The Michigan football team is headed to a New Year’s Six bowl — just not one it was hoping for a couple of weeks ago.
The Wolverines (7-2 Big Ten, 10-2 overall), ranked sixth in the final College Football Playoff rankings released Sunday, announced today that they have accepted a bid to play in the Orange Bowl on Dec. 30 in Miami Gardens, Fla. They will play their 45th all-time bowl game against Florida State (5-3 Atlantic Coast Conference, 9-3 overall).
Michigan, ranked in the top four for most of the season, fell in the CFP rankings last week after losing at Ohio State on Nov. 26. Without a game this weekend, the Wolverines stayed on the outside of the playoff as other teams secured their spots. No. 1 and Southeastern Conference champion Alabama will play No. 4 and Pac-12 champion Washington, and No. 2 and ACC champion Clemson will play No. 3 Ohio State.
The Buckeyes made the playoff on the strength of their 11-1 record, and though Penn State came back to beat Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship on Saturday night, the Nittany Lions jumped only above Michigan to No. 5.
The Orange Bowl is the Wolverines’ highest-caliber postseason destination since they made the Sugar Bowl at 10-2 in 2011. They should be the favorite, too, against a Seminoles team with three losses in its conference. Michigan has played in the Orange Bowl just twice before, most recently beating Alabama in overtime on Jan. 1, 2000, with quarterback Tom Brady.
But heading into November, Michigan had higher hopes for the postseason. It would have needed a loss by Clemson or Washington this weekend, though, and with Penn State jumping to No. 5 in the poll, even that might not have been enough.
Florida State will make the 450-mile trip down from Tallahassee, Fla., riding a six-game winning streak. The Seminoles are 6-3 against bowl-eligible teams, while Michigan is 6-2 in such games. The teams have played each other just twice, splitting early-season games in 1986 and 1991.