Michigan leads a group of four Big Ten teams in the first USA Today coaches' Top 25 of the 2012 season.
The Wolverines, coming off their 11-2 season and Sugar Bowl win, are ranked No. 8 in the coaches' preseason rankings. They will have their hands full right off the bat, however, as their opener comes against No. 2 Alabama.
Wisconsin, the defending Big Ten champion, is ranked No. 12. The Badgers are followed by Michigan State at No. 13.
The only other Big Ten team to crack the rankings is Nebraska, which checks in at No. 16. No other league teams received a vote.
You might be asking, what about Ohio State? But remember, the Buckeyes are ineligible for the coaches poll because of their NCAA postseason ban. Same goes for Penn State.
Some notable Big Ten opponents (besides Alabama) who are ranked are No. 22 Boise State (opens against Michigan State) and No. 24 Notre Dame (plays Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue). Why are the Irish ranked in the preseason again? Your guess is as good as mine. Southern Miss, which opens against Nebraska, was No. 40, while Ohio State opponent UCF is 42nd. Northern Illinois, which opens against Iowa at Soldier Field, got two votes. Virginia, which hosts Penn State, is 38th.
LSU is ranked No. 1, with Silas Redd's new team, USC, coming in at No. 3. Oklahoma and Oregon round out the top five. Teams that could be ranked a little too high to start the year include the Sooners (all hype), No. 7 Florida State (ditto), No. 11 West Virginia (barely won the Big East last year), No. 15 Texas (name recognition vote), No. 17 TCU (possible tough transition year for the Horned Frogs) and, of course, Notre Dame.
Makes sense that Michigan is the highest-rated Big Ten team, as the Wolverines had momentum going last year and bring back Denard Robinson. Adam and I continue to have Michigan State on top of our Big Ten rankings (subject to change after fall practice, of course), and I'm a little surprised to see the Spartans ranked behind Wisconsin. Both teams lost their starting quarterbacks, but Michigan State's defense should be the best overall unit in the Big Ten.
No. 16 seems about right for Nebraska, a team that has talent but still has much to prove this season. No love at all from the voters for Iowa or Purdue, two teams that have a chance to get off to good starts to the season.