Feeling sick about the Michigan defense? Worried that the 113thranked unit against the run might get curb stomped when B1G play rolls around? Well, have I got some news for you!? What if I told you that Michigan’s defense isn’t as bad as the numbers suggested? Crazy right? Take a seat, young lad, and let me share some knowledge with you.
While this isn’t a sales pitch, lets consider it a “Come to Jesus” meeting between friends. Consider it the Intervention of the early season. Consider it a lesson that should be heeded during the first month of college football.
Stats are for losers.
Let me rephrase that.
EARLY season stats are for losers. Especially when your out-of-conference schedule dictates abject failure against the run.
The Alabama game was a failure on all fronts, but what was most shocking was way the Crimson Tide offensive line threw our defense lineman around like ragdolls. It was demoralizing for the unit as it allowed TJ Yeldon and Jalston Fowler 179 yards on just 19 carries. The low point coming on a 40-yard run by Yeldon where it seemed Michigan defenders were bouncing off of him.
The final tally: 232 yards on the ground. Not good.
Then came Air Force and it’s efficient option attack. Michigan was gashed again to the tune of 290 yards on 71 carries (4.1 YPC). Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison admitted in his press conference that he had not done enough during the week and hadn’t made quality adjustments to combat the variations Air Force made during the game. The lone bright spot in a myriad of mistakes? Michigan limited big play potential. Air Force’s longest run from scrimmage was 18 yards.
I won’t mince words or make excuses. Facing Bama’s behemoths and the Falcon’s gimmicky offense is no excuse for giving up 262 yards a game on the ground. That is now how you win football games.
But does Michigan have a bad run defense? Maybe. Maybe not.
The number one rushing defense in the land belongs to UCONN. They have given up, on average, a paltry 28 yards per game. Are the Huskies really that stout against the run?
Hold that thought. Lets take a look a look at a BIG10 team and see how they held up defensively over the first two games. Well, look at that. The Indiana Hoosiers currently rank 59th in rushing defense. The Hoosiers, historically, have not been able to stop the run. Look at Denard’s numbers against the Hoosiers. He has made their misery part of his human highlight reel.
So how has Indiana managed to seem more competent against the rush?
Glad you asked. Indiana and UCONN have something in common. They played UMass.
The Huskies held UMass to 3 (!) rushing yards. Last week versus the Hoosiers, UMass gained 78 yards. Technically, that’s a 2600% increase in production but when you can’t crack 100 yards against Indiana you’re doing it wrong. I don’t want to use the word pathetic, but I can’t think of a better adjective to describe UMass’ rushing attack.
Did I mention that Michigan’s next opponent is the mighty UMass Minutemen?
Yep. Good ole’ UMass is coming to town to make everything right in the world. Can Michigan hold UMass to 3 yards rushing? Probably not. That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen. But say Michigan only gives up 20 yards rushing. That’s reasonable right? Michigan would jump 30 spots in the rushing defense rankings to 84th. That’s a significant jump, even if they’re still in the lower rung of defensive categories.
Looking at the schedule, the only opponent with as strong a rushing attack as the previous two teams is Michigan State. They have a horse with Laveon Bell and an experienced offensive line, but I’d expect Michigan’s rushing numbers to be significantly improved by the time the Michigan State game rolls around if they can get by Notre Dame unscathed.
The point of all this? Don’t take stats too seriously this early in the season. There is a lot of football left to be played and a lot of time to make up ground defensively.
One last thought: If UMass accumulates more than 100 yards rushing against Michigan you might want to start worrying, but until then, sit back, relax and enjoy gobbling up a cupcake on the schedule. There aren’t many this season. Savor it while it’s fresh.