Michigan started the 2007 season ranked No. 5 in both the Associated Press poll and the USA Today coaches' poll. Set aside that many of us considered that position exceedingly generous, even before the inglorious losses to Appalachian State and Oregon -- there they were at Number 5, the most overhyped team since 2006 Notre Dame.
But those inglorious losses happened, Michigan clawed back, and as of today, the team is ranked No. 14 in the USA Today poll (one spot ahead of USC) and No. 15 in the Associated Press poll.
As someone who loves the program, the team, the coach, and is deeply impressed by this season's recovery, it's still difficult to reconcile the No. 15 ranking with life as we know it, except that you glance up the ladder and see Hawaii, Virginia Tech and Texas teams ranked ahead of Michigan, and are reminded that this is the year Derrida and Foucault have made their way to big-time college football. There is no longer such thing as truth. Glance through the polls, and there are fine arguments on behalf of ranking Michigan at 11, or placing them in the low 20s.
Now consider this: instead of I-AA Appalachian State, Michigan might have scheduled I-A Buffalo. Instead of scheduling Oregon, they might have scheduled Florida State. (Keep in mind that the Oregon game was scheduled early in the century; Florida State would have been a more respectable, even fearsome, pick back then.) Michigan would have won those games. The exact same team, with its flaws and paradoxes, would be undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the nation. Ohio State would be No. 2. That No. 1 team would literally be no different than the present No. 14/15 team, except that Mike Hart would be consensus Heisman frontrunner and the hordes of breast-biting banshees calling for Carr's head would be forced to be more creative in their bloodlust.
I've been adamant in my opposition to installing a playoff. It's more trickery disguised as science, with a selection process no less arbitrary than the BCS. Worse, the media hype, money and distortion coming from a playoff would be unbearable.
Yet with scheduling tweaks, Michigan would be the consensus No. 1 team in the country. That's an excellent argument for a playoff.