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Posted on Fri, May 25, 2012 : 12:32 p.m.

Michigan football team ranked as high as No. 7, as low as No. 22 in major preseason polls

By Kyle Meinke


Athlon Sports lists Michigan as the No. 7 team in its preseason college football rankings and mentions both Denard Robinson and Fitz Toussaint, above, as potential Heisman Trophy candidates. Other rankings have the Wolverines as low as No. 22.

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On Thursday, venerable college football prognosticator Phil Steele ranked Michigan 22nd in his preseason poll.

A day later, Athlon Sports ranked the Wolverines seventh.

That about sums up the Michigan football team's offseason, which is marked by a high degree of uncertainty and intrigue.

The Wolverines return a wealth of talent at nearly every position, including stars Denard Robinson and Taylor Lewan, each of whom are beginning to receive consideration for preseason All-America honors.

Lewan even received a first-team All-America nod Friday by's Matt Hinton. Robinson made his second team.

In all, Michigan returns seven starters on offense, and nine more on defense.

But crushing turnover on the offensive and defensive lines, paired with an unforgiving schedule, has some tempering their expectations for the Wolverines.

Steele writes:

"Pointing downward are the fact that they benefited from 3 net close wins, were +7 in TO's, had beneficial off (12.2) and def (18.5) ypp's and my Stock Market Indicator ... has them -5.0. This is an improved (team) that probably won't match (last year's) 11 win total with games away from home vs Alabama, ND, Neb and Ohio St but unlike (last year), they could find themselves in the B10 Title game."

Athlon was much more optimistic, and agreed that Michigan could wind up in the Big Ten championship game. It projects the Wolverines to win the Legends Division.

The publication also is higher than most on starting tailback Fitz Toussaint, calling him a possible Heisman Trophy candidate.

"There’s a lot to like about the Wolverines. They’ve got two potential Heisman Trophy candidates in Robinson and Toussaint and depth in their defensive backfield for the first time in ages. Their biggest obstacle in 2012 might be a murderous schedule, one that includes a neutral-site opener against defending national champ Alabama and road trips to South Bend, Lincoln and Columbus."

A wide range, indeed.

My thoughts: Michigan has the talent to be a top-15 team -- and by that logic, should be ranked there, since polls are not a projection of where a team will end up, but where they are now.

But, by season's end, it's likely the Wolverines will be closer to Steele's 22nd ranking than Athlon's No. 7 ranking. Their schedule is brutal, especially with all those games on the road, and the Big Ten has become a very difficult league to win on the road.

A roundup of where others are pegging Michigan in their preseason polls:

Sports Illustrated's Andy Staples: No. 13

"Want to know why hopes at Michigan are so high? Because coach Brady Hoke has instilled an attitude in his players that makes them say things like this about an 11-2 season: "One of the things coach really emphasizes is that last year we failed," (safety Jordan) Kovacs told The Associated Press. "It wasn't a successful season. The mission each and every year is to win a Big Ten championship and we didn't do that. At the end of the day, we didn't get what we wanted so that makes us even hungrier for next year." To reach their goals, the Wolverines will have to end Michigan State's four-year ownership of their series. Where's the threat? Nowhere, unless Michigan can win that game. Unfortunately, the Wolverines face an even stiffer challenge to open the season. Alabama will be better than anyone else on Michigan's schedule."

FOX Sports: No. 9

"One more year. It might take one more season for Michigan to truly be back to being Michigan, but everything is on the right track with one of the nation’s top recruiting classes coming in and a great base of talent in place to work around. Quarterback Denard Robinson (pictured) is back for one more season before he becomes an NFL receiver, but he’ll lose target Junior Hemingway and he’ll have to run - especially in the opener against Alabama - behind a line that has to replace center David Molk and right tackle Mark Huyge. The defense, which made tremendous strides last year, should go to another level in the secondary. The linebacker corps, featuring Jake Ryan, is talented and emerging. The line needs help, but there’s plenty of size to make up for the lack of experience."

ESPN's Mark Schlabach: No 10

"In coach Brady Hoke's first season, the Wolverines finished 11-2, defeated rival Ohio State for the first time since 2003 and knocked off Virginia Tech 23-20 in the Sugar Bowl. Yet, Hoke wasn't satisfied because Michigan didn't win a Big Ten championship. With quarterback Denard Robinson and 13 other starters coming back, Michigan looks like the team to beat in the Big Ten in 2012. Michigan's defense was much better under coordinator Greg Mattison, but he'll have to replace tackles Mike Martin and Will Heininger and end Ryan Van Bergen. Michigan opens the season against defending BCS national champion Alabama in Arlington, Texas, on Sept. 1 and plays Big Ten road games at Nebraska on Oct. 27 and at Ohio State on Nov. 24."

Yahoo! Sports: No. 8

"The offense again should be potent. QB Denard Robinson has one more year, and TB Fitzgerald Toussaint became a dependable option as this season wore on. Refining the passing attack will be important during spring practice. So will rebuilding the defensive line; three starters are leaving. The back seven on defense has a ton of promise, and it will be interesting to see how coordinator Greg Mattison deploys his guys."

Kyle Meinke covers Michigan football for He can be reached at 734-623-2588, by email at and followed on Twitter @kmeinke.



Mon, May 28, 2012 : 6:09 p.m.

fact is we're not going to know how good they are or aren't until the end of the season.of those ratings that were listed plus the two that were mentioned the average is 9.8 which if it means anything puts them in 10th place.


Sat, May 26, 2012 : 8:33 p.m.

