The streak is finally, mercifully, over. Michigan has beaten Ohio State.
It’s a momentous occasion for Wolverines faithful, who crowded Michigan Stadium to watch their team beat Ohio State 42-27. It is arguably the biggest victory of the Jim Harbaugh era in Ann Arbor, if not long before he arrived in 2015. And this wasn’t some no-talent Buckeyes squad, either: The fifth-ranked Wolverines simply manhandled the No. 2 team in the country, locking up the Big Ten East championship and eliminating the Buckeyes (10-2) from College Football Playoff contention.
Speaking of which: Welcome to the table, Michigan.
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With this victory, the Wolverines are squarely in contention to make its first College Football Playoff berth, ever. A win in the Big Ten championship game against either of Wisconsin or Iowa is all that stands between them and the playoff.
The win isn’t big only for the Wolverines, however. Other teams watched this showing with great interest. With that, here’s what Michigan’s win over the Buckeyes should mean in the latest set of College Football Playoff rankings:
Rankings reflect Week 12 College Football Playoff top 25
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Previous rank: 3
Alabama still has to beat Auburn in the Iron Bowl. Either way, it shouldn’t care about the outcome from “The Game.” The Crimson Tide still need to beat the Tigers and then No. 1 Georgia in the SEC championship game to make the playoff. A loss in either would eliminate them from contention. As it stands now, look for Alabama to remain No. 3 in the country (assuming a victory on Saturday) heading into conference championship weekend.
Previous rank: 4
The Bearcats are now the only Ohio team capable of making the playoff. Cincinnati was able to overcome a shaky second half after a dominant first half and beat East Carolina 35-13. That doesn’t mean much in the penultimate set of rankings, as it appears the Bearcats’ playoff hopes will hinge on the AAC championship game against No. 24 Houston and the SEC championship game between No. 1 Georgia and No. 3 Alabama. If the Bearcats and Bulldogs win on Saturday, it would be difficult — but not impossible — to keep Cincy out. As it stands now, look for the Bearcats to remain at No. 4 while the Wolverines jump all the way to No. 2.
Previous rank: 5
A big win equals a big jump in the rankings for the Wolverines. Expect Harbaugh and Co. to jump all the way to No. 2, replacing the Buckeyes after their 42-27 win in the Big House. With this victory, Michigan is only a single game away from making the playoff. A win over either of Wisconsin or Iowa, no matter how narrow, should guarantee entry. The question would then shift to who the Wolverines play in the semifinal: A Georgia win over Alabama in the SEC title game would likely place Oklahoma State or Cincinnati as the No. 3 team. A Crimson Tide win, however, would likely drop the Bulldogs to No. 3 — quite the reward for the Big Ten champions.
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Notre Dame (10-1)
Previous rank: 6
The Fighting Irish remain in contention for the playoff, if only on paper. But that loss to the Bearcats looms large, and it would take a significant amount of chaos during conference championship weekend to secure a playoff berth. If Notre Dame beats Stanford to end the season, it likely will move up a spot to No. 5 overall, taking over for Michigan. If chalk wins out during conference championship weekend, there the Fighting Irish should remain outside the top 4 in the final set of rankings.
Oklahoma State (10-1)
Previous rank: 7
Oklahoma State is in prime position heading into Bedlam and conference championship weekend. The Buckeyes’ loss should be enough to move the Cowboys up a spot, to the second team out of the playoff. That’s assuming a win over No. 10 Oklahoma on Saturday. If Mike Gundy and Co. can beat the Sooners in Stillwater, Okla., then they will eliminate them from the Big 12 championship and playoff altogether. A win next week against No. 8 Baylor — which beat Texas Tech on Saturday to remain alive in the conference title race — would net the Cowboys a second top-10 victory in as many weeks. That would generate some significant discussion about their playoff eligibility.
Previous rank: 10
The Sooners are in a decidedly less advantageous position than their rivals. Lincoln Riley and Co. have not been thought highly of by this committee, even when they were undefeated: That loss to Baylor was a massive strike to their playoff hopes. A win over the Cowboys would go a long way to help their chances, but it’s possible they still remain behind the Buckeyes in the latest set of rankings. The next question, then, is whether Oklahoma could turn around and do it again in the Big 12 title game. It’s a paradoxical situation where winning keeps you alive while simultaneously weakening your playoff resume — one the Sooners would be happy to have the selection committee parse out.
Ohio State (10-2)
Previous rank: 2
Championship season is over for the Buckeyes. They have no chance at either the Big Ten or the playoff following Saturday’s loss to the Wolverines, their first since 2011. What does that mean for the Buckeyes moving forward? Assuming the selection committee doesn’t punish them too much — a drop to No. 8 in the rankings is certainly feasible — then a Rose Bowl berth against either Oregon, Washington State or Utah is likely how Ryan Day and his team finish the season.