three games including a victory against in-state rival Florida in their last game. The Seminoles’ season resembles Michigan’s of last year as Florida State has lost the toughest three games on their schedule.
The Seminoles average 35.3 points per game best for 32 in the nation and give up 24.4 points per game which put them 43 in the country.
Michigan will be the favorite heading into the game and might have extra motivation on their side. The Wolverines are a senior-laden team with several of their players looking to play in the National Football League next season.
That means other than pride, a lot of Michigan players have something to play for- to raise their draft stock. Some people will tell you that it is easy for a team to “check out” for a bowl game, but I don’t think that’ll be the case for Michigan.
Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh was unavailable for the Orange Bowl teleconference on Sunday and hasn’t spoken publicly since the Wolverines lost to Ohio State two weeks ago.
As stated above it was expected for the Wolverines to miss out on the playoffs. They finished third in their division and lost two of their last three games. Even with an impressive resume including three wins against top-10 opponents, the timing of their losses was too soon to ignore.
It was unlikely the committee was going to put two teams in the playoff that not only didn’t win their conference championship but didn’t even play in the title game. In hindsight, the showdown with Ohio State was essentially a play in game and the outcome was in favor of the Buckeyes.
With Michigan and Ohio State playing each other the final regular season game each year, that rivalry tilt could end up being a play in game often. Which if that indeed happens the Wolverines need to learn how to beat Ohio State quickly.
Michigan has lost 13 of the last 14 games to the Buckeyes and haven’t won in Columbus since 2000. It has been a tilted rivalry since the new millennium and that could crush the Wolverines hopes for the playoffs if it doesn’t change.
Next year’s Michigan team will look a lot different from this one. Essentially the entire starting defense will look different. The only player that has the option to come back is redshirt sophomore linebacker, Jabrill Peppers. But with Peppers being placed highly on NFL draft boards it is unlikely he will return. It was also reported last week that Peppers’ mother has been scouting out agents to represent her son.
On offense, the Wolverines will lose three of their five starting offensive linemen. If the Wolverines are able to, they will try and get a medical redshirt for left tackle Grant Newsome who suffered a season-ending injury against Wisconsin.
Michigan will also lose their top three receivers in Jehu Chesson, Amara Darboh, and tight end Jake Butt. Not to mention starting running back De’Veon Smith will be gone as well.
It doesn’t seem likely that Michigan will have the same success, or more, than they had this season but with Harbaugh leading the program it certainly isn’t impossible.