By ERICK LEHMAN, Staff Writer
The Michigan Wolverines sat idle this weekend, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t move.
The latest Associated Press poll tabbed the Wolverines as third in the nation, as Clemson squeaked by North Carolina State on Saturday afternoon.
The two teams ahead of Michigan, Alabama, and Ohio State, respectively, remained where they were last week.
The Buckeyes of Ohio State won an overtime thriller over Wisconsin, a pesky team from the Big Ten West, who defeated Michigan State, and hung with Michigan just a few weeks ago.
Alabama on the other hand beat their rivals from Tennessee handily, 49-10.
But, the most impressive moves this weekend were the Wolverines taking over some top spots statistically.
The Wolverines currently sit with the top ranked defense in the country as they have allowed only 1,277 yards on the season, and are only surrendering 10.3 points per game to their opponents.
The Wolverine defense leads the country in total yards allowed, yards per game, passing yards allowed, passing yards allowed per game, points allowed, and points allowed per game.
That means the Wolverines lead the country in six of the eight defensive statistical categories.
The other two?
The Wolverines rank seventh in rushing yards allowed, and ninth in rushing yards allowed per game.
Those are impressive numbers considering the Wolverines start three linebackers who had combined for just a few starts heading into this season.
Linebacker Mike McCray has been a standout performer for the Wolverines at linebacker, and it has made a huge impact on how the defense works.
New defensive coordinator Don Brown, who replaced D.J. Durkin after he departed to take the head coaching job at Maryland has lived up to his nickname of “Dr. Blitz.”
The Wolverines pressure the opposing quarterback on 54 percent of dropbacks according to Steve Palazzolo of Pro Football Focus. The NCAA average is 29 percent.
The Wolverines have been solid, and have played much higher than expectations at linebacker, but the defensive front has been the heart and soul of this football team. The Wolverines currently have five defensive lineman on their roster with two or more sacks so far this season.
Senior defensive end Chris Wormley leads the team with four, while Taco Charlton has three. Ryan Glasgow, Maurice Hurst, and freshman Rashan Gary all have two sacks each. As a team, the Wolverines are tied for fifth in the nation with 24.0 sacks.
Heading into this season, everyone knew the Wolverines defense was going to be good. But the lack of experience at linebacker held back the experts, and many analysts from saying they would have the best defense in the country. So far, through six games the defense has done a lot to prove themselves as the best defense in the country.
Advanced metrics have even shown the Wolverines would only surrender .9 points per game to what is considered an average offense. For the remainder of the season, the Wolverines face only one team that is considered to have higher than an average offense, and that is the glorious fourth Saturday in November, a game that will take place in Columbus, OH.
We did not expect the Wolverines defense to be what is has been this season, and up until November 26th there is no reason why the Wolverines defense cannot remain the top ranked unit in all of college football. And while the offense has not been lighting things up in terms of team statistics, the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks in the National Football League have shown that you can win championships with an excellent defense. They always said defense wins championships, offense sells tickets. Well, for this Wolverines defense, it’s all a formality until November 26th.
When noon rolls around on that chilly Saturday in Ohio, it’s put up or shut up time. The winner of that game will likely punch their ticket to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship game, and from their make their way to the College Football Playoff.