It's not exactly the ringing endorsement Michigan fans likely are looking for after five years of Jim Harbaugh as head football coach.
Sports Illustrated released its "Way-Too-Early Top 25" on Wednesday, slotting the Wolverines at No. 20. Michigan is coming off a 9-4 season, which included another loss to Ohio State, another loss in a bowl game, and another failure to reach the Big Ten championship game.
"The Wolverines are what they are at this stage of the Jim Harbaugh era," Pat Forde of Sports Illustrated writes, "never bad, never great, trailing Ohio State and others in the Big Ten pecking order. If a quarterback develops into an elite talent, maybe that will change."
Michigan loses quarterback Shea Patterson, a two-year starter after transferring from Ole Miss, but does return, as Forde notes, its top two running backs in Zach Charbonnet and Hassan Haskins, and the bulk of its top receiving options, including Nico Collins, who opted to put the NFL on hold in favor of returning to the Wolverines for his final season of eligibility.
In addition to losing its top three tacklers on defense, Forde points out a daunting schedule for Michigan, which includes road games at Washington, Michigan State, Minnesota (No. 11 in SI's early rankings) and Ohio State (3), andhome games against Wisconsin (13), Penn State (5) and Purdue (24).
Clemson is No. 1 in SI's rankings.