Originally posted on The Sports Bank  |  Last updated 11/16/11

“We are getting close to becoming that “Michigan” defense that we have talked about,” Wolverines cornerback J.T. Floyd said after the crushing of the Illini on Saturday.

“We still have some things we need to clean up, which we can do through watching film and practice next week.”

That’s how they talk in the program surrounding Ann Arbor. “Play Michigan football,” be a “Michigan Defense;” those are common catch-phrases within the team.

After allowing 35.2 points per game in 2010, Michigan’s defense is allowing 15.5 points per game through 10 games in 2011, ranking 2nd in the Big Ten and 5th in the nation in scoring defense. Hard to believe this is just one year after Michigan was ranked near the bottom in almost all relevant defensive categories among all FBS teams. What a difference in Gregs makes! Mattison is has been a total 180 from Robinson as a defensive coordinator.

U-M has forced 23 turnovers in 2011 (forced 19 in 2010), including multiple turnovers in eight of
10 games. The Wolverines’ 23 turnovers rank tied for 1st in the Big Ten and tied for 14th in the FBS. In short, they’ve been very opportunistic. But here’s the “neato stat of the night:”

Michigan ranks 1st in the nation in red zone defense (20-30, 67%).

Michigan Coach Brady Hoke talked about his “Greg (Mattison) and that staff, and Jerry Montgomery, our defensive line coach, and Mark Smith, and Curt Mallory, they do a nice job planning every week, and I thought they did a great job again.”

And later on getting the defense to carry over its momentum at Illinois into the final two weeks:

“I think our guys have done a tremendous job of wanting to improve every week. We went out last night and had a tremendous 25-minute fundamental and technique practice. The intensity of it, their focus, I think they’re mature enough, and the leadership of the senior class has done a really good job of moving to the next game and what can we do better as a team, and how are we going to do it better.”

The Wolverines allowed just 37 rushing yards last week at Illinois, the fewest rushing yards allowed by U-M against a Big Ten opponent since surrendering 26 rushing yards at Indiana Nov. 11, 2006.

Michigan has held Big Ten opponents to 23 of 78 (29.5%) third-down conversions. In Big Ten play, they rank 2nd in point differential (+93) and has allowed the 2nd-fewest points (104 points) and scored the 3rd-most points (197 points).

“It all starts inside, with Mike martin and Ryan van Bergen, they’ve been such tremendous leaders to go through what’s they’ve been through and to be where they are now, I’m not sure if I’ve ever been as proud of a group of guys,” said Defensive Coordinator Greg Mattison.

“These kids come out every night, every practice and they just want to get better and want to be Michigan,” he continued.

Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net, a Google News site generating millions of unique visitors. He’s also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, Walter Football, Yardbarker, and Fox Sports.

A Fulbright scholar and MBA, Banks has appeared on live radio all over the world; he’s also a member of the FWAA, USBWA and SPJ. The President of the United States follows him on Twitter (@Paul_M_BanksTSB) You should too.

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