Yo creo le moustro desapresera muy pronto se deslicara por el camino cuando Michigan benga otra vez ariba de donde pertenese. For those of you that, no comprende , in Spanish this means, well I think you understand. Go Big Blue !


Sat, May 26, 2012 : 2:34 a.m.

Thank goodness for all the returning starters coming back. It took a few years to get more upper classmen starting, but the time is here and Hoke should benefit from all the experienced players he has. They have a tough schedule, but as many people on these posts say "this is Michigan" and the schedule shouldn't matter. Michigan has their coach and should believe in him and expect another terrific season.

Big Tex

Fri, May 25, 2012 : 11:28 p.m.

Too bad UM can't beat MSU ... they are much better on D than UM will be, probably the best in the B10, and DRob has looked very pedestrian at best against Narduzzi's crushing D. Don't see UM winning the Legends division; maybe if State was in the Legends, they'd have a chance. Well, except Wiscy and OSU are better than UM, too. Oh, well, maybe in 2013?


Fri, May 25, 2012 : 11:27 p.m.

We should start seeing the kind of improvement that dictates that Mich. is on the mend with great potential in the coming seasons. This year may be difficult for Mich. in terms of wins however, I doubt anyone is going to push the panic button cause Brady Hoke is building a solid future for the Wolves and it started last year.


Fri, May 25, 2012 : 10:58 p.m.

I love Michigan football and basketball, and we're definitely improving in both, but these high preseason ratings will only prove to be a letdown for Michigan fans after these teams get top 8 preseason ranks then finish in the middle of the polls or lower. Look on the bright side, Hoke is doing great going into his second year and it's only going to snowball. Pretty soon, our teams will warrant their high preseason rankings.


Fri, May 25, 2012 : 9:27 p.m.

These polls tell us very little, except Michigan is at least a Top 20 team. The Michigan coaching staff will address weakenesses that plagued the team when they did play on the road last season. Given that they have three more games way from the Big House including @ NE and @ohio plus the AL game in Dallas. I am glad Michigan is not a Top 5 inspite of insignificance of these polls. Good not to be overrated, rather be an underdog at this point.


Fri, May 25, 2012 : 8 p.m.

it is always fun, in this off season, to look at rankings and speculate what might happen. The same guessing game is present with respect to recruiting. In 1997 our preseason ranking was #14 in one "experts" judgement. I looked at the schedule and predicted 4 losses. In both preseason rankings and recruiting I have learned to wait until the games are played to find out which team actually showed up.


Fri, May 25, 2012 : 7:46 p.m.

Preseason polls are meaningless.


Fri, May 25, 2012 : 6:16 p.m.

This is the type schedule that can make you or break you. By season's end they could be #22, on the flip side, they could be #1 with a NC birth. This team has the talent and coaches to achieve it, this isn't the same team from 3 years ago, they're now experienced Jrs & Srs. DR: 3yr starter, DG: 2yr back-up, FT: 2yr, VS: 1yr, RR: 4yr, JG: 3yr, Dileo: 2yr, TL: 3yr. This is probably the best returning "O" on the schedule. AL- loses TRich., ND- MFloyd, MSU- Cousins and OSU- Posey. Michigan has the talent, we the fans now have to except them for who they are. They may play a different brand of football than what some may want, but they're still MICHIGAN!


Fri, May 25, 2012 : 11:07 p.m.

When the season starts we'll get the facts one game at a time.


Fri, May 25, 2012 : 10:56 p.m.

I hope the defensive line surprises me because I'm really worried they are going to get owned down in Dallas

Terry Star21

Fri, May 25, 2012 : 6:08 p.m.

I see this and other similar reports and there are two things I take away from it, extremely simple and fabulous things; 1. Respect for one of college's footballs greatest teams. 2. What a great time to be a Michigan Football Faithful. MgoBlueForTiM........'We're the Threat'....


Fri, May 25, 2012 : 5:20 p.m.

Michigan–Ohio State football rivalry Total meetings 108 Series record Michigan leads, 58–43–6 First meeting October 17, 1897 Michigan 34, Ohio State 0 Last meeting November 26, 2011 Michigan 40, Ohio State 34 Next meeting November 24, 2012 Largest win Michigan, 86–0 (1902) Longest win streak Michigan, 9 (1901–1909) Current win streak Michigan, 1 (2011–present) Trophy None Since 1969- Michigan leads 21-19-2 ( 1 no contest) THE World University Rankings 2011-2012 18 University of Michigan United States 57 Ohio State University United States We beat them in academics too!!!


Fri, May 25, 2012 : 7:14 p.m.

what a joke.

Terry Star21

Fri, May 25, 2012 : 6:12 p.m.

58..... I've always believed there should be a trophy for this great rivalry, maybe something related to the border (war)....sure there is something (someone) famous to do with that border. PS....Paul Bunyan called, he has been just miserable and sick, going on four years now - he wants to come home, where he belongs, forever !


Fri, May 25, 2012 : 5:02 p.m.

I agree. We have a difficult schedule and it would take another season of exceeding expectations (like last) to get to 11 wins again. Losing to a superior team is no fun, but I'll take a well-played, contested loss over an underperforming blowout (like we had for three miserable seasons). Go Blue! Go Hoke! Whip Bama!

Terry Star21

Fri, May 25, 2012 : 6:16 p.m.

You're right about the schedule, and yes 11 wins are possible - and although it is difficult to make Michigan look better in everyone's eyes, this time 11 would look twice as good !