- Michael Rothstein, ESPN Staff Writer
With the way Michigan has been recruiting -- and trending when it comes to improvement as it overhauls its facilities and its program from three down years under Rich Rodriguez -- it isn’t a surprise to see the Wolverines among the nation’s elite teams in the ESPN.com 2016 Future Power Rankings.
Michigan has spent a decent chunk of the past two seasons ranked in the Top 25 and with the way it has been recruiting is expected to stay in that range for the foreseeable future.
The Wolverines will rise if:
The ranking, frankly, is probably close to spot on for Michigan’s future, although the one thing it might be underselling is where it rates the highest -- recruiting. Depending how the Wolverines finish out their 2014 class, the 8.8 metric might actually be a bit low. Michigan is in on the No. 4 player in the country, defensive end Da'Shawn Hand (Woodbridge, Va./Woodbridge), and already has a commitment from the No. 2 player in the class, cornerback Jabrill Peppers (Paramus, N.J./Paramus Catholic). It is also at least recruiting the Nos. 1 and 5 players in the ESPN 150. If it were to land even three of those four along with Peppers, that is a dynamic top of the class. Combine that with the highly touted 2013 class and Michigan has the makings of a team poised to have a run at the College Football Playoff in 2016.
The other positive for Michigan, which fits in to why it is picking up all these highly ranked players, goes to the coaching and the ability of coaches to recruit. Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison was RecruitingNation’s Recruiter of the Year last year and recruiting coordinator/wide receivers coach Jeff Hecklinski might be one of the more underrated recruiters in the country. There was some concern when defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery left for Oklahoma because he is a dynamic recruiter, but the Wolverines assuaged those concerns by continuing to focus on -- and land -- high-profile players.
The Wolverines will fall if:
If there is something overrated about Michigan, it is the power of the program. Yes, the brand of Michigan will certainly help with some recruits and the school’s ability to consistently fill its stadium every week no matter the opponent also is a factor. But considering the SEC’s stranglehold on national championships since the middle of the last decade, the power of the Michigan program realistically goes only so far. The College Football Playoff could help matters if a Big Ten team -- mostly likely Ohio State or Michigan -- breaks through to reach the championship game or win the title. But until that happens, the power of the Michigan program and the conference it plays in could be a hindrance for the Wolverines being ranked so high and making a push for a national title.
The national title path could also be blocked by Ohio State, which will move into the same division as the Wolverines next season. By 2016, both teams should have players who fit into their individual coaches’ schemes and since it is likely only the winner of the Big Ten would reach the College Football Playoff, The Game could take on added meaning each year and be a potential permanent roadblock to a title for both schools.