Writers: UM a title contender in ’16; losses hurt MSU
USA Today’s Paul Myerberg has Michigan, coming off a 10-3 record in Jim Harbaugh’s first season, ranked No. 3 in his early poll.
“Surprised?” Myerberg wrote. “Don’t be. There’s no reason to think Michigan won’t be capable of making this climb in the follow-up to Harbaugh’s successful debut. Another season in his unique system will yield an even stronger, deeper, tougher and more physical team, and one that will be right in the mix for the national championship.”
Meanwhile ESPN writer Mark Schlabach has Michigan at No. 4.
“The Wolverines might be the team to beat in the Big Ten in 2016,” Schlabach wrote. “Michigan will bring back almost everybody on offense, although losing quarterback Jake Rudock and center Graham Glasgow is significant. Houston transfer John O’Korn might be the top candidate to replace Rudock.
“Defensively, Michigan will have to replace its entire linebacker corps, but its defensive line figures to be one of the country’s best. New defensive coordinator Don Brown led one of the stingiest defenses in the FBS at Boston College this past season. Michigan plays eight home games this coming season, but three of its road games — at Michigan State, Iowa and Ohio State — should be tough.”
Myerberg and Schlabach both have Michigan State sliding back a little from this season’s success, which included a Big Ten title and berth in the College Football Playoff, though the both said the Spartans will continue to be a factor.
Michigan State checks in at Nos. 13 and 14 in Myerberg and Schlabach’s polls, respectively, after a No. 6 final ranking this season and back-to-back top 5 finishes before that.
“It would be a little surprising to see Michigan State match this season’s Big Ten Conference championship,” wrote Myerberg, “though it’s never wise to doubt Mark Dantonio and the Spartans. On paper, there’s enough returning talent to remain in the mix for a Playoff berth but too many departed pieces to be considered a leading contender.”
Schlabach echoed that assessment.
“The Spartans’ 38-0 loss to Alabama in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic was a deflating end to a great season, but Mark Dantonio has built a program that’s here to stay,” he wrote. “There’s a lot of work to do, though; the Spartans will have to replace all but three offensive starters, including quarterback Connor Cook and two key pieces on the line. They’ll also lose three starting defensive linemen, but nose tackle Malik McDowell is a budding superstar. MSU will play nonconference games at Notre Dame and home against BYU this coming season and will play Wisconsin, Northwestern, Michigan and Ohio State at home during Big Ten play.”
Detroit News staff contributed