The Michigan football team’s 2018 season has come full circle, though it’s unlikely the Wolverines are very happy about it.
After opening the season as the nation’s 14th-ranked team in the AP Poll, Michigan stumbled as low as 21st before climbing as high as fourth and spending five weeks in the top five. Then, after a 62-39 loss at Ohio State and a 41-15 loss to Florida in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl, the Wolverines slid. Following bowl season, Michigan (8-1 Big Ten, 10-3 overall) fell six spots to finish 14th — right where the Wolverines started.
The final rendition of the poll, which was conducted following Clemson’s 44-16 win over Alabama in the national title game Monday night, saw plenty of movement due to surprising bowl results. No. 6 Louisiana State, No. 7 Florida and No. 9 Texas all moved up at least three spots after scoring upset wins in New Year’s Six Bowl matchups, while No. 11 Central Florida, No. 13 Washington, No. 17 Penn State and No. 20 West Virginia all fell at least four spots due to losses.
But no one in the latest poll fell as much as Michigan, who not only dropped out of the top 10, but actually finished lower in the final AP Poll than it did in either 2015 or 2016, when the Wolverines respectively finished 12th and 10th.
Naturally, the manner in which Michigan lost its final two games likely prompted voters to move the Wolverines lower than other teams that suffered losses. Michigan allowed 103 points and 994 yards in its final two games, suffering the third- and fourth-worst defeats of the Jim Harbaugh era. Though the Wolverines’ only losses were to No. 3 Ohio State, No. 5 Notre Dame and No. 7 Florida, Michigan was only the seventh-highest ranked team with three losses or more, even finishing behind four-loss Texas and Washington.
As far as voter distribution, Michigan ranged from 10th to 19th among voters, with an average ranking of 12.8th. Nearly half (29 of 61) of voters actually ranked the Wolverines higher than 14th, including two 10th-place votes and three 11th-place votes, but three 17th-place votes and two 19th-place votes brought down Michigan’s overall score to fall to 14th.
As far as other opponents on the schedule, the Wolverines do boast wins over No. 17 Penn State and No. 21 Northwestern. The Wildcats’ finish ensures that Michigan did indeed snap its 12-year drought against ranked teams on the road. Looking ahead, Michigan will host No. 19 Army next September in addition to a road trip to the Nittany Lions and home bouts against Ohio State and Notre Dame.
In the tune of next season, some believe Michigan has a more promising outlook in 2019 with 14 starters returning. In 247Sports’ way-too-early top-25, the Wolverines ranked 11th.