College football magazines: ‘Path to the Big Ten ... runs through Michigan’

Published Jun. 20, 2023, 10:00 a.m. By Aaron McMann | Michigan football is poised for another Big Ten title and run at a national championship this fall, according to the college football publications on newsstands now. Athlon and Lindy’s are both out with their annual team-by-team, conference-by-conference breakdown of the college football world, and they’re in full agreement on the Wolverines. “With 13 starters back and rival Ohio State visiting Ann Arbor in late November, the path to the Big Ten title once again runs through Michigan,” Steven Lassan wrote for Athlon. Both publications place Michigan at No. 2 in their preseason top-25 rankings, picked Jim Harbaugh’s team to capture its third straight conference title and, yes, reach the College Football Playoff. In fact, Athlon and Lindy’s both predict the Wolverines to win their semifinal round bowl game and play Georgia for the national championship. “Harbaugh has made Michigan the king of the Big Ten, has his foot on the neck of Ohio State, and has established this program as an annual playoff contender,” writes Lindy’s. “Life is good in Ann Arbor. What remains is for him to achieve the one thing that eluded Bo: A national championship.” More: Will U-M football throw more in 2023? Early hints say yes To get there, of course, will likely require a victory over arch rival Ohio State on Nov. 25, a game set for Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor. The Wolverines have knocked off Ryan Day’s team the last two years, swinging the pendulum to the age-old rivalry in the maize and blue’s favor. Both publications are predicting a de-facto victory for Michigan, placing it No. 1 — ahead of Ohio State — in the Big Ten’s East Division. Interestingly enough, the two publications are split on potential Heisman contenders — Athlon sides with running back Blake Corum, who had his Heisman campaign ended abruptly last November with a season-ending knee injury, while Lindy’s included quarterback J.J. McCarthy on its list. Speaking of McCarthy, he is Lindy’s preseason pick for Big Ten offensive player of the year, an interesting prediction for an offensive so heavily based on its ground attack in recent years. Harbaugh said recently that he is planning for more of a 50/50 split this fall. Elsewhere, Athlon is predicting a quick integration for Stanford transfer Drake Nugent, a center on the offensive line who is listed among the publication’s picks for second-team preseason All-American honors. Nugent is also one of seven Michigan players to make the preseason first team all-Big Ten, joining high-profile names like McCarthy, Corum, Donovan Edwards, Zak Zinter, Junior Colson and Will Johnson. “Last season really sealed it for them,” an anonymous Big Ten assistant coach told Athlon. “This is a different program. The gap between them and Ohio State hasn’t been this close in decades … It’s reload, not rebuild.” Top-25 ranking: No. 2 All-America team: Blake Corum (first team), Drake Nugent (second), Zak Zinter (second), Junior Colson (second), Donovan Edwards (third), Kris Jenkins (third), Will Johnson (third) All-Big Ten team: J.J. McCarthy (first team), Blake Corum (first), Donovan Edwards (first), Drake Nugent (first), Zak Zinter (first), Junior Colson (first), Will Johnson (first), Trevor Keegan (second), Kris Jenkins (second), Mason Graham (second), Michael Barrett (second), Rod Moore (second), Cornelius Johnson (third), Colston Loveland (third) Other: Cornerback Will Johnson listed among Big Ten’s breakout players. Former Nebraska linebacker Ernest Hausmann among the nation’s top transfers. ... QB, RB, OL, DL, LB ranked as No. 1 units in Big Ten. + LINDY’S SPORTS (McCarthy on cover) Top-25 ranking: No. 2 Predicted order of finish: No. 1 in East Division, ahead of Ohio State Bowl projection: Sugar vs. Ohio State (CFP semifinal), then national championship vs. Georgia Heisman WATCH: J.J. McCarthy All-America team: Blake Corum (first team), Zak Zinter (first), Kris Jenkins (second) All-Big Ten team: J.J. McCarthy (first team), Blake Corum (first), Zak Zinter (first), Trevor Keegan (first), Kris Jenkins (second), Will Johnson (first), Cornelius Johnson (second), Drake Nugent (second), James Turner (second), Junior Colson (second), Donovan Edwards (third)

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