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Michigan State No. 12, Michigan No. 14 in preseason coaches poll

The Detroit News

As preseason camp opens for Michigan State and Michigan, it's becoming more apparent that neither program is leaps and bounds ahead of the other.

Most early top 25 projections have the Spartans and Wolverines neck and neck, with the coaches poll released Thursday no different.

Michigan State is No. 12, and Michigan is No. 14 in the preseason coaches poll released Thursday.

Michigan State is ranked No. 12 in the poll, with Michigan close behind at No. 14. For both, it's an uptick from the 2017 season-ending poll. The Spartans finished No. 16 in that poll, after a 10-3 season capped by a Holiday Bowl victory.

"After missing a bowl game in 2016, the Spartans have 19 starters back from last year’s team that won 10 games," Erick Smith of USA Today writes. "QB Brian Lewerke provides a running and passing threat. The defense, led by DL Kenny Willekes, is good enough to have them contend in the Big Ten."

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Michigan, meanwhile, is coming off a season in which it finished 8-5, including a loss to South Carolina in the Outback Bowl — the Big Ten's only loss in the bowl season — as well as losses to rivals Ohio State and the Spartans.

"The pressure is officially on Jim Harbaugh, who is 1-5 against rivals Ohio State and Michigan State in his three seasons," Smith writes. "Shea Patterson, a transfer from Mississippi, is expected solve the team’s problems at quarterback. The defense was inexperienced last year and still ranked second in the Big Ten. That’s a good sign for this season."

Alabama is No. 1, with 61 first place votes, followed by Clemson at No. 2 and Ohio State No. 3.

Michigan State opens its season at home Aug. 31 against Utah State. Michigan opens Sept. 1 at Notre Dame.