Michigan football at No. 12 in Sports Illustrated's 'way-too-early' 2013 top 25
Immediately after the 2012 season ended, early national speculation hinted that the Michigan football team would be taking a few lumps in 2013, Brady Hoke's third season as the program's head coach.
Sports Illustrated's Andy Staples, though, sees a different outcome in the making for Michigan in 2013 -- as he rates the Wolverines No. 12 in his "way too early" top 25.
"The Outback Bowl showed that Devin Gardner can play quarterback at a high level," Staples wrote. "Notre Dame is the only defense on Michigan's 2013 schedule that can match the athleticism of the South Carolina defense Gardner faced and nearly beat. Plus, Gardner will have an entire offseason working with the first-team offense to help him improve even more.
"The Wolverines need to replace the middle of their offensive line, but left tackle Taylor Lewan is back. Linebacker Jake Ryan will lead a defense that returns six starters. If coach Brady Hoke is as good of a recruiter as the Interwebs say he is, it will begin to show this season."
A large part of Staples' logic here seems to be based around Michigan's 2013 schedule, which is nowhere near as difficult as it was in 2012 -- when it lost to both BCS title game participants and 12-0 Ohio State on the road.
In 2013, Michigan opens the season with three straight home games (Central Michigan, Notre Dame and Akron) before visiting Connecticut, who went 5-7 last season.
During Big Ten play, the Wolverines get Minnesota, Indiana, Nebraska and Ohio State at home. Michigan travels to Penn State, Michigan State, Northwestern and Iowa.
It's worth noting that, in 2012, Michigan began the season at No. 8 in The Associated Press' Top 25, and finish the year unranked. In 2011, Michigan began the season unranked, but finished the year at No. 12.
So, we'll see.
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