The Michigan Wolverines have pitched shutouts in 14 of their past 16 quarters, and their 28-0 throttling Saturday of the Maryland Terrapins at Byrd Stadium in College Park proved that they have the most dominant defense in all of college football.
As of right now–meaning today.
Grading the Michigan defense (posted prior to Saturday’s game)
Saturday’s win wasn’t pretty for coach Jim Harbaugh. Yeah, he got his first road victory in the Big Ten, which is meaningful, and yeah, his Wolverines posted their first back-to-back shutouts since Oct. 14 and Oct. 21, 2000.
However, like his staff, Harbaugh will “never be satisfied”–an idea he’s emphasized for the past couple of weeks–so don’t expect a parade in Ann Arbor.
And especially not five games into the season.
Get in; get out. That’s the mission, and the Wolverines carried it out to near-perfection by allowing 29 rushing yards and 76 passing yards to the Terps, who entered the game averaging 389.5 yards of offense per game.
At this point, Michigan probably doesn’t remember what it feels like to give up a touchdown. It happened three weeks ago, actually, during the fourth quarter of a 28-7 win over UNLV. Had Rebels receiver Devonte Boyd not hauled in a six-yard touchdown reception, the Wolverines would have had a shutout.
That burned Michigan’s defense, especially D-tackle Ryan Glasgow, which was angered by the six points and following point-after. Seven points, a mere touchdown, didn’t sit well with those guys. Neither did the touchdown they gave up against Oregon State, which scampered 79 yards during its opening drive before losing 35-7.
Afterward, the Wolverines held the Beavers to just 70 yards of offense.
Ever since then, the Wolverines’ defense–which came up with three picks Saturday–has bulled through the opposition, punishing quarterbacks with six sacks (4 vs. Maryland, 2 vs. BYU) all the while racking up 15 tackles for a loss.
On Saturday, Maryland was held to just seven first downs–or 11 fewer than its average of 18 per game. Before things got out of hand–which didn’t happen until midway through the third quarter–the Terps opened the game with a 42-yard drive.
It resulted in a punt.
On the next drive, Maryland marched 28 yards before punting. After that, the Terps topped out with a 14-yard drive. Michigan forced a 3-and-out during 10 of 16 drives.
Just a little food for thought.
It wasn’t clear in Week 4, but BYU is one the most first-down-getting teams in all of college football. According to NCAA.com, the Cougars have 102 first downs this year (No. 16 overall), which equate to roughly 20 per game.
They had eight during their 31-0 loss to Michigan. They drove seven yards on their opening drive, 41 on the next one, and then they were blanketed by Ryan Glasgow, who had three solos, and Chris Wormley, who had two solos. And they brought along a couple of friends, such as Mario Ojemudia and Matt Godin, who helped clean up loose ends and force seven 3-and-outs in 12 drives.
That’s all that’s left right now–loose ends. And the aforementioned seem to have those covered.
Everything else seems to be as tight as can be for first-year defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin, who is quickly becoming a favorite for national assistant of the year honors. He may be the most valuable defensive coach in college football.
Jim Harbaugh would probably say as much.
If players are a reflection of coaching, then Durkin–not to mention D-line coach Greg Mattison–deserves a few pats on the back. His line has set the standard.
The Wolverines are playing at their highest level, at least on paper, since the 1990s turned into the 2000s. There are questions surrounding their offense, sure enough. Fumbles and foggy receiving routes can be problematic. They’re fixable, though.
But there isn’t one question about their defense, which gives up just 7.6 points per game.
Follow Adam Biggers of Today’s U on Twitter @AdamBiggers81