Michigan football: Wolverines defense is where quarterbacks go to die
When push came to shove in the middle of this Michigan football season, it was Michigan who did all the pushing and shoving. Once the “Revenge Tour” t-shirts started getting cranked out, it was Don Brown’s defense that grabbed this season by the throat.
In the past month, Michigan has rolled to impressive wins over Wisconsin, Michigan State, Penn State and Rutgers, and they’ve done it by outscoring those four opponents by a whopping 109 points.
They’ve been very impressive in many ways, but what’s been most impressive is the way they have completely shut down opposing quarterbacks. It’s been complete and total domination.
Just look at the numbers:
- Wisconsin: Alex Hornibrook completed only 7 of 20 passes for 100 yards and 2 interceptions in Michigan’s 38-13 win. He had a quarterback rating of 0.7. This is a guy, mind you, who has a 29-5 career record at Wisconsin. Michigan completely embarrassed him, getting revenge for losing at Madison a year ago.
- Michigan State: Brian Lewerke completed only 5 of 25 passes for 66 yards in Michigan’s 21-7 win. He had a quarterback rating of 3.3. This is another experienced quarterback who’s been starting games since 2016, but he was completely overmatched.
- Penn State: Trace McSorley completed only 5 of 13 passes for 83 yards and an interception in Michigan’s 42-7 win. He had a quarterback rating of 3.5. Remember now, McSorley is about the be the all-time winningest quarterback in Penn State history, and even he couldn’t get anything done.
- Rutgers: Artur Sitkowski completed only 8 of 19 passes for 40 yards and an interception in Michigan’s 42-7 win. He had a quarterback rating of 2.1. We’ll give the young freshman a pass, of course, because he’s in way over his head right now. Still, you play in the Big Ten, and your numbers count, too.
Combined, that’s 25-for-77 passing (32 percent) and a mere 6.25 completions per game, without a single touchdown pass. The fact that they’ve averaged only 72 yards per game pretty much means they had no chance of winning any of these games.
And that combined QB rating of 2.4 is record-setting low. How bad is that? Well, the lowest-ranked quarterback in all of college football is Tyler Vander Waal of Wyoming. He’s the worst of 132 quarterbacks and his QB rating is at least 14.7. That’s far better than an ugly 2.4.
Don Brown, Michigan’s extraordinary defensive coordinator, is used to having No. 1 defenses, but this one just might be the best one he’s ever had. The Wolverines are great on all three levels, and have an enormous amount of depth.
They’ve stayed relatively healthy, too, (knock on wood) and they scare everybody.
Here’s where they rank nationally is several key defensive categories through 11 weeks:
- Passing yards: First in the nation at 116 yards allowed, and lead No. 2 Miami by a whopping 18.3 yards per game.
- Total defense: First in the nation at 219.8 yards per game, lead No . 2 Clemson by 33.8 yards.
- Rushing defense: 13th in the nation at 103.8 yards per game, 7th in Power 5. Michigan State is first.
- Third-down conversion percentage: Ninth in the nation at 28.2 percent; 6th in the Power 5; UAB is first.
- First downs allowed: Fourth in the nation, 2nd in the Power 5; Southern Miss is first.
- Scoring defense: Third in the nation at 12.9 points per game; Clemson and Alabama are tied at 12.7.
With two games remaining against a pretty good offense in Indiana and a very good offense in Ohio State, this defense still has some tests to pass, but they’ve been nearly perfect lately.
And that’s been impressive.