After Michigan lost to Appalachian State to open its season, Associated Press voters added insult to insult when they dropped the fifth-ranked Wolverines from the top 25 rankings.
It marked the first time since an Oct. 15, 2005 loss to Minnesota that dropped the Wolverines’ record to 3-3 Michigan sat unranked. No team had ever fallen further.
But one embarrassing loss and five straight redeeming wins later, and Michigan has inched its way back into the rankings. The Wolverines ranked 24th in the poll released this weekend.
“It’s great to be back in the polls, but it’s not good enough for us,” left tackle Jake Long said. “We want to keep winning, keep going up and keep proving to people that we can be one of those top teams.”
If Michigan keeps playing like it did in Saturday’s 48-21 win over Purdue, that’s quite possible.
An upset-filled season has created turmoil at the top of the poll. Including No. 1 Ohio State, six different teams received first-place votes this week. South Florida – which didn’t even play Division 1-A football until 2001 – ranks No. 2.
The experts had just as much trouble agreeing on Michigan’s status. The Wolverines appeared on just 42 of 65 ballots. Voters ranked Michigan in every position from No. 16 (ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit) to No. 25.
“Ohio State and Michigan, despite its early meltdowns, are two of the most talented teams in the country,” blogged San Jose Mercury News writer Jon Wilner, who ranked the Wolverines 22nd. “But no one else in the Big Ten is remotely close to being an elite team.”
A thin offensive line: With injuries to three right guards decimating the offensive line, tackle Steve Schilling moved over one spot from right tackle to fill the hole.
And although the redshirt freshman has struggled the past two games to adjust to his new pass-blocking role, Carr says he might stick with the young Wolverine at the position.
“It’s a very competitive situation,” Carr said. “Eventually, Schilling could end up at guard. He could be a great guard, or he could be a great tackle.
“What we’re trying to decide here is what gives us the best chance to win and what is most comfortable.”
As for the rest of them: Although Lloyd Carr dodged providing a concrete answer about the status of running back Mike Hart, the coach did provide some injury updates in his press conference Monday.
The good: Linebacker John Thompson should return to full strength by Saturday.
The bad: Guard Alex Mitchell won’t.
And the questionable: Running back Brandon Minor.
“We’ll have to see where they are (yesterday),” said Carr, referring to Minor and Hart. “They made progress (Sunday), certainly, and (Monday). When you spend as much time as they do in the training room ., the more opportunity you have to heal quicker. That’s a big part of it.”
Afternoon delight: Michigan will play Minnesota at 3:30 p.m. on Oct. 27 in a game televised on ESPN Classic. It will be the Wolverines’ fourth 3:30 game this year.