While some fans deride the existence of preseason rankings, the polls tend to paint a mostly accurate picture of the top teams in college football. The four spots in the College Football Playoff are likely to go to teams in the top 10. Michigan enters the season ranked No. 14 in both the Coaches Poll and the AP Top 25. ESPN “College GameDay” analyst Kirk Herbstreit said there’s one big reason to believe Michigan could come from outside the top 10 and make the final four: QB Shea Patterson.

“Somebody asked me the other day a team that could come out of the top 10 and get into the playoff, and the team I gave them was Michigan,” Herbstreit said on a Friday conference call with reporters. “I think they’re a team that’s going to be knocking on the door whether or not they catch the breaks and win those games. I think they’re going to be a much better team than they were a year ago because they’re going to take care of the ball better with better quarterback play out of Shea Patterson.”

In two seasons at Ole Miss, Patterson played in 10 games. Already at over 3,000 passing yards in his career, Patterson has shown the ability to make big-time throws, but Herbstreit says the SEC transfer doesn’t have to necessarily be a “star” quarterback for Michigan to have a memorable 2018 campaign.

“If I were Shea Patterson – and I was a huge fan of Shea when he was at Ole Miss – just taking care of the ball … forget about playmaking ability, just win the turnover margin,” Herbstreit said. “If he just does that and they’re able to punt and rely on the defense and win field position, if I were Shea, I wouldn’t feel like I’ve got to do heroic things here, because he doesn’t.

“With [Tarik] Black back from the injury, they’ve got a great group of receivers. They’ve got a couple veteran backs in [Chris] Evans and [Karan] Higdon. They’ve got a big offensive line. Just don’t turn the ball over.”

Herbstreit shared that he’ll be watching closely to see how Patterson fits into the Michigan offense.

“[Patterson is] kind of a dual guy,” Herbstreit said. “I want to see how Jim [Harbaugh] and Pep [Hamilton] use him in more of their pro-style offense, how they take advantage of his legs and mobility. Because, yeah, he can sit in the pocket and he can read and make throws, but he can also be a real threat if you get him out on the perimeter and give him a chance with that run-throw option.

“We have not seen a ton of that, obviously, from Michigan since Jim’s been there. Of course, he’s keeping everything very guarded, but I can’t wait to see how they play with Shea because he does have that in his background.”