Michigan Football was ranked seventh in the country in the first AP Top-25 poll of the 2019 season that was released on Monday, but the question on a lot of people’s minds is where they fit in with the rest of the country.
These polls, especially in the preseason, can be taken with the largest grain of salt that one could imagine, but in my quest to figure out where Michigan stands in the national picture heading into the season, the way that made the most sense was to tier out the top 25 teams where we stand today.
So here goes nothing.
Good luck matching up with these guys
(1) Clemson, (2) Alabama
Clemson is not going anywhere despite losing a lot off of their defense from last season. Trevor Lawrence is already arguably the best quarterback in the country and he is only entering his sophomore year. As far as Alabama goes, not much needs to be said about them as a pro prospect factory and they have who many believe is the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft in Tua Tagovailoa. These two are on a collision course yet again and are ahead of most everyone in the country by a wide margin.
Next in line
(3) Georgia, (4) Oklahoma, (5) Ohio State, (7) Michigan, (8) Florida
Right off the bat, someone reading this will go nuts because Michigan is not included in the bust section of this tiering, but it feels like there is a much better chance they finally get over the hump this year than bust like they did in 2017, so that’s why they are in this grouping. Georgia is a formidable opponent for Alabama and will duke it out with Florida in the SEC East. When they play, it serves essentially as a College Football Playoff elimination game, much like Michigan-Ohio State presumably will. There is still chance of a bust factor with the Buckeyes with a new coach and unproven quarterback, but they have been so good for so long that they deserve respect here.
Ranked teams with bust potential
(6) LSU, (9) Notre Dame, (10) Texas, (15) Penn State, (16) Auburn, (23) Washington State, (24) Nebraska
This section could have also been referred to as the “name brands who always get the nod” section. It seems like LSU is always being hyped as a top ten preseason team but has not had much to show for it in the College Football Playoff era. Of these teams, Notre Dame might actually have the most staying power from last season, but they always play a tough schedule and have been a program that either has the goods to go undefeated or lose four or five games in a season. Texas feels like they are about to turn a corner under Tom Herman, but there is a reason that “Texas is back” is a meme on the college football interwebs.
Penn State is a one that feels a bit odd that high, but folks are giving James Franklin the benefit of the doubt that they will have a good defense and will be able to figure out the quarterback position. Auburn is perpetually overrated. Washington State is coming off a historic year in program history, but they do not have the track record. Nebraska is being hyped as a team ready to break out, but personally, it feels like they still might be a year away.
Teams that could surprise/surpass their ranking
(11) Oregon, (13) Washington, (14) Utah, (17) UCF, (18) Michigan State, (21) Iowa State, (22) Syracuse
Justin Herbert has a shot at potentially being the No. 1 overall pick at quarterback and if he takes a step forward, Oregon could be back in the College Football Playoff discussion. Washington has been there before. Utah has no competition in their division for the most part. UCF has a chance to make things interesting for the third season in a row. Iowa State and Syracuse feel like big-time sleepers in both their conferences but are overshadowed by the elite programs.
Let’s discuss Michigan State here for a bit. This team very easily could have been in the bust portion of this tiering. On one hand, they have an elite defense that could very well be the best in the Big Ten. On the other, their offense was one of the five worst in all of college football season and all head coach Mark Dantonio did to fix it was shuffle his staff around like musical chairs. If they could be even remotely close to somewhat average offensively, they might be a really good football team. It could also be more of the same and another 7-8 win campaign if they continue to stay stuck in their archaic ways. We know they will be a problem for sure when they come to Ann Arbor and will have a chance to knock off the Wolverines there again, but nobody knows what the rest of that body of work will look like.
Teams that are just kind of there
(12) Texas A&M, (19) Wisconsin, (20) Iowa, (25) Stanford
Texas A&M is the perfect example of why these preseason polls are a bit wonky. They play the top three teams in the country this year in Clemson, Alabama and Georgia and also have to travel to LSU, who is ranked sixth. That feels like a potential 1-3 stretch for them, which could still find them ranked high if they take care of business in other games because the SEC is always viewed higher than everyone else, but it does not feel likely they will be seen as one of the top 12 teams in the country throughout the year.
Wisconsin, Iowa and Stanford sort of fit the bill there as well as teams that should be good, but might not wind up being great for a variety of reasons. There feel like better teams behind them that did not get voted into the top 25 like Army, Northwestern and Missouri, among others.
At the end of the day, the poll is just a poll, especially when we do not have any data or games to go off of other than memories of 2018. It feels like Michigan is appropriate ranked on paper, but that is all any of this is right now is on-paper predictions. It gives us something to talk about and then forgot about after a day or so.
How would you tier out the top 25 and where the Wolverines stand among the rest of the nation? Let it rip below!