Michigan Wolverines Football: Michigan Viewed As Top-25 Team In New Preseason Rankings
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Michigan Football Viewed As Top-25 Team In New Preseason Rankings

Usual suspects Alabama, Clemson, Oklahoma and Ohio State are the first four programs listed on CBS Sports national writer Chip Patterson’s post-spring top 25, but despite posting a disappointing 2-4 record a year ago and facing plenty of question marks, the Michigan Wolverines made the cut and rank No. 22.

Despite losing eight players to the NFL Draft and three more who signed undrafted free agent contracts, the Maize and Blue return quite a bit of their production. That is, of course, because cornerback Ambry Thomas and wide receiver Nico Collins opted out of the season, and defensive ends Kwity Paye and Aidan Hutchinson, and offensive tackle Jalen Mayfield were hurt for a significant portion of the campaign.

According to ESPN, Michigan is set to bring back the 49th-most production in all of college football, with 73 percent of its overall production coming back, 77 percent on offense and 70 on defense. So, in an offseason filled with concerns, one positive might be that some of the players who were ‘supposed to be’ one year away from significant playing time got to see the field more out of necessity, and maybe that will help them heading into 2021.

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Michigan Wolverines football head coach Jim Harbaugh has won 49 games in six seasons (2020 was a shortened campaign) at U-M.
Michigan Wolverines football head coach Jim Harbaugh has won 49 games in six seasons (2020 was a shortened campaign) at U-M. (USA TODAY Sports Images)

Michigan is one of six listed on Patterson’s rankings, with Ohio State (4), Wisconsin (12), Iowa (18), Penn State (19) and Indiana (21) all checking in ahead of the Wolverines.

Last season was unique in many ways, and outside of the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the most surprising aspects in the Big Ten was how down traditional powers such as Michigan, Penn State and Wisconsin were, leaving only four Big Ten teams that were ranked in the final AP Poll of the year. In the conference-only slate, Wisconsin went 4-3 — the best record of the trio — while the Nittany Lions were 4-5.

Patterson is expecting to see some better and back-to-normal performances out of that bunch, and for the Big Ten to be a tougher league than it was last season.

“It seems like a big bounce back is expected from Big Ten teams like Wisconsin, Penn State and Michigan,” he wrote. “Of the trio, only Wisconsin (4-3) finished the season with a winning record, though all three faced unique challenges due to the circumstances of the season. The additions of Ohio State, Iowa and Indiana — all teams that did fare well last season — give the Big Ten six teams in our post-spring top 25, the most of any conference.

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“The SEC has the second-most teams ranked with five (all in the top 16), followed by the Big 12 and Pac-12 with four each. The ACC is fifth among the Power Five with three teams ranked in the post-spring top 25, while the AAC and Sun Belt have one selection each.”

On the other hand, Michigan cannot be found on ESPN writer Mark Schlabach’s updated preseason rankings after spring ball, where five other teams from the league —

Ohio State (6), Indiana (11), Iowa (14), Wisconsin (18), Penn State (23) — are listed, showing there are others in the college football world still hesitant about the Wolverines after an outlier season.

But that doesn’t mean Michigan can’t outdo expectations. For example, well after Thomas and Collins were known to have opted out of the campaign last season, the AP Poll slotted the Wolverines at No. 18 nationally in its Oct. 18 update just ahead of the beginning of the Big Ten season. Of course, they didn’t finish the year anywhere near the top 25, showing just how hard it is to predict what’s going to happen to a team in a given year.

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