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Examining Michigan football and the Big Ten’s way-too-early rankings

Several news outlets have the Wolverines in their early top-25 rankings.

NCAA Football: Peach Bowl-Florida vs Michigan Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

It is that time of the year again. The college football offseason is halfway over, and we are approaching yet another highly anticipated season for the Michigan Wolverines.

Major news outlets are starting to release their early top 25 rankings, and the Wolverines are widely regarded as one of the top teams in the country heading into the 2019 season.

Where do the Wolverines rank? Let’s take a look:

  • No. 6 (USA Today)
  • No. 7 (Sports Illustrated)
  • No. 9 (CBS Sports)
  • No. 9 (ESPN)
  • No. 9 (Sporting News)
  • No. 11 (The Athletic)

CBS sports notes the Wolverines have “massive holes on defense with the loss of Chase Winovich, Rashan Gary and Devin Bush.”

Meanwhile, Sporting News praises the offense’s changes with the addition of offensive coordinator Josh Gattis:

“The hire of offensive coordinator Josh Gattis and the promise of #SpeedInSpace on offense will build some enthusiasm around quarterback Shea Patterson and a talented group of receivers that includes Donovan Peoples-Jones, Nico Collins and Tarik Black.”

The Athletic, who has Michigan as the lowest rated of the prominent media sites, notes the Wolverines’ concern at the running back position and the lack of leadership on defense, which will force Don Brown to “experiment with guys in multiple roles.” They also say Josh Uche and Ambry Thomas will need to take “big strides.”

However, USA Today had the statement that will most ignite the hype from the new offense in Ann Arbor:

Not to overrate an individual spring game — no one ever does that — but the Wolverines’ scrimmage saw an offense under new coordinator Josh Gattis that allowed skill players to make plays in space, a painfully missing piece for much of Jim Harbaugh’s tenure. If this holds, the Wolverines are going to be a national factor.

Once again, Michigan is receiving pretty high praise from the major media outlets, but where do the rest of their Big Ten foes play out? Here is their average rankings:

Ohio State Buckeyes:

  • Avg: 5.5
  • High: 4
  • Low: 8

The vacancy Dwayne Haskins left behind will be filled by Georgia transfer Justin Fields who is the perfect quarterback for OSU’s system. The Athletic notes a bit of concern in Field’s passing game and the offensive line, but it is hard to dispute winning eight of the past 14 Big Ten Championships.

Penn State Nittany Lions:

  • Avg: 15.3
  • High: 9
  • Low: 21

The Nittany Lions will have some really big questions marks heading into the 2019 season. They lost both their starting quarterback, Trace McSorely, and their starting running back, Miles Sanders. Expected starting quarterback Tommy Stevens also entered the transfer portal not long ago. The offense could be in trouble, so the defense is going to have to anchor this team.

Wisconsin Badgers:

  • Avg: 19.3
  • High: 13
  • Low: 25

The Badgers had a horrific 2018 season. Everything went wrong from injuries, to poor quarterback play to losing some pretty close games. With Heisman candidate Johnathan Taylor returning for likely his final season, the Badgers could have an overpowering run game, making them worthy of a top 25 ranking.

Northwestern Wildcats:

  • Avg: 20.6
  • High: 17
  • Low: 24

The Northwestern Wildcats had a surprising 2018 season winning the Big Ten West. They look to continue to shatter expectations in 2019 and be a top contender in the conference once again. They also added former 5-star quarterback transfer from Clemson, Hunter Johnson, who could make the Wildcats extremely dangerous once again.

Nebraska Cornhuskers:

  • Avg: 21.8
  • High: 17
  • Low: unranked

The hype train is rolling through Lincoln behind second-year head coach Scott Frost. He led the Cornhuskers to a 4-8 record last season, but the team went on a 4-2 run to end the season. Nebraska also has Heisman trophy candidate Adrian Martinez returning for his sophomore season.

Iowa Hawkeyes:

  • Avg: 20.75
  • High: 18
  • Low: unranked

The experts are split on this one. Two of the six outlets we are looking at don’t even consider the Hawkeyes to be a top 25 team and with good reason. CBS Sports summed them up perfectly:

Pencil the Hawks in for something like 8-4. They always seem to be hovering around that record each year.

‘Nuff said.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish (Special Mention):

  • Avg: 8.2
  • High: 5
  • Low: 11

Notre Dame seeks to repeat a trip to the College Football Playoffs next season. The offensive line, as always, looks great. The defense is following suit. Quarterback Ian Book helped mold the team into a playoff contender last season and has the potential to lead them to another playoff birth in 2019.