Now that we're headed to November, regular bowl projections are beginning to pop up on the various college football websites. However, rule number one of these bowl projections is don't pay attention to bowl projections.
There's simply too many bowl games, details within those various agreements, and scenarios still to play out for those doing them to have their finger on the pulse of what's to come.
For example, Big Ten bowl tie-ins outside the New Year's Six try to avoid having the same team twice within a five-year span whenever possible. Unless it's a marquee name and clearly the best option available for that particular bowl. And it's unlikely those doing bowl projections for 2019 are going back to see which Big Ten team was in the 2015 Pinstripe Bowl before projecting this year's.
Then there's the College Football Playoff Rankings, which debut on Tuesday night. I'm projecting the Wolverines to be somewhere around 16th when those come out. Yes, that's two spots lower than the AP, but one of the precedents we've seen since this format began is the committee places a priority on head-to-head (as it should). Thus, I don't see them ranking the Wolverines ahead of Wisconsin like this week's AP Poll did.
So let's say Michigan is 16th this week and then wins the next two games (with a bye week in there). I think it's probable over the course of the next three weeks the Wolverines would work their way into the top 12 of the playoff rankings. That's a key number, because you have to be in the top 12 to earn an at-large bid to a New Year's Six Bowl.
If Michigan were to survive another trip to Bloomington against an Indiana program having its best season in 35 years, that would put the Wolverines at 9-2 heading into The Game -- and likely in the top 10 of the rankings at that point. Especially if Notre Dame continues winning from here as projected. In fact, Michigan fans should be rooting for the Irish to do exactly that, because the committee loves big non-conference wins, too. So the better Notre Dame looks, the better it is for Michigan. Right now, that looks to be by far the best non-conference win in the Big Ten this season.
In that scenario, the lowest the Wolverines would go in the bowl pecking order would be the Citrus Bowl, regardless of the outcome against Ohio State. Yes, Michigan did play there Jim Harbaugh's first year, so its right on the edge of that five-year window. However, there's enough distance there that passing up such a big brand would be too enticing for Orlando to pass up. Keep in mind the two biggest crowds to attend the Citrus Bowl the past 15 years both involved games that included Michigan.
The top SEC team not in the New Year's Six would be the opponent.
I also think it's possible the Wolverines could remain in the top 12 of the playoff rankings even with a loss to Ohio State, provided it was a competitive loss and given the overall strength of Michigan's schedule. 9-3 teams have made the New Year's Six before. Michigan just played one of those teams in the Peach Bowl last year.
Of course, if Michigan were to beat the Buckeyes a 10-2 record would make the Wolverines a lock for a New Year's Six bowl. Michigan would probably be ranked somewhere around 6th or 7th in the playoff rankings.
If the Wolverines win the next two games, and then lose their last two at Indiana and to Ohio State, I think the Holiday Bowl would jump at the chance to have an 8-4 Michigan. This is that bowl's last year aligned with the Big Ten, it hasn't had the Wolverines since 1994, and therefore this its only opportunity to take advantage of all those southern California Michigan fans.
The opponent would be the No.3 team in the Pac-12.