Wisconsin's Jared Abbrederis is one of the Big Ten's top leading receivers.
Kickoff for the 2012 college football season is still two months away, but it's never too early to project how the year might play out. Athlon will be taking a look at how each position stacks up in the BCS conferences and nationally until the start of the season.
Each unit ranking was evaluated based upon how it will perform in 2012 - not how the team played in 2011.
Conference realignment isn't a new phenomenon and Athlon Sports will prove it to you.
College football expansion has taken over the hearts and minds of college football junkies everywhere.
The sky is falling, rivalries are dead and the future of college football is in great peril. I am here to tell you that this just simply isn’t the case. Conference realignment has been taking place for more than a century and it won’t stop anytime soon. Teams have been switching leagues, conferences have been created out of thin air and college football has powered through all the criticism and into the playoff era.
We restructure the college sports landscape by drafting new four new conferences
Welcome to the 2012 NCAA (National Conglomerate of Athlon Authorities) conference realignment draft.
Our esteemed conference commissioners -- Mitch Light, Braden Gall, Steven Lassan and David Fox -- will put an end to the conference realignment madness, which stretched into yet another summer this year, with the first (and hopefully, only) conference alignment draft.
Ohio State should push for 10 wins behind new coach Urban Meyer.
The inaugural Big Ten title game featured the teams widely regarded as the league’s best. This season’s race could be less clear-cut. The Legends Division looks rock solid, while the Leaders is filled with more than a few question marks. Michigan and Michigan State both come off 11-win seasons that resulted in bowl victories (Sugar and Outback, respectively).
Will Denard Robinson make a trip to New York at the end of the season?
Athlon's College Football top 25 countdown for 2012 continues with No. 7 Michigan. Quarterback Denard Robinson is back, but the Wolverines must replace center David Molk. The defense must replace tackle Mike Martin, but should be solid in the back seven.
Will Denard Robinson Be a Heisman Finalist in 2012?
Fitzgerald Toussaint will be one of the Big Ten's top running backs this year.
The Michigan Wolverines check in at No. 7 in Athlon's college football 2012 top 25 countdown. Here's a look at our predictions for the most valuable players, games to watch, breakout candidates and other key categories for 2012.
The Trotwood, Ohio, wideout should have a bounce-back campaign in 2012. In 2010 as a sophomore, Roundtree was the team’s top receiver, catching 72 passes for nearly 1,000 yards en route to second-team All-Big Ten honors. Last year, the milk carton special totaled 19 receptions for 355 yards, despite starting all 13 games and landing on the preseason Biletnikoff Watch list. The senior should be poised to become Robinson's top target once again in 2012 and should return to his 2010 form.
The 6-foot, 185-pound cornerback will be one of the elder statesmen of the Michigan defense this fall. Floyd has played in 31 career games and has started 22 at cornerback. The Greenville, S.C., native posted 48 total tackles, intercepted two passes and defensed eight others en route to All-Big Ten honorable mention. Undoubtedly, Floyd will be counted on to mentor younger cover backs Blake Countess, Courtney Avery, Terrence Talbott and Raymon Taylor.
In one short season on the field, the Owings Mills, Md., defensive back has supplanted himself securely in the starting line-up. Countess worked his way into the starting line-up for the final six games of the season and was rewarded with multiple Big Ten All-Freshman teams. He posted 44 total tackles in 12 total games played and may be the most physically gifted coverman on the roster. Look for Countess to only continue to grow and improve in his sophomore season.
As a redshirt freshman, the Youngstown, Ohio, running back touched the football nine (eight attempts, one receptions) the entire season. With a crowded, jumbled mix of prospects in the Michigan backfield, Toussaint rose to the surface as the feature back Brady Hoke so desperately wanted. Hoke committed to Toussaint midway through last season and Toussaint delivered in a big way. He got 125 of his 187 carries in the final six games of the season and he posted four 100-yard games, including a career-high 192 yards against Illinois. He scored six of his 10 touchdowns over that span as well. The All-Big Ten honorable mention back finished seventh in the Big Ten in rushing and now enters his third year with the UM workload squarely on his shoulders.
This fourth-year letterman will have his work cut out for him in 2012. With a reworked defensive line in front of him, Demens becomes the focal point of the Michigan front seven. His 38 straight games played, including 20 starts at middle linebacker, gives this unit a veteran presence it desperately needs. His 94 tackles a year ago topped the Wolverines and earned the Oak Park, Mich., product honorable mention from both the coaches and media. His versatility might even allow for a shift to weakside backer, should stud Joe Bolden be ready to complete in the middle.
