Stephen A. Smith, Shannon Sharpe and Pat McAfee on First Take Photo credit: ESPN

The College Football Playoff rankings always generate lavish debate. But Stephen A. Smith and Pat McAfee are willing to make it a little easier by eliminating Michigan from the discussion.

Amid the NCAA’s ongoing investigation into the Michigan sign-stealing scandal, Smith took a strong stance against the Jim Harbaugh-led college football team. He did so Tuesday morning on First Take, arguing that the Wolverines should be prohibited from the College Football Playoff.

“The Michigan Wolverines should be banned from the college football playoffs until the investigation is complete,” Smith said. “You do not get to the College Football Playoff and rob, potentially, another institution from getting one of those final four spots if the possibility is open that you may have cheated to get your way there.

“The fact that the investigation is still open is nonsensical to me. It makes no sense. Expedite the process, reach a conclusion, tell me they didn’t do it, I’m fine with it, tell me there’s not enough evidence to validate they did it, I’m fine. But as long as the investigation is open, there’s no way on Earth that you can have the Michigan Wolverines going to the College Football Playoff when it is possible that they may have had somebody working for them, traveling around to other schools, stealing signs, giving them an unfair advantage.”

Asking the NCAA to “expedite the process” is a lofty goal by Smith. The Big Ten appears ready to hit Michigan with disciplinary action, but it seems highly unlikely that the NCAA’s findings will be made public before the College Football Playoff. But Smith has no desire to take an innocent until proven guilty approach with Michigan.

McAfee similarly took a strong stance against Michigan, although not quite as strong as Smith. While McAfee agreed there was an avenue where Michigan deserved to be banned from the College Football Playoff, he was willing to wait for the hard evidence to be released.

“If it does say that everything that we’re alluding to or assuming did happen, you’re right, I think them taking a spot out of the four College Football Playoff [teams] would be absolute bullsh*t,” McAfee said. “I think we’re not the only people who feel that way. I think a lot of college football people feel that way. But until we see it, I think it’s hard for me just to say these 18-23 year olds, who are playing great football, deserve to just get their entire season wiped away, because of Connor Stalions and Harbaugh, potentially.”

McAfee later read the above full quote after it was shared by On3 and criticized On3 for aggregating the quote, claiming it put him at war with Michigan. Perhaps caught up in the emotions of First Take, McAfee, clarified that the evidence against Michigan would have to be extremely damning to warrant stealing student athletes away from the opportunity to win a national championship.

Earlier this week, College GameDay host Rece Davis bashed the idea that ESPN has been biased in their coverage of Michigan by “carrying out a narrative to get Jim Harbaugh.” Having prominent ESPN personalities Smith and McAfee call for potentially harsh penalties against Michigan might not do much to dispel that narrative. But any fans who believe ESPN has been unfair to Michigan can tune to FS1, where Colin Cowherd regularly downplays the allegations and mocks the outrage being directed at Harbaugh.

[First Take]

About Brandon Contes

Brandon Contes is a staff writer for Awful Announcing and The Comeback. He previously helped carve the sports vertical for Mediaite and spent more than three years with Barrett Sports Media. Send tips/comments/complaints to