After a dramatic 43-40 loss against Penn State in four overtimes, the 5-1 (1-1) Michigan Wolverines find themselves in the middle of the Big Ten Legends standings.
Just two games into conference play, Michigan stands behind 2-0 Michigan State and 2-0 Nebraska, with upcoming games against both teams over the next four weeks. For that reason and many more, Michigan’s hopes at a BCS Bowl Game are still very much alive and well.
Here are three different scenarios in which the Wolverines could find themselves playing in a BCS Bowl:
1. Michigan Wins Out
Quite simply put, this is Michigan’s best, and likely their only, way to win the Big Ten and advance to the Rose Bowl.
As Penn State competes in the conference’s Leaders Division, there would be no tiebreaker between the Nittany Lions and the Wolverines if both teams finish the regular season with the same conference record. Michigan still controls its own destiny in the Legends Division, with upcoming games against division rivals Michigan State (Nov. 2), Nebraska (Nov. 9), Northwestern (Nov. 16) and Iowa (Nov. 23).
By winning those four games, beating Indiana on Saturday and beating Ohio State on Nov. 30, the one-loss Wolverines would own any tiebreakers with other one-loss Legends teams. With a win in the Big Ten Championship Game, Michigan would almost certainly earn a spot in the Rose Bowl.
2. Michigan Loses Once More, but Earns At-Large Bid
If the Wolverines lose once more in Big Ten play and finish the season with two losses, Michigan could still be ranked high enough to receive a BCS at-large bid without playing in the Big Ten Championship Game.
After losing to Michigan State and Iowa in October and early November 2011, the two-loss Wolverines finished behind Michigan State in the Big Ten Legends standings, but were still selected for the Sugar Bowl as the 13th-ranked team in the BCS Standings.
Michigan’s 2013 strength of schedule and poor performance against both Akron and Connecticut will hurt the Wolverines’ chances at earning an at-large bid this season, but convincing wins over Nebraska and Ohio State could make voters forget about any early-season struggles.
3. Legends Logjam Allows Michigan to Sneak into Big Ten Title Game with Two or Three Losses
Though the most improbable option, Michigan could lose one or two more games and still make it to the Big Ten Championship Game.
For the stars to align, Michigan would have to lose to a 0-2 Legends team, like Northwestern, or Leaders opponent, like Indiana or Ohio State, and hope that Michigan State and Nebraska also lose multiple games. As long as Michigan beats the Legends’ top teams, the Wolverines will win tiebreakers, thanks to a perfect 4-0 nonconference season.