Hoke says No. 12 ranking is too high
Coach puts Wolverines in his top 25 but reminds players there's a long way to go
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Michigan might have risen a few spots in the national rankings, but the feeling in the Wolverines' locker room hasn't changed a bit.
"Ranking doesn't mean anything to us," senior defensive tackle Ryan Van Bergen said. "We don't think we've played to the level we need to play to yet. And we definitely don't think we've played up to the potential of being a No. 12 team in the country.
"Can we be there? Possibly. But we still have to put a couple of different things in order."
"Our seniors, believe me, they know," Hoke said.
The Wolverines had been in a similar spot in the previous two seasons. In 2009, Michigan spent three weeks in the rankings through early October before falling to Michigan State. In 2010, they spent four weeks being ranked before losing to the Spartans -- peaking at No. 17 in the country.
Michigan's ranking now is its highest since the Wolverines lost to Appalachian State in the 2007 season opener. At that time, then-No. 5 Michigan was coming off an 11-2 season with returning quarterback Chad Henne, tailback Mike Hart, wide receiver Mario Maningham and left tackle Jake Long.
This week, unlike last, Hoke voted for his team to be in the Top 25, though he believes the Wolverines are overrated at No. 12.
"We're not playing the football that we need to play," Hoke said. "We're not playing well enough. We're not finishing things well enough."
Special teams still a concern
Sophomore Will Hagerup has secured the starting punter spot after punting just twice against Minnesota. He averaged 37.5 yards per punt after sitting out the first four games of the season.
Hoke said Hagerup was OK and didn't expand on what the player had done to take the starting spot from freshman Matt Wile, who started the first four games.
Redshirt sophomore Brendan Gibbons scored 16 points Saturday -- three field goals and seven extra points. His longest field goal was a 38-yarder, which helped to answer a few lingering questions after last year's poor results in the kicking game.
In 2010, the Wolverines made just 4 of 14 field goal attempts. Gibbons is 4-of-5 so far.
But kickoff return coverage is where Hoke is hoping to see improvements.
"Kickoff coverage was awful," senior tight end Kevin Koger said. "Special teams haven't been a strong point for us yet this year, so I feel like teams can exploit that if we don't improve on that soon."
Hoke said he was pleased with the coverage on three of the kickoffs. He noted that Michigan needs to compete better off blocks, but that the Wolverines are "better than we were the last time we had this problem."
Hoke said junior offensive lineman Ricky Barnum is fighting every day to get back after suffering an ankle injury against San Diego State. Barnum's status against Northwestern remains up in the air. ... Senior defensive back Troy Woolfolk, who has been injured multiple times this season, ran Sunday, so it seems as though the exercises he was doing for his ankles on the sideline Saturday were nothing to be concerned about. ... Senior fullback John McColgan should be ready against Northwestern. ... Sophomore linebacker Cam Gordon will practice more this week and do more, according to Hoke.
Chantel Jennings covers University of Michigan sports for WolverineNation. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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