They may only be ranked eighth in the preseason poll, but the Michigan Wolverines are in prime position heading into the 2012 season.
USA Today recently released its Preseason Coaches Poll and the Wolverines find themselves sitting in the Top 10 ranked behind powerhouses the likes of LSU, Alabama, USC, Oklahoma and Oregon.
They also fall behind two programs rapidly arising from the abyss: Florida State and Georgia.
It could be argued that Michigan should be ranked ahead of those two because it had a better year last season, but that's an argument for another day.
The Wolverines should just be excited that they're the highest ranked Big Ten team on the list, four spots ahead of Wisconsin and five ahead of in-state rival Michigan State
On top of that, there are only four Big Ten teams on the list, with Nebraska rounding out the group at No. 16. This means the pollsters are expecting the Big Ten to be top-heavy this year, meaning that Michigan has an easier road to its coveted Big Ten title.
Last year the Wolverines got squeezed out of the conference championship game, but still found success in the Sugar Bowl. There they downed Virgina Tech 23-20 in an overtime thriller for Michigan’s first BCS bowl win since 2000.
Still, despite the victory, Hoke has consistently called last year a failure, because the team didn't accomplish the No. 1 goal at Michigan—win the conference championship.
This speaks volumes about Hoke as a coach. He's dedicated to winning and is completely focused on accomplishing his goal.
And if the preseason polls are any indication, he will.
Michigan is the far-and-away favorite to take home the Big Ten title according to the pollsters, though, as any college player or coach would tell you, preseason picks mean less than your daily horoscope.
"I don't think much about that," Hoke said (via FoxSportsDetroit.com). "Last year, we were picked fifth and we did better than that. In 1997, we were barely picked in the top 25 and that turned out to be a pretty good team. As in life itself, it doesn't matter where we start. It matters where we finish."
But, the polls can bring about a level of confidence, and when Michigan takes the field September 1 to take on the Crimson Tide, it will have the swagger that goes along with being top-flight team.
And with the difficult matchup the Wolverines have the first week, it could make all the difference.