Sure, it’s just July. But it’s never too early to talk college football. Here’s your daily fix — our eighth annual countdown of the preseason Top 25, as selected by the American-Statesman sports staff. Last season’s four College Football Playoff semifinalists were rated Nos. 3, 6, 13 and 24 on our 2015 list.
Today’s team: No. 5 Michigan (Related coverage: Spending the day with Jim Harbaugh, the main Big Ten attraction)
The Wolverines will contend if … they finish ahead of rivals Michigan State and Ohio State in the Big Ten East and then beat the West champion, which is favored to be Iowa, in the conference title game. It won’t be easy; the Wolverines have to go on the road to play Michigan State, Ohio State and Iowa, all of whom finished last year ranked in the nation’s top nine. Still, the belief is that Jim Harbaugh will work enough magic to have the Wolverines in the hunt. Harbaugh still must announce a starting quarterback, but considering his success at having developing Andrew Luck (Stanford), Alex Smith (San Francisco) and Colin Kaepernick (San Francisco), and Jake Rudock (Michigan), this is not a major concern.
INSIDE THE WOLVERINES
Coach: Jim Harbaugh (Second year, 10-3 overall)
2015: 10-3, 6-2 in the Big Ten; beat Florida in the Citrus Bowl, 41-7
Returning starters: 8 offense, 6 defense
The key game: Nov. 26, at Ohio State
Hello: DT Rashan Gary, QB John O’Korn, TE Tyrone Wheatley Jr., DC Don Brown
Goodbye: C Graham Glasgow (Detroit Lions), DT Willie Henry (Baltimore Ravens), QB Jake Rudock (Lions), DC D.J. Durkin (Maryland)
Spring cleaning: Harbaugh lost his defensive coordinator, D.J. Durkin, who left to become Maryland’s head coach and he filled the vacancy with former Boston College defensive coordinator Don Brown, who had the nation’s top-ranked defense in 2015. Harbaugh also got a new boss with Michigan graduate Warde Manuel, who’s returning to Ann Arbor after heading Connecticut’s athletic department for several years. Oh, and you may have heard that Harbaugh did a bit of traveling this summer, criss-crossing the country for satellite camps. At each stop, he wore a football or basketball jersey of a famous athlete from that area.
Passing: Wilton Speight, 9-25-73 yards, 1/1 (2nd)
Rushing: De’Veon Smith, 180-753-6 (1st)
Receiving: Amara Darboh, 58-727-5 (1st); Jake Butt (TE), 51-654-3 (2nd); Jehu Chesson, 50-764-9 (3rd)
Tackles: CB Jourdan Lewis, 52 (4th); S Delano Hill, 46 (5th); DB Jabrill Peppers, 45 (6th)
Sacks: DE Chris Wormley, 6.5 (T-1st); DE Taco Charlton, 5.5 (3rd)
RETURNING ALL CONFERENCE (3)
Offense: TE Jake Butt (1st team),
Defense: CB Jourdan Lewis (1st), DB Jabrill Peppers (S, 2nd/UT, 2nd)
- Remember Zach Gentry? The former Texas quarterback commitment from New Mexico ended up signing with Michigan in 2015 — and has already shifted to tight end, where he’s not expected to play much behind the productive Jake Butt. Had he stayed at Texas, Gentry might be competing to start this season — at quarterback.
- During his inaugural satellite camp tour last summer, Harbaugh made stops in Dallas and Houston and was in the mix for several top recruits in the Lone Star State. Heck, during a pre-signing day visit to Houston, Harbaugh even slept on the couch of defensive tackle Jordan Elliott, who ended up picking Texas. Despite all of Harbaugh’s efforts, Michigan was shut out of Texas in 2016 and has yet to pick up a 2017 commitment from the state.
- The way it looks, former Houston QB John O’Korn is the favorite to start behind center. O’Korn was a freshman standout for the Cougars in 2013 before losing his job in 2014 and transferring at the end of the year. To win the job, he’ll have to beat out returning backup Wilton Speight and heralded redshirt freshman Alex Malzone. Career backup Shane Morris could be in the mix as well.
Michigan's 2016 schedule
|Date||Opponent||Last yr's result (if played)|
|Sept. 10||Central Florida|
|Sept. 24||Penn State*||W, 28-16|
|Oct. 8||at Rutgers*||W, 49-16|
|Oct. 29||at Michigan State*||L, 27-23|
|Nov. 5||Maryland*||W, 28-0|
|Nov. 12||at Iowa*|
|Nov. 19||Indiana*||W, 48-41|
|Nov. 26||at Ohio State*||L, 42-13|
|* Big Ten game|
Michigan: The last 5 years
|2015||10-3 / 6-2||— / 12th||Citrus Bowl, W|
|2014||5-7 / 3-5||— / —||No bowl|
|2013||7-6 / 3-5||17th / —||Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, L|
|2012||8-5 / 6-2||8th / 24th||Outback Bowl, L|
|2011||11-2 / 6-2||— / 12th||Sugar Bowl, W|
|Total||41-23, 24-16||4 bowl games (2-2)|
2015 NATIONAL RANKS
Scoring: 50th (31.4 ppg)
Scoring defense: 6th (16.4 ppg)
Passing yards: 53rd (237.7 ypg)
Rushing yards: 84th (158.2 ypg)
TOP 25 SO FAR …
No. 5: Coming Wednesday. Want a hint? This school’s 2016 schedule includes Ohio State and Houston. And Texas.
5 schools: Pac-12 (8-Stanford, 14-USC, 17-Washington, 21-Oregon, 25-Washington State)
4 schools: Big Ten (5-Michigan, 7-Ohio State, 15-Michigan State, 18-Iowa); SEC (6-LSU, 9-Tennessee, 12-Ole Miss, 16-Georgia)
3 schools: Big 12 (13-TCU, 19-Baylor, 22-Oklahoma State)
2 schools: ACC (20-North Carolina, 23-Louisville)
1 school: AAC (11-Houston); Mountain West (24-Boise State); Independents (10-Notre Dame)