The Michigan Wolverines are heading into the meat of their Big Ten schedule. They are currently 2-4 and 0-2 in the conference. The Wolverines are sixth in the Big Ten with first-year Big Ten teams, Maryland and Rutgers, ahead of them. One positive note from their loss to Rutgers last Saturday was that the offense looked awake. They had a pulse and actually put points on the board. That’s something we haven’t seen in recent weeks. The Wolverines’ offense had 336 total yards. That may be because the Rutgers defense ranks 68th overall in the nation and specifically 86th in pass defense. Regardless, Rutgers pulled out the win. Moving forward, Michigan will have a challenge with everyone remaining on its schedule. The Michigan offense will be exposed yet again, once they face the better defenses in the Big Ten.
The Ohio State Buckeyes have the third best defense of all opponents left on the schedule. They’re currently 4-1 and 1-0 in the Big Ten, all with a backup quarterback. They are in contention for a Big Ten title and perhaps a dark horse for the College Football Playoff. The Buckeyes’ defense ranks 18th overall nationally. Also, the pass defense ranks 16th and the rushing defense is 45th. Although the front has its troubles, they’re among one of the more experienced and talented fronts Michigan will face. The Buckeyes lead the Big Ten with nine interceptions on the year. They also have 12 sacks thus far. Factor in the inexperience and inconsistency from the Michigan offensive line and that is a recipe for disaster for Michigan. The fact that this game will be on the road–when Michigan under Brady Hoke is notoriously bad on the road–certainly doesn’t help the Wolverines either.
The second toughest defense remaining belongs to the Michigan State Spartans. Everyone was wondering if this defense would be as good as last year because they lost key defensive players. Well, it turns out they are. They are 11th overall nationally. Also, the pass defense is 47th and the rushing defense is fourth nationally. That’s pretty darn good. The Spartans rank second in the Big Ten in sacks with 20 so far. Their defense is physical and fundamentally sound. You can’t say the same about the Wolverines’ offense, which is inconsistent at best. This game will also be played at Spartan Stadium, where the Wolverines are 0-3 since 2008. This game will be a tough matchup for Michigan, specifically for its offense.
The toughest defense Michigan will face will be the next one they face, the Penn State Nittany Lions. The Nittany Lions’ defense ranks ninth nationally. The passing defense is 54th, but the rushing defense is second in the nation. The defensive front is stout and physical. Penn State has yet to allow an opposing running back to cross the goal line this season. With Michigan starting running back Derrick Green out, that puts even more pressure on the running game to do its part. Penn State will make Michigan fight for every inch, which is troubling, because they’ve already had to do that against teams like Utah.
All of these defenses are tough up front and we all know that’s where Michigan’s weak spot is. The Michigan offensive line has shown flashes this season, but they are simply too inconsistent. If they can’t perform, especially for these three games, then quarterback Devin Gardner will continue to get pounded. With Michigan looking weaker than ever, these defenses will have their chance to feast on the incoherent offense. If Michigan loses these three games, it will just add more fuel to the apathetic fire. The offense has to show up and show up big.