On Oct. 4, 2010, the Michigan football team was 5-0 and drastically over-ranked at No. 18 in the nation. Today, the Wolverines are 5-0 at No. 12 in the Associated Press poll and No. 11 in the coaches’ poll.
One voter, Michigan coach Brady Hoke, thinks they’re overrated.
“We’re not playing well enough,” Hoke said Monday, two days after Michigan steamrolled Minnesota, 58-0. “We’re not finishing well enough.”
The No. 12 rank is Michigan’s highest since the fifth-ranked Wolverines were felled by Appalachian State on Sept. 1, 2007.
Hoke admitted, for the first time this year, that he ranked Michigan in the coaches’ poll. How high?
“Somewhere in the top-25 teams.”
Rest assured he didn’t vote for No. 11, on the doorstep of the nation’s top-10.
While the team’s expectations have been sky-high since Hoke arrived in January, players aren’t buying into Michigan’s bloated position in the polls.
“As far as the ranking goes, my opinion hasn’t changed, the team’s opinion hasn’t changed — ranking doesn’t mean anything to us,” said fifth-year senior defensive tackle Ryan Van Bergen. “If anything, it just provides motivation for the team playing against us.
“We don’t think we’ve played to the potential we need to yet. We don’t think we’ve played to the potential of the No. 12 team in the country. Can we be there? Possibly, but we still have to put a couple different things in order.”
Hoke said he has left it up to the seniors to keep tabs on younger players and temper excitement over the team’s ranking.
“We’re not the No. 12 team in the country,” Van Bergen said. “In our opinion, we are overrated.
“We’ve played five games, we’ve won five games. But, are we a top-15 team in the country? I don’t think we’ve played like that.”
Plenty of things have certainly gone in the Wolverines’ favor through five games this season. Michigan hasn’t played a ranked team yet and it hasn’t left the friendly confines of Michigan Stadium.
The Wolverines travel to Evanston to take on Northwestern this Saturday in a night game at Ryan Field. The players are aware of the target on their backs as a result of the high national ranking.
“Everybody in the locker room knows we’ve got to do way more work than we have done,” said junior quarterback Denard Robinson. “We didn’t play a perfect game this weekend, so we got to keep coming to work.”
But the polls aren’t the only charts Michigan is climbing. In part, the ranking is thanks to the defense, which has allowed just 10 points in the past three games. The Wolverines are second in the nation in scoring defense, allowing 10.2 points per game.
But Hoke insisted that those rankings, as well as the national team ranking, don’t matter.
For Hoke, it’s business time — he won’t let the team forget that.
“I’m not telling you anything I didn’t tell them yesterday,” Hoke said. “We’re not playing the football we need to play.
“We’ve played five games, and we signed up for 12, guaranteed.”