Michigan handled Ohio State in Ann Arbor last year and then absolutely destroyed Iowa in the Big Ten Championship game. Those two big wins resulted in a playoff berth and, while it didn't go very well, still solidified Michigan as one of the best three or four programs in the country. So why are the Wolverines at No. 8 in the Preseason AP Top 25?
Obviously the Wolverines are replacing a lot on defense and both coordinators. We've discussed all three situations at length over the last couple of months because they are pretty big changes for a team trying to repeat as conference champs and title contenders. Replacing guys like Aidan Hutchinson, David Ojabo, Daxton Hill and even Josh Ross is going to be very difficult. But if you listen to guys on the team and new defensive coordinator Jesse Minter, it's doable.
"Because it might not be one guy, it's given us the ability to maybe move people around more," Minter explained.
Players have said that they're moving around a lot more, communicating incredibly well and making it tough for the offense to figure out what they're doing. With Hutchinson and Ojabo off to the league, new guys will need to step up and they might not be as dominant rushing the passer. Because of that, they're more freed up to drop into coverage or do other things. It really should allow the defense to be more multiple. Will it be better? That remains to be seen.
On offense things shouldn't change much with Josh Gattis now at Miami and Sherrone Moore and Matt Weiss running the unit. Michigan is once again going to have an incredible offensive line, incredibly talented running backs and at least a solid quarterback who just won 12 games just last year. If Jim Harbaugh does decide it's JJ McCarthy's time, we'll see what the offense looks like with more of a gunslinger under center and an embarrassment of riches on the offensive side of the ball. Even then, expect a heavy dose of Donovan Edwards and Blake Corum because frankly, it's going to work.
With all that being said, I think No. 8 is too low. I'm not sure Notre Dame, Texas A&M or Utah should be ahead of the maize and blue and you could include Clemson in there too, but they do seem too talented to have another down year, especially in the ACC.
If it were me, I'd leave the top four unchanged and slot Michigan in at No. 5. Ultimately, it doesn't matter much right now and the players say they barely pay attention to that kind of stuff. Whether they do or don't is irrelevant because the games still have to be played on the field, and U-M is likely going to be favored in their first 11 games. Take care of business and the ranking will work itself out.
1. Alabama (54)
2. Ohio State (6)
3. Georgia (3)
5. Notre Dame
6. Texas A&M
12. Oklahoma State
13. North Carolina State
15. Michigan State
16. Miami (FL)
21. Ole Miss
22. Wake Forest