CLEVELAND - Strip the maize and blue from the uniforms, put the Michigan Wolverines up against the rest of the nation and you will quickly discover they are not one of its best 25.
Not four weeks into the 2013 college football season at least.
After stomping a weak Mid-American Conference school, Central Michigan, 59-9, then taking care of Associated Press No. 14 at the time Notre Dame, the shine wore away.
A week later, Akron, riding a 27-game road losing streak, came within a yard of winning at the Big House, falling just short in the final seconds in a 28-24 heartbreaker.
The Zips very well should have won that game with multiple opportunities in the late-going.
Squeaking out a win against one of the lowlier teams in the MAC had consequences for the Wolverines, dropping them from No. 11 to No. 15 in the AP poll.
Saturday marked a chance for Michigan to redeem itself and at the very least solidify its top 15 ranking.
The opponent: Winless Connecticut, who suffered their first loss of the season at home to FCS (formerly Division I-AA) school Towson.
Michigan knows a thing or two about that type of loss. See: Appalachian State, 2007.
Back to 2013 and Saturday night's game in East Hartford. Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner failed to complete a pass in the second quarter and the Wolverines struggled through the first half, again showing little resemblance of a pulse in taking a 14-7 deficit into the locker room.
They capitalized on Husky mistakes in the second half but only took the lead with 4:36 left in the game on a field goal that would ultimately prove decisive in the 24-21 win.
Michigan is 4-0 on paper but full of problems on the field.
Yet the pollsters still haven't seemed to fully notice.
Michigan did fall another three spots, down to No. 18, in Monday's latest AP poll. However, what have they done to merit any ranking at all, besides "earning" a spot in the preseason top 25?
Shaky even in a home win against their only "formidable" opponent this year, Michigan has looked bad more often than good. Take the Notre Dame game when, up two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, Gardner threw a pick six while trying to avoid a sack in the end zone and let the Irish back into the game.
Had their been no preseason poll, which sets in motion each season's college football hierarchy, would the Wolverines have any justification for being ranked?
The answer is no.
That very well could change - and we will find out soon. If the Wolverines can't handle business against unranked Minnesota, Penn State and Indiana, it will be time to drop the number next to the name.
It's also time to ditch the preseason polls, once and for all.
Sure, they create buzz and generate fodder for hyping up early-season TV matchups. It's much easier to promote when you can bill a game as a battle of two of the top 25 teams in the country.
The problem is it comes too early to assign such significant, yet subjective, distinctions.
In this week's Sagarin ratings, based on a number of computer ratings, Michigan comes in at No. 34. The Fighting Irish, the only ranked team they've beaten, is 28th.
Sometimes the computers do know better. Pollsters are people, who can't and don't watch every game.
They first put together the preseason polls, pointless endeavors based off hype and preconceived ideas.
If the NFL were based on a poll system, the 3-0 Miami Dolphins would probably be mired below some 2-1 team because they were not expected to be undefeated up to this point.
Ohio State (4-0) is right now No. 3, while Stanford (3-0) places a spot below despite each notching their best win against a Pac 12 opponent with the Cardinal's the ranked Arizona State. Texas A&M (3-1) has not yet beaten a BCS-conference team but comes in ahead of Oklahoma State (3-0), who handled Mississippi State at a neutral site.
Somehow it has been decided that No. 12 South Carolina (2-1) is better than No. 15 Miami (3-0) and No. 16 Washington (3-0) because the Gamecocks' only loss was to No. 9 Georgia (2-1), who lost to No. 3 Clemson (3-0).
Here's the key: South Carolina and Georgia were ranked 5th and 6th respectively in the AP's preseason poll. Miami and Washington were both unranked.
Once the pecking order is established, it's extra difficult to break through it and reach the top. Just ask Utah fans, who in 2008 saw the undefeated Utes start the season unranked and finish it No. 2 in the final poll.
Perennial powerhouses plopped atop the polls can take a stranglehold just by taking care of business.
Michigan is one that has clearly proven thus far that undefeated doesn't mean unscathed.
It's taking pollsters a little too long to figure that one out.