Michigan Wolverines Defense Helps Team Keep Climbing in Rankings


The Michigan Wolverines football team gained four spots in the AP Top 25 (from No. 22 to No. 18) after the Maryland game, mostly because of its defensive performance (in every game minus Utah). To begin, here are some of the most impressive numbers on defense:

Against Maryland

  • 3 sacks in 4 plays in the third quarter
  • Caused 13 three-and-outs
  • 35 yards allowed in 46 plays during Maryland’s last 14 possessions

In general

  • 7 points allowed in last 15 quarters (that’s almost four games)
  • Led team to back-to-back shutouts for the first time since 2000

Michigan also caused 3 Maryland turnovers to take the wind out of their sails even more. When it comes to defense, this team has the most solid one I can remember. Opponent first downs actually surprise me. Offensively? It’s a bit of a different story.

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The Michigan offense. When compared to the defense, it seems pitiful. In reality, the numbers aren’t awful, but I’m spoiled now, and there’s no going back.

Jake Rudock had an okay day Saturday. He fumbled once, went 16-for-32 (the 50% completion percentage was his lowest this season), threw for 180 yards (tied for his second-lowest number this season) and had a 101.3 quarterback rating (his lowest this season). But he threw 1 TD and 1 INT, which isn’t bad, and ran for 19 yards on 4 attempts. His longest passing play even went for a season-high 44 yards.

It is clear to me, however, that Michigan’s running game is much better than its passing game, at least right now. At the start of the season, the running game really struggled, but something has been clicking recently. The team rushed for 198 yards and 3 touchdowns against Maryland. With De’Veon Smith out of the lineup, other running backs got their chances to shine. The standout was senior Drake Johnson, who ran for 68 yards on 13 attempts (an average of 5.2 yards per play), had a rushing touchdown and had a 31-yard receiving touchdown.

The team now looks ahead to two huge games: No. 13 Northwestern at home Saturday and No. 4 Michigan State at home Oct. 17. Both opponents are 5-0.

Michigan’s playoff standings hang in the balance here. Losing both means probably playing in some crappy bowl game in mid-December, winning one means playing in a bowl game someone might actually want to watch, and winning both means a possible Rose Bowl or other major bowl berth. It also means the Ohio State game would be a championship-worthy battle.

Next: Big Ten Power Rankings Week 6: Northwestern is the Hottest B1G Team

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