USA TODAY Sports

UM, MSU Both Ranked In Athlon's College Football Top 25 Rankings

Are you buying the hype?

May 20, 2019 - 9:02 pm
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97.1 The Ticket -- The start of the college football season is still 15 weeks away, but Athlon Sports is getting the hype train moving.

The publication released its annual Top 25 Rankings on Monday, breaking down how the sport's best teams stack up against each other.

Not surprisingly, Alabama and Clemson are No. 1 and No. 2, respectively. Georgia is right behind them, with Michigan and Ohio State rounding out the top five.

Coming off a 10-3 season that saw a run at the College Football Playoff fizzle out in the final weeks, Athlon has pretty high expectations for the Wolverines. 

"Everything is in place for Jim Harbaugh and Michigan to break through and win the division and claim a berth in the CFB Playoff in 2019," Michigan's snippet reads. "That doesn't mean the Wolverines are short on question marks entering this season, however. Harbaugh is handling the play-calling duties to Josh Gattis – a first-time offensive coordinator – and Michigan is planning to go up-tempo and use more spread/RPO looks to utilize Patterson's talent."

The publication says the honus will be on freshmen in the backfield to go along with a strong returning receiving corps.

"A healthy Tarik Black, Donovan Peoples-Jones, Nico Collins and Mike Sainristil form a deep group of options at receiver and should benefit from the switch in offensive style. The uncertainty surrounding running back Chris Evans' status for 2019 means the Wolverines need former walk-on Tru Wilson, and freshmen Christian Turner (redshirt) and Zach Charbonnet (true) to handle the bulk of the carries this fall."

Up the road in East Lansing, expectations look to be pretty high as well. Michigan State's offense was brutal last season, leading to some shuffling in the coaching staff. Regardless, the folks at Athlon are counting on the Spartans' staunch defense to carry the load again this season.

"Defense led the way for the Spartans in 2018 and will anchor coach Mark Dantonio’s team once again in '19. Michigan State led the Big Ten by limiting opponents to 4.5 yards a play, 17.2 points a game and just 77.9 rushing yards a contest. Eight starters are back from that suffocating group, including end Kenny Willekes (8.5 sacks), linebacker Joe Bachie (102 tackles), and cornerback Josiah Scott. All three players will be in the mix for All-America honors this fall. Tackles Raequan Williams and Mike Panasiuk are an underrated duo up front."

They were sure to note MSU's offensive struggles, however.

"Offensive issues were largely to blame for the sluggish '18 season, and this unit will determine whether or not the Spartans can contend for the Big Ten East Division title. Quarterback Brian Lewerke regressed last fall after a promising 2017 campaign. However, Lewerke's struggles last year were largely due to a shoulder injury suffered in the first half of the season. Assuming Lewerke is back to full strength, it would be a huge boost for a unit that averaged only 18.7 points a game in 2018."

Here's a look at Athlon's full Top 25, which features seven teams each from the Big Ten and SEC:

  1. Alabama
  2. Clemson
  3. Georgia
  4. Michigan
  5. Ohio State
  6. Oklahoma
  7. LSU
  8. Florida
  9. Notre Dame
  10. Texas A&M
  11. Texas
  12. Washington
  13. Utah
  14. Penn State
  15. Oregon
  16. Michigan State
  17. Nebraska
  18. Iowa
  19. Wisconsin
  20. Auburn
  21. Syracuse
  22. UCF
  23. Missouri
  24. Iowa State
  25. Virginia

Hard copies of the magazine can be purchased in stores or online.