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Michigan football scandal: Breaking down potential scenarios

The Michigan football season could have a number of different outcomes depending on a decision from the Big Ten.



Michigan football Big Ten
© Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

(*Note: This is a Michigan football Big Ten opinion column that reflects only the views of its author.)

This past week has had plenty of speculation surrounding the Michigan football sign-stealing scandal. After Connor Stalions resigned from the program just a few days ago, many Wolverine critics have been quick to jump to conclusions surrounding the Wolverines’ impending doom in the form of a Big Ten punishment. With three weeks left in the season, here’s a look at some potential options for the Big Ten to roll with before conference play wraps up.

Scenario 1: Big Ten Championship Ban

If you have been online at all this week, you have probably seen the idea of a Big Ten Championship Ban floating around. For the 2023 season, this is probably the most severe punishment that the Big Ten could impose on a scandal that still has an ongoing investigation.

At this point, it would be a surprise to see the Big Ten enact such severe punishment on what are still just allegations surrounding the program. Still, if the Big Ten decides to take matters into its own hands, it could potentially bar Michigan from playing in the Big Ten Championship game.

If this were to happen, the Wolverines’ season certainly wouldn’t be over. If Michigan is able to win out and beat the Buckeyes for a third straight season, a 12-0 Michigan without a Big Ten Championship is still certainly a top-four pick for the College Football Playoff.

This scenario could also let an 11-1 Ohio State team compete for a Big Ten Championship which could potentially send both the Wolverines and the Buckeyes to the playoffs just like last year.

Scenario 2: Harbaugh Suspension

Another highly talked about punishment for Michigan football is the suspension of head coach Jim Harbaugh. If the Big Ten does decide to impose a penalty on Michigan, it is more likely that we see a suspension, rather than a championship ban.

Ironically, Michigan football is probably one of the most prepared teams to have a head coaching suspension. The Wolverines have experience with this scenario from earlier in the season when Jim Harbaugh served a self-imposed three-game suspension for recruiting violations.

While these next few games for the Wolverines are certainly more challenging opponents than Michigan’s nonconference schedule from earlier this season, Michigan still knows how to play ball without Jim Harbaugh standing on the sideline.

If this scenario were to happen, we would likely see a similar situation to earlier in the year, with Jim Harbaugh passing head coaching duties to one or more of his talented assistant coaches and coordinators.

Scenario 3: No action in 2023

Despite all the media attention surrounding the Big Ten right now, there is still a possibility that the conference will decide to wait until the investigation is complete. While that doesn’t necessarily mean that they will never impose a punishment, it means the Wolverines will be able to finish the remainder of the 2023 season before seeing any consequences.

Earlier this week, University of Michigan President Santa Ono sent an email to Big Ten Commissioner Tony Petitti emphasizing the importance of due process in this matter. If the conference abides by this, there is a chance the Wolverines could finish the 2023 season before seeing punishment.

In this scenario, the Wolverines remain strong National Championship contenders.

Despite the noise surrounding the program, the Wolverines remain focused on winning one game at a time. Their next matchup will be this Saturday against the No. 11 Penn State Nittany Lions.

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