Here’s why ESPN’s Mark Schlabach tabs Michigan as the No. 11 team in the country heading into the 2018 season:
Previous Way-Too-Early rank: 14
2017 record: 8-5, 5-4 Big Ten
Returning starters: seven offense, eight defense, two special teams
Key losses: OT Mason Cole, C Patrick Kugler, OT Juwann Bushell-Beatty, QB John O’Korn, NT Maurice Hurst, LB Mike McCray
Outlook: National signing day came and went without the Wolverines making a big splash, as Jim Harbaugh tries to get his program headed back in the right direction. After signing top-10 classes the previous two cycles, Michigan’s class was ranked No. 20 this year.
But Michigan’s move is based on the possibility that Ole Miss QB transfer Shea Patterson will be eligible to play this coming season. U-M officials are expected to file an appeal to the NCAA for relief. If Patterson starts at quarterback this coming season, the Wolverines might be poised for a big turnaround from last season’s five-loss letdown.
Even if it’s Brandon Peters or Dylan McCaffrey and not Patterson, Michigan is bringing back enough talent to be a factor in the Big Ten race. The Wolverines are expected to bring back nine of 11 starters on defense, and Chase Winovich, Devin Bush and Rashan Gary were the key parts of a top-five unit in 2017.
The Wolverines will play road games at Notre Dame, Northwestern, Michigan State and Ohio State in 2018.
Here’s there top 10:
4. Ohio State
9. Michigan State
10. Penn State
— ESPN CollegeFootball (@ESPNCFB) February 13, 2018