It may only be July, but it’s never too early to talk college football. Get your daily fix with our countdown of the preseason Top 25, the consensus picks of the American-Statesman sports staff:
No. 13 MICHIGAN
The Wolverines will contend if … they play big in the Big House. What should be Michigan’s three toughest games — Notre Dame, Nebraska and Ohio State — all are at home. For the Wolverines, that’s a very good thing. In two years under Brady Hoke, they are 14-0 at home.
Coach: Brady Hoke (3rd year, 19-7)
2012 record: 8-5 overall, 6-2 Big Ten
2012 bowl: Lost to South Carolina 33-28 in the Outback Bowl.
Returning starters: 5 offense, 6 defense
On Gardner’s shoulders: The offense will probably hinge on the success of Devin Gardner. Last year, Gardner took over for an injured Denard Robinson, who remained a running threat when he was moved to running back. For much of the past three seasons, the Michigan offense was Robinson, who could be an erratic passer but was one of the most elusive runners ever to play quarterback in college. Gardner is nowhere near the running threat that Robinson was, but Michigan’s hope is that he’ll be a better passer.
One who didn’t get away: When it came to the NFL draft, once mighty Michigan was pretty much an ordinary Big Ten team. Only two Wolverines were selected, and none was picked before the fifth round, when Robinson was taken as a receiver. Michigan’s top prospect, however, was missing from the draft; Taylor Lewan, the towering left tackle, decided to return to school to try to win a Big Ten championship. He’s being listed by some as a potential first-team All-American.
Help’s on the way: According to Rivals.com, Michigan had the seventh-ranked recruiting class in 2012 and the fifth-ranked class in 2013. That’s an upgrade, but even in lean years Michigan rarely falls out of the Top 20. So far, the 2014 class is ranked seventh.
Turn out the lights: Although the Michigan-Ohio State game at the end of November figures to be the key game of the season, the Sept. 7 game against Notre Dame should be pretty darn interesting. It will be only the second night game at Michigan’s stadium, with the first one being a wild 2011 game between the two schools that Michigan won. More important, it could be the last visit to Ann Arbor by Notre Dame for quite some time; last year, the Irish opted out of games with Michigan for 2015-17. No one knows what will happen after that, as Notre Dame is focusing on playing more ACC schools. Then, in May, Hoke said the Golden Domers were actually “chickening out” of the rivalry. It will be interesting to see how far Hoke backs off those comments in the fall.
Did you know?:
- Hoke had a career losing record before being hired by Michigan, going 13-12 at San Diego State and 34-38 at Ball State for a combined record of 47-50.
- Michigan has only one player from Texas on its roster, backup quarterback Russell Bellomy, who suffered a torn ACL in spring practice. In limited duty last year, Bellomy had four completions in 21 attempts, four interceptions and a quarterback rating of minus-0.6.
- Michigan is the only FBS program with more than 900 wins, with 903. It’s also credited with having the top all-time winning percentage, .735.
THE PAST FIVE YEARS
2012: 8-5, L Outback Bowl
2011: 11-2 W Sugar Bowl
2010: 7-6, L Gator Bowl
Total: 34-29, 1-2 in bowls
Passing: Devin Gardner, 75-126-1,219 yards, 11/5
Rushing: Fitzgerald Toussaint, 130-514-5 TDs
Receiving: Jeremy Gallon, 49-829-4 TDs
Tackles: LB Jake Ryan, 88
Sacks: LB Jake Ryan, 4.5
RETURNING ALL-BIG TEN
OL: Taylor Lewan (1st team)
QB Russell Bellomy (Arlington Martin)
Aug. 31;Central Michigan
Sept. 7;Notre Dame
Sept. 21;at UConn
Oct. 12;at Penn State*
Nov. 1;at Michigan State*
Nov. 16;at Northwestern*
Nov. 23;at Iowa*
Nov. 30;Ohio State*
*Big Ten game
TOP 25, BY CONFERENCES
(So far …)
6: Big 12 (No. 15 Texas, No. 16 Oklahoma, No. 17 TCU, No. 18 Oklahoma State, No. 20 Baylor, No. 23 Kansas State)
4: Big Ten (No. 13 Michigan, No. 22 Nebraska, No. 24 Wisconsin, No. 25 Northwestern)
1: ACC (No. 14 Florida State); Pac-12 (No. 21 UCLA); Mountain West (No. 19 Boise State)
OUR TOP 25 (SO FAR)
No. 25 Northwestern
No. 24 Wisconsin
No. 23 Kansas State
No. 22 Nebraska
No. 21 UCLA
No. 20 Baylor
No. 19 Boise State
No. 18 Oklahoma State
No. 17 TCU No. 16 Oklahoma
No. 15 Texas
No. 14 Florida State
No. 13 Michigan
No. 12: Coming Wednesday. Want a hint? No hoax, this school shares the record for the most Heisman Trophy winners.