Michigan Football: Finding Pass Rush Key to Victory over Illinois

Rick WeinerFeatured ColumnistOctober 12, 2012

ANN ARBOR, MI - OCTOBER 29: Mike Martin #68 of the Michigan Wolverines gets around the block of Peters Drey #67 of the Purdue Boilermakers on his way to sacking Caleb TerBush #19 for a saftey at Michigan Stadium on October 29, 2011 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Regrettably, you won't find Brandon Graham or LaMarr Woodley suiting up for the Wolverines on Saturday afternoon when they take on the Fighting Illini in Big Ten action.

This year's Wolverines defense is without a dominating pass rusher.

But that's no excuse for the Wolverines to be ranked 107th in the nation in sacks.

While defensive coordinator Greg Mattison had to rebuild the defensive line once again for the 2012 season, it's not as if nobody in the front seven is capable of getting to the quarterback.

Will Campbell, Jake Ryan and Craig Roh all have shown ability as pass rushers in the past, and against an Illinois offensive line that has allowed 20 sacks on the season—the fourth most in the country—they need to draw on their past experience and win the battle at the line of scrimmage.

Think about that for a second. Illinois has allowed 20 sacks in five games, an average of four a game. That's one less than Michigan has on the entire season, much less in one game.

If there was ever a week for the Wolverines to get aggressive on defense, this is it.

Illinois' junior QB Nathan Scheelhaase has thrown four interceptions in his last three games, so putting pressure on him early and often is key to forcing him to make bad decisions with the football.

While he can take off running when the pocket collapses, he's no Denard Robinson. Michigan has the horses to make sure that there's nowhere for him to go when that happens.

Michigan has too much talent on defense for Illinois' porous offensive line to handle. It's a battle the Wolverines can win on a consistent basis, and one they need to win to deliver a knockout blow to any thoughts the Fighting Illini have of pulling off the upset in the Big House.