Nov 2, 2013; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines defensive tackle Willie Henry (69) and defensive lineman Chris Wormley (43) and defensive tackle Quinton Washington (76) stand on field between plays during the 1st quarter of a game against the Michigan State Spartans at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports
It seems that whenever one hears about Michigan football, it’s about an off-the-field incident. What fans may not be aware of is that Michigan is just one win away from bowl eligbility this year, and they will look continue their two-game winning streak this weekend when Maryland heads to Ann Arbor. A big reason for Michigan’s on-field success this season is due to their defense. Like Penn State and Maryland, Michigan has had to rely on their defense to carry the load in order for each team to have a fighting chance. So what makes this defense so special? It starts with the defensive line.
Michigan’s defensive line is led by Chris Wormley, and relies on their strength to power through the offensive line to get to the quarterback. The Wolverines rank tied for 32st in the nation in sacks per game with 2.70 sacks-per-game, but their ability to get into the backfield so quickly is what is most damaging. The Wolverines typically rush five or six guys, putting more pressure on the defensive line to break through.
Against Northwestern, the defensive line saw a decent amount of blocking protection from the Northwestern running back, but defensive tackles Wormley and Ryan Glasgow simply overpowered Northwestern’s interior pass protection. This resulted in Northwestern throwing a lot of short passes in order to avoid the pass rush, allowing Michigan’s secondary and linebackers to play tighter on the wide receivers.
On the ground, Northwestern had -9 yards all game, which including sacks, but 37 yards on 19 rushes from all of their running backs. Granted, Northwestern is one of the worst rushing teams in the nation as they rank 104th in the nation with 125.2 yards-per-game, but Maryland isn’t even better. The Terps are 111th in the nation with 113.9 yards-per-game. Michigan State is seventh in the nation in rushing yards allowed per game, and Michigan average half a yard less allowed per game than their in-state rival.
Maryland catches a big break as senior lineman Frank Clark has been dismissed from the team following an alleged domestic violence charge. Clark is one of Michigan’s best defensive lineman as he leads the team with 13.5 tackles for loss, as well as accumulating 42 tackles and 4.5 sacks in ten games. This puts more pressure on defensive ends Mario Ojemudia and Brennen Beyer to overcome his loss, though the two starters have been just as outstanding as Clark. Both Ojemudia and Beyer combine for nine sacks and 54 tackles.
Over recent weeks, Maryland has become very one-dimensional as their leading rusher, quarterback C.J. Brown, has had a ton of trouble escaping the pocket. Maryland had six rushing yards on 17 carries last week, a statistic that is crucial for Maryland to improve their offensive efficiency. It starts with the offensive line, and with a stout defensive line awaiting them, Maryland certainly has their work cut out for them.