Originally posted on No 2 Minute Warning  |  Last updated 10/3/11

Michigan’s defense has Wolverines thinking Big Ten championship

We know all about Rusell Wilson and Wisconsin, but don't overlook what is happening in Ann Arbor early on. Getty Images.

Don’t look now, but Michigan is playing defense, and it has helped make them become a team to be considered seriously in the Big Ten championship picture this season.

Michigan is coming off their first shutout since blanking Notre Dame on September 15, 2007. The Wolverines blasted Legends Division rival Minnesota 58-0 in the battle for the Little Brown Jug. When Brady Hoke took over it was clear that improving the defense was going to be the biggest task in revamping Michigan and steering the team in a new direction after a tumultuous regime under Rich Rodriguez.

“I think our preparation is part of it,” Hoke said Monday. “I think the front, the aggression that they’re playing with, disruptiveness, fundamentals, techniques. I think our support system, whether it be from an outside backer or a nickel or strong safety or free safety, I think it’s a little better.”

The addition of Greg Mattison as defensive coordinator has paid off in a big way so far, turning out some big results with recruits largely brought in under the former coaching staff lead by Rodriguez and maligned defensive coordinator Greg Robinson. After just five weeks the Wolverines are already well on their way to decreasing last season’s defensive numbers in a significant way. Mattison is currently ranked as the eighth best defensive coordinator by Coaches By the Numbers, a site that takes an analytical approach to grading head and assistant coaches based on a number of factors.

“Guys are playing together,” Hoke said. “I think they’re understanding their roles. I think the defensive staff has done a very good job in preparation. The guys are doing a good job of preparing themselves.”

Michigan’s defense had gotten progressively worse over the previous three seasons, one of the primary reasons the university opted to cut ties with Rodriguez. Mattison has instilled faith and confidence in the defensive players this season and it has helped to change the way everybody looks at the Wolverines. After starting the season outside of the top 25 polls, Michigan is now inching in to the top ten in the USA Today Coaches Poll and the AP Top 25.

“It gives us confidence, obviously,” Michigan defensive end Craig Roh said following Saturday’s win against Minnesota. “We know how we can play. Going further and further into Big Ten, it’ll gain us even more confidence, but we’re still miles and miles away from where we need to be.”

Michigan has put together some very solid defensive numbers against some opponents that usually will not raise an eyebrow by many, but wins against Western Michigan (21st ranked passing offense), Notre Dame (29th total offense) and San Diego State (33rd total offense) should be appreciated.

“It’s like anything else, it doesn’t mean anything right now,” Hoke said Monday in response to a question about Michigan being ranked second in the nation in scoring defense (Michigan is tied with Wisconsin and Michigan State with an average of 10.2 points scored against. “None of those things matter. We’re 1-0 right now (in the Big Ten). I think when you look at our (defensive) front the last two weeks, I think they’ve been a little more disruptive. I think we put a little more pressure at times on the quarterback. We still don’t blitz worth a dog, period. That’s going to improve.”

Michigan has two key games coming up now on the road. The Wolverines take on Dan Persa and Northwestern this weekend and the Wildcats know that as long as Persa is healthy they have an offense that can be tough to keep down. Next week the Wolverines travel to East Lansing to take on rival Michigan State, with Big Ten championship hopes of their own following a win at Ohio State. If Michigan can pick up two wins on the road, then all eyes will be fixated on the final two weeks of the season, with home games against Nebraska and Ohio State. The Cornhuskers, despite being shelled by Wisconsin over the weekend, still figure to be a top contender in the Legends Division. And this may be the best chance Michigan has had in a while to knock off a reeling Ohio State program.

Michigan fans have every reason to start contemplating about making a trip to Indianapolis, but don’t book those tickets just yet. Michigan still has something to prove, but things are certainly look good right now in Ann Arbor.

This column was originally posted on Examiner.com.

MORE FROM YARDBARKER:
The Best Names in College Football for 2016
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Lochte to be summoned to appear in Rio, charged with making false report

Carlos Ruiz traded to Dodgers

Ezekiel Elliott reportedly arrived at training camp overweight

Olympian auctions off medal to help young cancer patient

Report: Dodgers have turned down lowball offers for Puig

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Jason Pierre-Paul’s lawsuit against Adam Schefter, ESPN will proceed

The Rock, Vin Diesel to settle 'rivalry' at WrestleMania 33?

Report: Browns trade former No. 6 overall pick Mingo to Pats

Harden organizing players-only minicamp with Rockets

Raiders file trademark applications for ‘Las Vegas Raiders’

U.S. Soccer hands Solo six month suspension for Olympic comments

One Gotta Go: NFL legends bring the hate for fast food

What you need to know about the Champions League draw

Can the San Francisco Giants bust their teamwide slump?

A look at 2016 college football conference changes

The 20 best boxing movies ever

Will Perriman help Ravens find elusive WR success?

Jay Bouwmeester’s selection to Team Canada’s World Cup roster is a head-scratcher

Five MLB players with a lot to lose down the stretch

One Gotta Go: NFL legends bring the hate for our favorite football movies

Bruce Arians on sideline video use: 'It helps bad coaches'

Hard not to be cynical about LeBron's 'Cleveland Hustles'

Familiar faces that won't be seen in the NFL this year

College Football News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

The 20 best boxing movies of all time

One Gotta Go: NFL legends bring the hate for fast food

What you need to know about the Champions League draw

Can the San Francisco Giants bust their teamwide slump?

A look at 2016 college football conference changes

Can Perriman's return help Ravens find oft-elusive WR success?

One Gotta Go: NFL legends bring the hate for our favorite football movies

Hard not to be cynical about LeBron James' 'Cleveland Hustles'

Ranking the uniforms of the NFL from worst to best

Familiar faces that won't be seen in the NFL this year

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker