Michigan football team cracks top 15 in two early 2012 polls, but trails Michigan State
There are a couple of "way-too-early" rankings out there, and they are, as billed, way too early.
But, for what it's worth, ESPN's Mark Schlabach ranks Michigan No. 11 heading into next season. Alabama, the reigning national champs and the Wolverines' opening opponent next season, comes in at No. 3 and in-state rival Michigan State is No. 9.
National runner-up LSU is No. 1.
What Schlabach had to say about Michigan:
Brady Hoke might not have been Michigan's first choice to replace Rich Rodriguez as coach, but he turned out to be the right one. In his first season, Hoke guided the Wolverines to their first 11-win season since 2006, defeating Virginia Tech 23-20 in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. Just as important, Hoke ended UM's seven-game losing streak against rival Ohio State, defeating the Buckeyes 40-34 in the regular-season finale. The Wolverines will have to replace several key linemen — center David Molk, offensive tackle Mark Huyge and defensive tackles Mike Martin and Will Heininger — but most of their key skill players are coming back. Quarterback Denard Robinson made good strides in offensive coordinator Al Borges' balanced attack, and defensive coordinator Greg Mattison rebuilt one of the country's worst defenses from 2010. Michigan opens the season against Alabama in Arlington, Texas, and plays road games at Notre Dame, Nebraska and Ohio State.
Meantime, USA Today's Kelly Whiteside is a little more optimistic about the Wolverines, ranking them No. 9. That's second among Big Ten teams, trailing only Michigan State at No. 6. USC is No. 1.
Whiteside's write-up about Michigan: "Wolverines were better than expected this season and, with QB Denard Robinson, should continue to climb."
Michigan finished this season No. 9 in the USA Today coaches poll and No. 12 in the Associated Press poll. It is expected to return seven starters on offense and eight on defense, although it will lose experience and talent from both lines.
The Wolverines open the 2012 season against Alabama in Arlington, Texas, on Sept. 1.