The big defender from Scottsdale, Ariz., may not ever live up to his extremely lofty recruiting status, but his contributions to this program cannot be understated. One of the unsung heroes of this unit during its worst years (2008-2010), Roh has been a unselfish player for his entire career. He will be playing his fourth position — strongside defensive end — in four years for Michigan, but that hasn’t changed his consistency. He has started 38 consecutive games for the Maize and Blue, including 20 at outside linebacker and 18 at defensive end. After his best season, which included 32 tackles, four sacks and eight tackles for a loss, Roh was rewarded with an All-Big Ten honorable mention nod. Some coaching and positional stability could go a long way for the 6-foot-5, 269-pound renaissance man.
The veteran leader of the defense, Kovacs enters his final season in Ann Arbor with 33 career starts at safety. His 75 total tackles a year ago were second on the team, his four sacks were second on the team and his 8.0 tackles for a loss ranked him third. His ability to play all over the field was invaluable to the complete turn around the Wolverines experienced on defense a year ago. The Curtice, Ohio, native was rewarded with his second straight Big Ten honorable mention acknowledgment. Kovacs enters his final season with 267 career stops and 21.0 career tackles for a loss.
The two-time Academic All-Big Ten selection has a chance to earn many more accolades in his final stint as the starting right guard. The Columbus, Ohio, native has played in 33 career games, including 29 consecutive starts at the same position. The 6-foot-4, 299-pounder is the lone senior, and most experienced player, on an offensive line that must be productive if Michigan wants to return to a BCS bowl in 2012.
After appearing in 11 games and starting nine as a redshirt freshman in 2010, the massive Scottsdale, Ariz., blocker entered his second letter year as the starting left tackle. In charge of protecting the blindside of the most important player on the team, Denard Robinson, Lewan claimed second-team All-Big Ten honors from the coaches. The 6-foot-8, 302-pounder started all 13 games, and, with another great year in Ann Arbor, could find himself selected in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft.
For a player many consider brittle and quick to injure, it may surprise some that Shoelace has never missed a game in his three-year Michigan career. The explosive dynamo has started 27 of those games and has seen his team go from five to seven to 11 wins over his career. And from a statistical standpoint, few players in the history of the sport can match his production. He is the only player in NCAA history to throw for at least 2,500 yards and run for at least 1,500 in a single season. His 1,702 yards were an NCAA rushing record by a quarterback and he trails only Antwaan Randle El (3,895) for the career Big Ten rushing mark by a signal caller. In fact, he needs 1,252 yards to pass Pat White to become the NCAA’s most prolific rushing quarterback in history. While he can still play more efficient football — as his 30 career interceptions and 58.3% completion rate will indicate — few players in the nation are as exciting and productive as Robinson.
Michigan’s most decorated lineman of the post-Schembechler era, Jake Long was one of the nation’s most dominant linemen for two years. In 2006-07, the last two seasons for title-winning coach Lloyd Carr, Long was a two-time consensus All-American, two-time Big Ten lineman of the year and a finalist for the Lombardi Award and Outland Trophy (LSU defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey won both in 2007). In 2008, Long was second to none in the NFL draft when he was the first offensive lineman to go No. 1 overall since Orlando Pace in 1997.
Steve Hutchinson is one of two Wolverines to be named first-team All-Big Ten all four seasons (the other was defensive tackle Mark Messner). As a freshman, Hutchinson started for the 1997 national champions. After his rookie season, Hutchinson only became more dominant. He didn’t allow a sack in his final two seasons and was a consensus All-American, Lombardi Award finalist and Big Ten lineman of the year in 2000. Hutchinson was the key blocker for running back Anthony Thomas, who left school as Michigan’s all-time leading rusher.
Edwards ably stepped into the shoes of Anthony Carter and Desmond Howard and topped them, at least as far as the record books are concerned. Edwards left Michigan with school records for career receiving yards (3,541, breaking Carter’s record) and three of the top 10 single-season receiving marks in school history. His school-record 1,330 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2004 earned him the Biletnikoff Award, a trophy that had yet to be established when Howard and Carter played. Edwards also finished his career with a Big Ten record 39 touchdown catches.
