ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan’s opponents have found their way into the red zone six times through six games this season.
They’ve been held to a field goal and three passing touchdowns.
No red-zone rushing TDs, either.
The No. 4-ranked Wolverines (6-0, 3-0) have given up just eight touchdowns this season, with seven coming by way opposing offenses. They’ve allowed 3.58 yards per play and roughly 212 per game, both good for No. 1 status in the national rankings.
Opposing teams have converted just 10 of 82 third-down attempts, also good for top billing in college football. Twelve percent success rate.
Virginia Tech ranks second in that area, allowing a respectable 20 percent conversion rate — or almost twice that surrendered by the Wolverines.
The line has propelled college football’s top defense to another level. That’s nothing new, though — the front four has been the staple of the Wolverines defense ever since Greg Mattison arrived in 2011. Five years ago, Mattison talked about building a dominant defense, anchored in the trenches.
So far, so good. The plan has unfolded to near-perfection.
“He’s a great coach — that’s a big reason why I came here, was coach Mattison, and what he’s been able to do everywhere he’s been,” said senior defensive end Taco Charlton. “Whether it was at Florida, teaching all the guys — Carlos Dunlap and that great defensive line — or going to Baltimore (Ravens/NFL) and teaching a great defensive line — and then coming here and doing the same thing.
“He’s been able to teach us the same thing…”
Simply put, “it’s working and it’s paying off,” added Charlton, who leads the Wolverines with four sacks for a total loss of 22 yards.
It’s been a physical first six weeks for the Wolverines, who have a bye week before meeting Oct. 22 with Illinois. The defense has clocked in for handfuls of productive shifts. With that said, it’s nice to get a breather every now and then.
Harbaugh has definitely made them earn their relaxation period, said Charlton. Resting is not a right with Harbaugh; it’s a privilege.
With that said, the quick refueling period serves as a reminder to Ryan Glasgow –a fifth-year senior who has been nearly unblockable this season — to maintain the pressure.
Despite having just three tackles for a loss, the 6-foot-4, 299-pound nose tackle has locked down the role of leader up front.
The dominance hasn’t been a solo effort, though. Eleven guys play up front. As many as 20 more rotate behind the line. It’s what Mattison talked about doing when he rejoined the program in 2011.
“It’s really nice, and it’s what a lot of people have been working (toward) for many years, now, and a lot of seasons,” said Glasgow, who has been full-throttle through six games. “I think it’s one of the main reasons why Coach Mattison stuck around with the new staff a couple of years ago.
“It’s really nice to see the culmination of really hard work — but we’ve still got a lot of ground to cover these next couple of weeks, and weeks to come, so we’re excited for the opportunity…”
Six games into the season, and the Wolverines have returned to the top of the defensive standings. Six games into the season, they look like Big Ten- and playoff-contenders. But there’s another half to play, possibly even a few more than just six games.
“It doesn’t stop here,” Glasgow added.