OK, this gets dicey. You know the drill. Here's another Big Ten team preview. We're rolling out these things in my predicted order of finish. Michigan State received the top spot in the Legends Division. The second pick? Oh, this was close. So very close. So close you could almost call it a tie. But the nod goes to ...
Last year's record: 11-2, 6-2 Big Ten
Vs. Top 25: 2-1
Returning starters: Offense 7, defense 7, special teams 2
Vs. Nebraska: Oct. 27 in Lincoln
Head coach: Brady Hoke (second year)
The lowdown on offense: Want to know why I gave Michigan the edge over Nebraska? Quarterback Denard Robinson may be the biggest reason, his 15 interceptions last season notwithstanding. And don't read that as disrespect to Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez. They're both explosive players. It's just that Robinson is, well, more explosive. What's more, I think Robinson has that hard-to-define "it" factor. He's tough physically and mentally. His teammates seem to respond to him. And I think he's a better passer than people give him credit for. Ask Nebraska's secondary. Meanwhile, tailback Fitz Toussaint leads a deep and talented group of running backs. Toussaint is a tough runner with excellent instincts for the position. However, he is suspended indefinitely in the wake of this past weekend's arrest for driving while impaired. The Wolverines need more production this season from WR Roy Roundtree. Michigan's biggest loss on offense was center David Molk, the Rimington Award winner last season. The line is a question mark.
The skinny on defense: Want to know why I gave Michigan State the edge over Michigan? It's because Michigan State has a clear advantage on defense. Michigan has essentially pieced together a defensive line with a dizzying series of position moves. While Molk likely will be a huge loss on offense, Mike Martin's graduation could soften the defensive interior. The Wolverines are hoping senior nose guard Will Campbell (6-5, 322) finally lives up to his five-star billing. Michigan returns all three starting linebackers from last season, but head coach Brady Hoke expressed concern this spring about his team being soft up the middle. The strength of the defense is the secondary, starting with sophomore cornerback Blake Countess, a prime All-Big Ten candidate.
What's new? Keep an eye on true freshman linebacker Joe Bolden (6-3, 230, Cincinnati), who enrolled in time for spring ball and emerged as a possible starter.