Around college football: Keep an eye on Michigan, Kirk Herbstreit says

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Tony Ding | Associated Press
“How can you not like Devin Gardner?” said ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit of Michigan’s quarterback, above.

Michigan’s candidacy as a national sleeper this fall continues.

ESPN analyst and former Ohio State quarterback Kirk Herbstreit is bullish on the Wolverines — especially early in the season

“They play Notre Dame early, and they’re at Penn State the middle of October,” he said on a conference call yesterday previewing the 2013 season with play-by-play voice Brent Musburger. “You can make a really strong case they have a pretty good shot at being 7-0 as they get ready for a very, very challenging November, where they’re at Michigan State, have Nebraska, at Northwestern and Ohio State. The team could be better, but we’ll see how they’re able to navigate through that November.”

Herbstreit’s primary reason for optimism centers around an offense he said could be “really, really good.”

“If they can find a tailback — and I know the health of Fitzgerald Toussaint and the health of Derrick Green will be two big things — but how can you not like Devin Gardner?” Herbstreit said. “He’s 6-4, 215 pounds, (and) he fits perfectly into what (offensive coordinator) Al Borges wants to do.

“I think Al Borges, to his credit, did the best that he could a year ago in a very, very difficult set of circumstances with Denard Robinson. Denard will always be hailed and remembered by Michigan fans as being a hero. But when you’re Al Borges and trying to run a West Coast-style offense, it’s hard to make that spread, running-style quarterback work in your system. The future of Michigan football with Brady Hoke is more like (former coaches) Lloyd Carr, Bo Schembechler and Gary Moeller: winning with defense, running the football with Tom Brady, Elvis Grbac-type of quarterbacks. That’s really what Gardner is going to provide for them. If the running game can go along to take some of the pressure off the passing game, then I think Gardner can have a great year.”

Herbstreit’s concern is more about Michigan’s defense.

“I still feel they need to upgrade the athleticism on that side of the football — I think they had 22 sacks last year,” Herbstreit said.

Maryland’s financial woes

A report released by a University of Maryland commission detailed an athletic department that continues to operate at a significant deficit and is projected to do so until at least the 2017-18 academic year, even as the school prepares to jump from the Atlantic Coast Conference to the more lucrative Big Ten in 2014.

The commission found that the Maryland athletic department operated at a deficit of more than $21 million for the past academic year because of “past financial decisions” that led to continuing debt and the ACC withholding roughly $15 million in revenue. The conference began withholding the revenue last year as part of its efforts to collect a $52 million exit fee from the school, which maintains that the fee is illegal.

Alabama update

Alabama coach Nick Saban said starting inside linebacker Trey DePriest has been suspended “for a short time.”

Saban said that DePriest violated team rules and could be back as soon as a week. The Crimson Tide opens on Aug. 31 against Virginia Tech.

Saban didn’t elaborate on what DePriest did but said “it wasn’t a very smart thing to do, and there has to be consequences sometimes when you don’t do the right things.”

DePriest was second on the team with 59 tackles last season.

Meanwhile, top receiver Amari Cooper wore a black noncontact jersey during practice. Saban said he will be held out several days because of a strained foot, and then his status will be determined day to day. Tight end Malcolm Faciane returned to practice after completing a 30-day suspension.

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