The rewards from a fairytale season are oh, so sweet, for coach Jim Harbaugh and Michigan football.
Just 12 hours after the Wolverines demolished the Iowa Hawkeyes, 42-3, in Indianapolis to secure their first Big Ten title since 2004, the players and coaches were back in Schembechler Hall on Sunday to watch the College Football Playoff Selection Show on ESPN.
A night of suspense gave way to jubilation when U-M was revealed as the No. 2 seed and will play No. 3 Georgia in the Orange Bowl in Miami Gardens, Florida, at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 31 (ESPN), with the winner moving on to the national championship Jan. 10 in Lucas Oil Stadium, which housed Michigan's win over the Hawkeyes on Saturday night.
No. 1 Alabama will play No. 4 Cincinnati in the Cotton Bowl at 4 p.m. Dec. 31. The times for both games will be determined later.
Gary Barta, the College Football Playoff selection committee chair and athletic director at Iowa — whom Michigan defeated in the Big Ten title game Saturday night — said on ESPN that there was no consideration made to avoiding an SEC championship rematch in the semifinal when the final rankings were put together.
"It's a fair question, and I understand the speculation, but the answer is no," Barta said. "We come into the room, and we line up the teams, we talk about their strengths, their weaknesses, their wins, their losses ... and now, as of last night and this weekend, the championships, and we rank them, 1-4. ... We don't look at matchups, we just look at who belongs at number 1, 2, 3 and 4."
The argument for Michigan as the top seed hinged on its 39-point victory over a team that climbed to second in the country earlier this season, coupled with U-M's No. 2 position in last week's rankings.
The argument for Alabama, which entered the SEC title game ranked third, was a comprehensive 41-24 victory over Georgia, whose defense was highlighted by eye-popping statistics and several NFL prospects.
Players, coaches, fans and media members spent Saturday night and Sunday morning wondering if the Crimson Tide would leap Michigan to secure the No. 1 spot in the final rankings — or if U-M had done enough to replace the fallen Bulldogs.
Harbaugh will bring U-M in confident his group of players and coaches can beat anybody in the country.
And given what they've accomplished so far, there's not much reason to doubt them anymore.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan No. 2 in College Football Playoff rankings, will play Georgia