College football savant Phil Steele released his annual "Projected Preseason AP Top 26" blog post Saturday.
If you’re unfamiliar with the work, it’s the article Steele uses to project how the Associate Press Top 25 Poll voters will vote in the preseason poll in August.
Steele projected Michigan at No. 19, one spot ahead of Northwestern and five spots ahead of Wisconsin.
"Coming off an 11-win season highlighted by a Sugar Bowl win in Brady Hoke’s first year, expectations were high for the Wolverines in 2012 and while they disappointed to an 8-5 finish, they did lose 4 games to Top 10 teams (Alabama, Notre Dame, Ohio St and South Carolina) which all took place away from home," Steele wrote. "This year there is no Alabama on the schedule in the non-conference play and they also get Notre Dame, Nebraska and Ohio St all at home. They do return 12 starters, which is their fewest since 2008, but Brady Hoke has done very well stockpiling the talent including bringing in my #5 Frosh class this year."
Michigan does boast a winnable non-conference schedule this year. The Wolverines host Central Michigan Aug. 31, Notre Dame on Sept. 7, and Akron on Sept. 14, and visits Connecticut a week before its open date Sept. 21.
The toughest road game on the schedule is arguably Penn State on Oct. 12, as the Nittany Lions have a stadium of 107,282 screaming fans who wave white towels. Michigan also visits Michigan State, Northwestern, and Iowa.
Steele projected Ohio State to start the season as the second-highest ranked team in the country, while Nebraska projected at No. 17 as the fifth Big Ten program on his list.