This is Michigan, But Are They Elite?


I’m not going to waste time with a cute lead here. Michigan isn’t an elite program. They’re not. If any of you disagree, then you have a low bar for what you consider elite.

I also want to throw a quick disclaimer out early in the article before you start throwing four-letter words out in the comments. Michigan is a really good football team. Hell, I’ll even give you that they’re a great team.

They’ve accomplished some amazing things in the last 12 months. And they should be proud of that. As fans, you should be excited about that and the team’s near future.

But to put them in the elite category? You can’t do it.

Who is Elite?

There are currently four college football programs that are elite: Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State and Clemson.

Alabama: I don’t have to explain.

Georgia: See above.

Ohio State: The Buckeyes have been to the playoffs four times in eight years. They won the first college football playoff championship and lost in the 2020 final. They’ve won four of the last five conference titles.

Clemson: The Tigers have six CFP appearances, including two championships and two finals losses. They also own their conference like Ohio State does.

To be considered elite, you must have continuous success over at least a three-year span. On top of that, you must actually win some big games. You want to be considered amongst the best, you have to beat them.

Oklahoma has four semi-final appearances. Lost them all. Notre Dame has two, guess what happened in those? Yup, they took that L. That’s not elite. That’s being really good.

Michigan has one college football playoff appearance, last year. They played Georgia in the semi-finals and were down 27-3 at halftime.

And spare me the, “well, Georgia won the national title.” If that is your go-to line, then you’re admitting Michigan isn’t elite.

Guys, the game wasn’t close. Georgia out gained Michigan by nearly 200 total yards, and they won the turnover battle 3-0. You had the No. 2 overall pick and another first round talent on the defensive line, and you didn’t muster up one sack.

More of the Same

That game wasn’t an outlier, either. Michigan played Alabama in the 2020 Citrus Bowl. Lost 35-16, and was outscored 21-0 in the second half.

The Wolverines played Florida in the 2018 Peach Bowl. They got bitch slapped again 41-15.

Let’s go back 10 years to that 2012 game against Alabama to open the season. Michigan was down 21-0 by the end of the first quarter and ended up losing by 27 points.

We don’t need to re-hash the Ohio State rivalry. It’s well-documented how one-sided it’s been. The one stat I’ll throw out is in the last 10 games, Ohio State has outscored Michigan 392-298. Not exactly close.

Behind in Recruiting

Other than what actually happens on the field, the other indicator of elite status is recruiting. Michigan has done well in this, but again, not at an elite level.

Per Rivals, in the last five years, Michigan’s average final team ranking is 13th. Alabama’s is 3rd, Georgia’s is 2nd and Ohio State is 7th. The Wolverines don’t even average out to finish in the top ten in recruiting. How can they be considered elite?

It’s also important to mention, Michigan is coming off their most successful season since at least 2004, the last time they won the Big Ten. They slayed the Buckeye dragon, they won the conference, and made the college football playoff. Should mean a big uptick in recruiting, right? Apparently not.

At the time of writing this article, the Wolverines are currently 30th in the class of 2023 team rankings. Teams like Duke, Northwestern and Louisville are all ahead of Michigan right now. Now, this will likely change before the last signing day. But Duke is ahead of Michigan right now? C’mon. That simply can’t happen.

Can it change?

Now, this isn’t to say Michigan can’t become elite. Of course, they can. And they’re certainly trending in that direction.

But one great year doesn’t elevate you into that top tier group. If that were the case, then Cincinnati is elite, right? Of course, they aren’t. And we all know this.

I want to end with one final stat for you all to think about. Since 1998, when college football started having a national championship game, 17 different teams have played in it. Michigan isn’t one of them.

The defense rests its case.

Tweet us your thoughts of Michigan being elite @woodwardsports.

Photo Credit: © Kirthmon F. Dozier / USA TODAY NETWORK