Sure, it’s July. But it’s never too early to talk college football. Here’s your daily fix — our annual countdown of the preseason Top 25, as selected by the American-Statesman sports staff. Last year’s eventual CFP semifinalists were ranked Nos. 1, 5, 8 and 14 on our 2017 list.
Our Top 25 — so far:
Today’s team: No. 12 Michigan
The Wolverines’ best-case scenario: The addition of Ole Miss transfer quarterback Shea Patterson will improve a team that ranked 110th out of 130 FBS teams in passing yards per game. Combine that with a defense that ranked third in the nation in yards per game. In a stout Big Ten where Ohio State, Wisconsin and Penn State are the front-runners, Michigan could be a contender and land a major bowl bid.
Their worst-case scenario: There are no guarantees Patterson will adapt easily in a run-oriented offense. Jim Harbaugh still has not taken the Wolverines to the Big Ten championship game. They were 0-4 against Ohio State, Michigan State, Penn State and Wisconsin last year. They would need to beat at least two of them this year to avoid another Outback kind of year.
Inside the Wolverines
Coach: Jim Harbaugh (fourth year, 28-11; 57-32 overall at Stanford and Michigan, 44-19-1 in the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers)
2017: 8-5, 5-4 in the Big Ten (lost to South Carolina 26-19 in the Outback Bowl)
Returning starters: 6 offense, 9 defense
Goodbye: QB John O’Korn; C Mason Cole (3rd, Cardinals); DT Maurice Hurst (5th, Raiders); OT Mason Cole
Spring cleaning: The Wolverines received a much-needed jolt of adrenaline when the NCAA ruled that Patterson can play immediately. The former 5-star recruit threw for 3,139 yards and 23 touchdowns in 10 games over two seasons at Ole Miss and could be the best quarterback in Harbaugh’s four years in Ann Arbor. … With 15 starters back, experience should play a factor. By contrast, Michigan had just six starters back for the 2017 season. … RB Karan Higdon (994 yards, 11 TDs) hinted after the Outbook Bowl that he might turn pro, but has elected to return for another year.
PASSING: Brandon Peters, 57-108-672, 4/2 (2nd)
RUSHING: Karan Higdon, 164-994-11 (1st); Chris Evans, 135-685-6 (2nd)
RECEIVING: Grant Perry, 25-307-1 (1st); TE Zach Gentry, 17-303-2 (2nd); TE Sean McKeon, 31-301-3 (3rd)
TACKLES: LB Devin Bush, 102 (1st); LB Khaleke Hudson, 83 (3rd)
SACKS: LB Khaleke Hudson, 8 (T-1st); DL Chase Winovich, 79 (2nd); DL Rashan Gary, 6 (3rd)
INTERCEPTIONS: LB Khaleke Hudson, 2 (T-1st); DB Tyree Kinnel, 2 (T-1st); DB David Long, 2 (T-1st); DB Lavert Hill, 2 (T-1st)
Returning All-Big Ten players (13)
Offense: OG Ben Bredeson (2nd team); RB Karan Higdon (3rd); TE Zach Gentry (hon. mention); TE Sean McKeon (hon. mention)
Defense: DL Chase Winovich (1st); DL Rashan Gary (2nd); LB Devin Bush (2nd); LB Khaleke Hudson (2nd); DB Lavert Hill (hon. mention); DB Tyree Kinnel (hon. mention); DB David Long (hon. mention); DB Josh Metellus (hon. mention)
Special teams: K Quinn Nordin (hon. mention)
Les carcajous de Michigan: The Wolverines spent a week in Paris in April to see the city and bond with each other. They visited the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs-Élysées. Some of the players took a day trip to Normandy, the beaches on the coast of northern France where the U.S. and its allies invaded during World War II.
Welcome back, Black: Michigan is eager for the return of WR Tarik Black, who went down with a broken foot three games into the 2017 season. He led Michigan with 11 catches for 149 yards before the injury.
The Big House remodel: This season Michigan Stadium will have blue end zones for the first time in team history instead of the traditional green. The same maize letters will still spell out MICHIGAN.
2017 national rankings
Scoring: T-91st (25.2 ppg) — tied Big Ten-style with Purdue, right above No. 93 Temple, right behind No. 90 Bowling Green
Points allowed: 13th (18.8 ppg) — sandwiched by SEC programs, right above No. 14 LSU, right behind No. 12 Auburn
Passing: 110th (171.2 ypg) — right above No. 111 Old Dominion, right behind No. 109 Tulsa
Rushing: 49th (177.7 ypg) — right above No. 50 North Carolina State, right behind No. 48 Northern Illinois
Total offense: 105th (348.9 ypg) — right above No. 106 Virginia, right behind No. 104 Idaho
Total defense: 3rd (271.0 ypg) — right above No. 4 Clemson, right behind No. 2 Wisconsin
|DATE||OPPONENT||LAST YR'S RESULT (IF PLAYED)|
|Sept. 1 (7:30, NBC)||at Notre Dame|
|Sept. 8 (11, FS1)||Western Michigan|
|Sept. 15 (2:30, BTN)||SMU|
|Sept. 29||at Northwestern*|
|Oct. 6 (11 a.m.)||Maryland*||W, 35-10|
|Oct. 13||Wisconsin||L, 24-10|
|Oct. 20||at Michigan State*||L, 14-10|
|Nov. 3||Penn State*||L, 42-13|
|Nov. 10||at Rutgers*||W, 35-14|
|Nov. 17||Indiana*||W, 27-20 (OT)|
|Nov. 24 (11, Fox)||at Ohio State*||L, 31-20|
|*Big Ten game|
The key game: Nov. 24, at Ohio State. When it comes to the final game of the regular season, it doesn’t matter whether the teams are winless or unbeaten.
The last 5 years
|YEAR||W-L (CONF.)||RANKINGS||BOWL, RESULT|
|2013||7-6 (3-5)||17th / —||Buffalo Wild Wings, L|
|2014||5-7 (3-5)||— / —||No bowl|
|2015||10-3 (6-2)||— / 12th||Citrus, W|
|2016||10-3 (7-2)||7th / 10th||Orange, L|
|2017||8-5 (5-4)||11th / —||Outback, L|
|Total||40-24 (24-18 Big Ten)||1-3 in bowls|
Note: Ranks are that year’s preseason/final ranking
Our Top 25, by conferences
Pac-12 (No. 14 Stanford, No. 20 USC, No. 23 Oregon)
Big 12 (No. 15 TCU, No. 19 West Virginia, No. 25 Texas)
ACC (No. 16 Virginia Tech, No. 21 Florida State)
SEC (No. 17 Mississippi State, No. 24 LSU)
Big Ten (No. 12 Michigan)
Independents (No. 13 Notre Dame)
Mountain West (No. 18 Boise State)
AAC (No. 22 Central Florida)
Coming tomorrow: Our No. 11 team
Want a hint? This is the second Big Ten school on our list.