Michigan 5th in ESPN.com's early 2013 B1G power rankings
Michigan's Big Ten title drought has reached eight seasons.
According to ESPN's Big Ten blog, the Wolverines will be among the league's contenders next year -- but certainly not a favorite.
Adam Rittenberg ranks Michigan No. 5 in his early 2013 Big Ten power rankings, trailing Ohio State, Northwestern, Nebraska and Wisconsin, and just ahead of Michigan State. It finished 6-2 in league play this past season, tied with Penn State for third.
The Denard Robinson era is over and Michigan needs offensive playmakers to replace its record-setting quarterback and surround new signal-caller Devin Gardner. A bigger concern, though, is an offensive line that struggled at times in 2012 and must replace most of its starting lineup. Coach Brady Hoke should see some of his strong early recruiting efforts pay off in Year 3, although Michigan might not have the depth to challenge for a league title until 2014. Linebacker Jake Ryan leads a defense that has improved the past two seasons but must measure up to elite competition.
Offensive line indeed will be Michigan's biggest uncertainty heading into next season, with senior starters Ricky Barnum, Elliott Mealer and Patrick Omameh departing and junior All-American left tackle Taylor Lewan expected to declare for the NFL Draft.
Gardner was prolific in his five-game run as the Wolverines' quarterback, solidifying what was expected to be a major concern. But will he have time to pass? Will there be a run game to supplement the aerial attack?
If Michigan is to finish better than fifth in the Big Ten next year, it will have to answer those questions.
As for now, fifth seems about right.
Click here to check out the rest of the blog's Big Ten power rankings.
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