This is Jim Harbaugh's best team in his seven years at Michigan. Your feedback to the contrary is welcome, but hear me out. Harbaugh finally has a difference-making quarterback. Cade McNamara threw for a season-high against Michigan State and has proved himself more than a game manager. Hassan Haskins has emerged as a go-tailback who will run through the usual contact.
All of it suggests a more than capable offensive line. Michigan boasts the best sack rate in the country (only 1.8% of pass attempts in non-garbage time). It is No. 4 in lowest percentage of runs stopped at or behind the line of scrimmage.
We've seen defensive end Aidan Hutchinson live and might as well say it: He's the new J.J. Watt. Brother John Harbaugh's old linebackers coach with the Ravens, Mike Macdonald, has been an upgrade. Michigan is No. 2 in the Big Ten allowing less than 300 yards per game.
The knee-jerk reaction in some quarters two weeks ago at Michigan State was that Harbaugh, once again, couldn't win the big one. That wasn't the conclusion in this space or with the College Football Playoff Selection Committee last week.
Strip away the knee jerks, and the No. 6 Wolverines (8-1) have been damn impressive in Year 7 under Harbaugh. Maybe the more accurate description: This is Harbs' best coaching job.
That leads us to making a case for Michigan in the CFP as it heads to Penn State. Michigan State obviously still owns the tiebreaker over the Wolverines in the Big Ten East, but a Michigan that wins out against Penn State, Maryland and Ohio State to finish 11-1 can be a second CFP team from the Big Ten.
Including Ohio State, none of the Big Ten contenders can afford a second loss after Michigan State's defeat at Purdue last week, and there's still the possibility of a three-way tie in the East that could create a mind bomb in the committee room plus confusion within the Big Ten.
This is a roundabout way of saying Michigan has the goods to compete with the best season of Harbaugh's career as a college coach (12-1, Stanford in 2010) after tying for the worst record of his career just last season (2-4).
The committee seemed to agree this week as it ranked Michigan over Michigan State despite the head-to-head result. Committee chair Gary Barta said the words that no Little Brother wants to hear: "Michigan, probably is a more complete team."
Seven pack in control: No. 1 Georgia, No. 2 Alabama, No. 3 Ohio State, No. 6 Michigan, No. 7 Michigan State, No. 8 Oklahoma and No. 10 Oklahoma State are the six teams that still control their destiny in the College Football Playoff. All have one loss or fewer, and it's safe to say, if any of those that win out, they're in. No. 3 Oregon remains an outlier despite being a one-loss potential conference champion due to its lack of ranked opponents the rest of the way. An undefeated Big 12 team could surely jump it, but what about a second one-loss SEC or Big Ten team?
So you're saying there's a chance: No. 19 Purdue has indeed become the "Spoilermakers" going into the Ohio State game. For good reason. Jeff Brohm has made his Purdue career with upsets. Three times since 2018, unranked Spoilermakers have defeated top-five opponents. There is a chance for another such upset Saturday at The Shoe where the Buckeyes are a 21-point favorite.
There have been 36 upsets of teams favored by at least 10 points (out of 258 such games), according to SportsLine. That's a 14% hit rate. This game features two teams involved in such games. Ohio State has been a victim (-14.5 vs. Oregon). Purdue has celebrated beating Iowa (-11.5). Coming off the Michigan State win, Purdue's Aidan O'Connell-to-David Bell might be the hottest pitch-catch combination in the sport. A young Buckeyes secondary is suspect.
A shootout at Neyland? As a public service, we remind you that No. 1 Georgia still has to play football before the SEC Championship Game. This week's win, er, opponent is Tennessee. Powerful offenses have faced Georgia before. This one is a little different. The Volunteers have a chance because they can score, leading the SEC in yards per play (7.15). Tennessee is third in SEC scoring (38.2). Georgia is second in both yards per play (6.98) and second in scoring (38.4).
Also, if there is any question Georgia's Stetson Bennett IV has an iron grip on the job, consider that preseason Heisman Trophy candidate JT Daniels came in last week for mop-up duty against Missouri. Bennett was named one of 20 semifinalists for the Unitas Award this week (best quarterback in the country). Efficiency is his strongest trait. Bennett has not completed more than 14 passes in a game this season.
Jimbo to LSU? No. 11 Texas A&M at No. 15 Ole Miss is also notable for what is happening off the field. Despite distancing himself from the job, I'm still hearing Fisher remains the first choice of LSU athletic director Scott Woodward. Not saying it's going to happen, but Oklahoma's Lincoln Riley could also be a fine replacement at LSU, too. OU's fertile Texas recruiting ground will be shared in the future with Texas and Texas A&M in the same conference. At LSU, you can get in a car and round up a recruiting class in the state of Louisiana and East Texas.
Winning Out: For those wringing their hands over Oklahoma, don't. Win out, and the Sooners are in. The finishing kick includes at No. 13 Baylor (Saturday), Iowa State (Nov. 20) and No. 10 Oklahoma State (Nov. 27). OU will probably then rematch with one of those teams in the Big 12 Championship Game. The Sooners could finish the season beating four consecutive ranked opponents. Plus, add the fact that no undefeated Power Five champion has ever been left out of the CFP. A win Saturday and OU ties the record for consecutive road victories against ranked conference opponents (nine).
Inspiration in Pullman: After half the staff was fired because they wouldn't get vaccinated, Washington State defensive coordinator Jake Dickert was the obvious choice to replace Nick Rolovich. Obvious because it's Wazzu, the ultimate underdog. And why wouldn't you want an ultimate underdog to pick up the program? Especially a defensive coordinator who played wide receiver at Wisconsin-Stevens Point?
"It's been a whirlwind to say the least," Dickert said. "To lose one coach is something. To lose half the staff is something that is a little bit different. In adverse times, you get to choose what direction you're going to go."
Dickert is 38, a rising star who was hired by Rolovich two years ago from Wyoming. Now, he finds himself a candidate for the permanent job calling his title the "interviewing" coach instead of the acting coach. So far, the Cougs are 1-1 since Rolovich was fired. In the two games he's coached, Dickert's unit has forced five turnovers. Win at Oregon on Saturday, and they own the tiebreaker over the Ducks in the Pac-12 North.
Dickert probably wouldn't be here if his younger brother, an offensive lineman at Stevens Point 14 years ago, hadn't steered him away from offense. At the time, Dickert was becoming a grad assistant. "He didn't want me coaching on the same side of the ball as him," Dickert said. That led to a 14-year coaching career that wound its way through nine Division II, FCS and FBS stops. Dickert remains a candidate for the permanent job.
Quick kicks: A staggering 74% of Kenneth Walker III's yards have come after contact (981 of 1,330). That figure leads the nation as Michigan State hosts Maryland … ULM (4-5 vs. Arkansas State) is the only team in the country to win three times (without a loss) as an underdog of at least 10 points … it's one of those hold-your-nose weeks, too. Clemson (vs. UConn), Alabama (vs. New Mexico State) and Texas (vs. Kansas) are combined 124-point favorites against their outmanned foes … Louisiana (at Troy) will have to deal with Trojans' linebacker Carlton Martial, who has quietly become the second player since 2000 to make 400 tackles. The nation's leading tackler since the beginning of 2018 has 409 stops, 54 more than the next-closest player. Not bad for a 5-foot-9 specimen who had no offers out of high school … upset alert for No. 9 Notre Dame: Virginia quarterback Brennan Armstrong gives the Cavaliers a fighting chance against the Fighting Irish at home. The junior has thrown for the second-most yards this season (3,557). ND's pass defense is just average (65th, 231.1 yards per game).