Canton, Ohio, was a fitting birthplace for an offensive tackle who landed in both the College Football Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was one of Michigan’s key players early in Bo Schembechler’s tenure in Ann Arbor, earning All-Big Ten honors in Schembechler’s first two seasons of 1969-70. Along with All-American guard Reggie McKenzie, Dierdorf anchored a line that led Michigan to a 17-4 overall record and 12-2 in the Big Ten his final two seasons. A consensus All-American in 1970, Dierdorf led an offense that averaged 30.5 points and 248 rushing yards per game in 1969-70.
Standing apart from Michigan’s history of productive running backs is a tall task, but Hart manages to do so. Hart finished his career as one of four Big Ten backs to rush for 5,000 yards in his career – the other three are Wisconsin’s Ron Dayne, Ohio State’s Archie Griffin and Indiana’s Anthony Thompson. A four-year starter, Hart averaged 117.2 yards per game in his career as one of only two Michigan players to average 100 rushing yards per game. Hart was a two-time finalist for the Doak Walker award, but he had the poor luck of playing at the same time as Arkansas’ Darren McFadden, who twice beat out Hart for the award.
Rick Leach started 48 consecutive games, including three Rose Bowls and an Orange Bowl. Although Michigan lost all four of those bowl games, Leach ended a four-game winless streak against Ohio State with a 22-0 win in Columbus in 1976. A three-time All-Big Ten selection, Leach finished his career as one of Michigan’s most prolific quarterbacks with 4,284 passing yards and 2,176 rushing yards. Leach’s 34 rushing touchdowns were the most in school history for a quarterback until Denard Robinson broke the record with 35 last season. Leach’s mark is still No. 6 on Michigan’s all-time list. Leach also remains fifth in Michigan history in total offense, ahead of Jim Harbaugh, Tom Brady and Brian Griese.
Brown was one of the key players on Michigan’s most dominant defensive teams. Twice during Brown’s tenure, the Wolverines allowed the fewest points in the country. In Brown’s three seasons, only one team scored more than 16 points (Wisconsin with 20 points in 1974). Brown’s defenses shut out more teams (11) than it allowed teams to score in double figures (seven). Brown finished his career with nine passes and four special teams touchdowns (three punt returns, one kickoff return). In 1973-74, Brown became Michigan’s first two-time consensus All-American since 1956. A three-time All-Big Ten selection, Michigan went 30-2-1 with Brown at safety. Alas, the 0-2-1 part was against Ohio State.
Bo Schembechler called Anthony Carter the best player he ever coached. That’s with good reason. Carter was such an impressive wide receiver, he forced Schembechler’s hand in embracing the passing game. Michigan had never passed for 2,000 yards in a season until Carter stepped on campus in 1979. Although Carter was third on the team in receiving as a rookie that year, the best was yet to come. Carter was a two-time consensus All-American in 1981-82 and left school as the league’s first 3,000-yard receiver (3,076 yards). Although Carter is now 10th on the Big Ten’s career receiving list, eight of the nine ahead of him caught at least 210 career passes. Carter caught 161 passes with an average of 19.1 yards per catch.
Howard’s Heisman pose following a punt return for a touchdown against Ohio State is one of college football’s most iconic images, but Howard didn’t stop at the Heisman for postseason hardware. Howard swept major national awards, picking up the Maxwell and Walter Camp awards and UPI and Athlon Sports player of the year. Michigan’s first Heisman winner since Tom Harmon in 1940, Howard earned the award with one of the most lopsided votes in Heisman history. The 5-foot-9, 176-pound receiver also became the first wideout to lead the Big Ten in scoring (90 points in 1991), caught 30 touchdown passes his final two years (19 in 1991, 11 in 1990) and went 13 consecutive games with a touchdown catch. Howard’s 23 touchdowns in 1991 remains a school record.
Woodson remains the last defensive player to win the Heisman trophy, beating out Tennessee quarterback Peyton Manning in 1997. Woodson didn’t win the Heisman on his cover skills alone. He won the award thanks to a punt return for a touchdown and an interception against Ohio State in the final game of the regular season. In his Heisman-winning year, Woodson accounted for four touchdowns (two receiving, one rushing, one on a punt return) for Michigan’s only undefeated team since 1973 and only national title since 1948. The Wolverines won the Associated Press national title that season after defeating Washington State 21-16. Woodson intercepted eight passes in 1997 and 18 in his three seasons at Michigan. In addition to the Heisman, Woodson won the Walter Camp, Nagurski, Bednarik and Thorpe awards.