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Outback Bowl Preview: Thoughts on Michigan's Defense

Joe Robbins

This post continues our series on Michigan. More will come in the next few days. Today, we're talking about the Wolverines' defense.

--Michigan is a statistically good defense, led by head coach Brady Hoke (a former defensive guru as a coordinator and positions coach) and noted coordinator Greg Mattison. It fields one of the country's best statistical passing defenses, is 16th in scoring defense, and is tenth in the nation in total defense. It's only 58th against the run, though, although that reflects the fact that most B10 teams feature run-heavy offenses. The question is whether or not these statistics are deceptive. Michigan racked up great defense numbers against some awful, plodding offenses like Illinois, Minnesota, and Iowa. Most of these teams are bad offenses all around, and they certainly didn't test Michigan's pass defense. Against better offenses like those of Alabama, Air Force, Nebraska, Northwestern, and Ohio St., Michigan wasn't quite as dominant, although it should be said that it also wasn't a pushover by any means.

--One interesting game to look at is Michigan's contest against Northwestern, which is one of the B10's most dynamic, prolific offenses. The Wildcats are similar to Carolina in the sense that their offense revolves around a mobile QB--Kain Colter--who is dangerous running the option. Northwestern likes to spread the field and to use speedy backs and receivers to make plays on the perimeter. These, of course, are all things that Carolina likes to do, as well, particularly with Connor Shaw in the game. The results were good for Northwestern, which ran all over the field on Michigan, and it passed the ball reasonably well, too. The Wildcats would score 31 points in regulation before losing 38-31 in overtime. Steve Spurrier and his staff would probably do well to watch the film of this game, as we have the ability to do similar things to Michigan's defense, only with better athletes on our offense than Northwestern has.

--The defenses that have been best against Carolina have been the ones that are fast and athletic up front. Those teams have been able to take advantage of our weaknesses on the offensive line, shut down the run, and force mistakes from the quarterback. LSU and Florida are the best two examples of teams that did this against us. Unfortunately for Michigan, it doesn't seem to have the personnel to perform on this level against us. The Wolverines have been beaten up front by good running teams. They're not very good at getting to the quarterback, which is probably the single biggest key to beating Steve Spurrier's offense. There are some good players in there, but all in all, this defense still has some work to do before it gets to the level it wants to be at.