Michigan Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh (left) leads his team onto the field prior to the start of the game against the Wisconsin Badgers at Michigan Stadium on Oct. 1, 2016 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The Wolverines get the Badgers at home again this season. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)

Football

Our annual Top 25 countdown: No. 12 Michigan says goodbye to John O’Korn, hello Shea Patterson

Jim Harbaugh continues to search for his first Big Ten title game as Michigan's coach, but Patterson may be his best Wolverines QB so far.

Posted July 17th, 2018

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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:

No. 25: Texas is building — but are we there yet, are we there yet?

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No. 24: LSU has a tough schedule, questions at key spots

No. 23: Oregon welcomes a new coach — again and again and again

No. 22: Central Florida is out to go unbeaten (ahem, again)

No. 21: There’s a new coach, offense and direction for Florida State

No. 20: Their big names gone, USC is reloading … or is that rebuilding?

No. 19: For West Virginia, when there’s a Will there’s a way

No. 18: For Boise State, the Mountain West sky is the limit

No. 17: Mississippi State is breaking in a new head coach

No.16: Virginia Tech’s chances hinge on an up-and-down quarterback

No. 15: TCU has been the model of consistency, but there are 2018 concerns

No. 14: Love is all you need, at least if you’re talking about Stanford’s Bryce Love

No. 13: Notre Dame is on the brink of a real springboard season

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.

RELATED COVERAGE: How Jim Harbaugh’s recruits from Michigan are working out

RELATED COVERAGE: Despite changes, Michigan faces the same old questions on offense

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.

Karan Higdon (22) of the Michigan Wolverines tries to break the tackle of Austin Borengasser (25) of the Hawaii Warriors during a third quarter run on Sept. 3, 2016 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Michigan won the game 63-3. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Returning leaders

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)

FYI

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

Former Ole Miss quarterback Shea Patterson, who threw for 3,139 yards and 23 touchdowns in his two-year Rebels career, will replace John O’Korn as Michigan’s quarterback after transferring to the Wolverines. (Photo by Butch Dill/Getty Images)

The schedule

DATEOPPONENTLAST 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. 22Nebraska*
Sept. 29at Northwestern*
Oct. 6 (11 a.m.)Maryland*W, 35-10
Oct. 13WisconsinL, 24-10
Oct. 20at Michigan State*L, 14-10
Nov. 3Penn State*L, 42-13
Nov. 10at Rutgers*W, 35-14
Nov. 17Indiana*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

YEARW-L (CONF.)RANKINGSBOWL, RESULT
20137-6 (3-5)17th / —Buffalo Wild Wings, L
20145-7 (3-5)— / —No bowl
201510-3 (6-2)— / 12thCitrus, W
201610-3 (7-2)7th / 10thOrange, L
20178-5 (5-4)11th / —Outback, L
Total40-24 (24-18 Big Ten)1-3 in bowls

Note: Ranks are that year’s preseason/final ranking

Our Top 25, by conferences

3 schools:

Pac-12 (No. 14 Stanford, No. 20 USC, No. 23 Oregon)

Big 12 (No. 15 TCU, No. 19 West Virginia, No. 25 Texas)

2 schools:

ACC (No. 16 Virginia Tech, No. 21 Florida State)

SEC (No. 17 Mississippi State, No. 24 LSU)

1 school:

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.

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