Like Spring's First Robin
Yes, Stewart, Michigan is always overrated. Mandel makes the case against Michigan #4, and hits on the same points everyone's discussed: we can't stop mobile quarterbacks. Secondary, bleh, linebackers, bleh. Etc. Includes your standard annoying reference to drinking "the Maize and Blue Kool-Aid." Includes your standard "OMG they lost Braylon and Marlin and Shazor." Includes extremely common gamblers'-fallacy thinking. I don't really want to go in-depth here because it'll all show up in the Michigan preview, and I'd like to avoid repeating myself as much as possible.
What I'd like to highlight is the following validation for the BlogPoll's existence:
Maybe the problem is that voters don't necessarily view their preseason votes as any sort of prediction of a team's final ranking. After all, Michigan's position was hardly the only one in the coaches poll that caught my eyes. How about the team that finished one spot higher, Tennessee? The Vols have an excellent team on paper, no question about it, but does anyone actually look at schedules when they fill out their ballots?
Why should they look at the schedules? Isn't your poll a ranking of football teams, not football schedules? The fact that this confusion exists in Mandel's head--Mandel is a new AP voter, by the way--and likely the heads of many other voters makes the AP poll highly suspicious. It's fundamentally incoherent to make your vote a prediction of what the final poll will look like. Remember top-10 West Virginia? A mediocre team with an easy schedule gets way overrated. If it keeps winning it creeps up the polls as others drop around it. In the end it's rated highly specifically because it hasn't proven itself. The poll becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
And then Mandel goes and dogs Michigan even though all three NC games are at home, the road opener hex will be tested against a Wisconsin team that looks very shaky, and Ohio State is at home. Incoherence. Especially when he gets down on the defense for finishing... gasp... 42nd in scoring D. Isn't that above average? No, it isn't great, but how is Michigan's defense more of an issue than Ohio State's offense, which was 71st in scoring last year?
It's really easy to do this sort of hack job on any team in the country. "X Y and Z graduated and last year A happened so death." Everyone has questions, everyone has holes. That's the nature of college football, and part of what makes it so fun. Even USC fans have to be sort of nervous about the defensive line. Michigan has one flagrant issue. Find me a team that doesn't that isn't USC. #4 is fine.
(I've previously said I like Mandel, and I still sort of do. What I've noticed is this: when he writes a straight news or feature story, it's well researched and good and extremely worthwhile. When he tries to analyze things systematically we get CFN-worthy analysis.)