College Football News released in early rankings for 2007 and they slotted Michigan #10 with USC #1. I’d guess is that this is about as low as you will see Michigan rated in the preseason ranking next year as CFN has been on a run of Wolverine bashing, from last week questioning the validity of the 1997 title, to a recent post basically arguing that Michigan hasn’t had a decent “big” non-conference win in over a decade. Here’s what they had to say about the 2007 team:
10. Michigan. The offense should be tremendous with the best trio of skill players in the country in Chad Henne, Mike Hart and Mario Manningham. Jake Long should probably be off to the NFL, but he’ll be back to be a sure-fire All-American at left tackle. The defense is another story losing Alan Branch, LaMarr Woodley, Rondell Biggs, Shawn Crable, David Harris, Prescott Burgess, Leon Hall and Willis Barringer.
And here where some of Michigan’s opponents & Big Ten foes landed:
5. Wisconsin 2006 Record: 12-1
2006 Wisconsin was a very good team with a walk-in-the-park schedule. 2007 Wisconsin will be an elite team with a more challenging slate. The safeties need to be replaced, as do LB Mark Zalewski and OT Joe Thomas, but just about everyone else returns. Tyler Donovan and former Kansas State Wildcat Allan Evridge will replace QB John Stocco without a problem.
6. Ohio State 2006 Record: 12-1
If the Buckeyes could replace all the top defensive stars after 2005 and end up in the national title game, then they should be able to overcome the loss of a ton of offensive talent and get back, right? That’s a bit of a stretch, but there’s still a ton of NFL talent returning on both sides of the ball with ten underclassmen starting last year. It’ll all be about the running game until Todd Boeckman or Rob Schoenhoft get their feet wet.
24. Penn State 2006 Record: 9-4
One of the toughest early calls, Penn State’s offense should be better as long as Anthony Morelli plays like he did in the Outback Bowl. The defense might take a huge tumble losing several big stars on the defensive front, but Dan Connor and Sean Lee might be the best pair of outside linebackers in the country.
27. Iowa 2006 Record: 6-7 [Michigan doesn’t play the Hawkeyes in 2007]
The Jake Christensen era gets rolling in what should be a bounceback season. The losses on the offensive line might make things difficult early on, but just about everyone returns on defense including LB Mike Klinkenborg and DE Ken Iwebema, who’ll be back from a shoulder injury. Also returning is head coach Kirk Ferentz, who was on everyone’s NFL hot list.
35. Notre Dame 2006 Record: 10-3
Is Jimmy Clausen going to get the starting quarterback job right off the bat? Charlie Weis will always get production out of the offense, but it might take a while with eight starters gone including RB Darius Walker, who left early for the NFL. For good and bad, the defense also needs an overhaul.
43. Oregon 2006 Record: 7-6
Experience won’t be an issue on either side of the ball, and now the production has to follow. Settling the quarterback situation between Brady Leaf and Dennis Dixon right away will be key, while keeping RB Jonathan Stewart healthy is a must. Jaison Williams is the best receiver you’ve never heard of.
46. Minnesota 2006 Record: 6-7
The cupboard is hardly bare in the post-Glen Mason era with Amir Pinnix certain to have a big season behind a veteran offensive line. The defense might have stunk, but it should be better with ten starters returning. Tony Mortensen is a big, capable replacement for Bryan Cupito.
53. Purdue 2006 Record: 8-5
Is this the year Purdue finally decides to play defense? Curtis Painter and the best Big Ten’s best receiving corps (yes, better than Michigan’s) should light most teams up like a Christmas tree, but it’ll all go for naught if the D doesn’t make a big turnaround.
60. Michigan State 2006 Record: 4-8
How quickly can Mark Dantonio turn the overall attitude around? Brian Hoyer takes over for Drew Stanton, but the offense should revolve early on around the running game and a veteran offensive line. The defense will certainly be stronger under the new coaching staff.
61. Illinois 2006 Record: 2-10
Ron Zook recruited well since he came to Champaign and threw many of the young talents into the fire. QB Juice Williams is one of the Big Ten’s most exciting young talents with a good receiving corps to work with. The defense was far better than it got credit for, and it gets just about everyone back led by tackling machine LB J Leman.
66. Northwestern 2006 Record: 4-8
Is this the Big Ten’s big sleeper? Year two under Pat Fitzgerald should be far better if the strides made at the end of 2006 carry over. Tyrell Sutton is one of the Big Ten’s best backs, while QB C.J. Bacher now has experience and knows what he’s doing. Ten starters return on defense.
73. Indiana 2006 Record: 5-7 [Michigan doesn’t play the Hoosiers in 2007]
Kellen Lewis to James Hardy might be the Big Ten’s most productive pass-catch combinations. The defense won’t ever stop anyone and the offense needs several new linemen to step up into starting roles.
115*. Eastern Michigan 2006 Record: 1-11
There’s still a long road ahead needing to settle the quarterback situation right off the bat while praying for all the returning talent on both sides of the ball to be enough to finally start winning some close games.
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