Illinois vs. Michigan: True Test for Improved Wolverine Defense Still to Come
The Michigan Wolverines defense pummeled the Illinois Fighting Illini, shutting them out and rendering their passing game obsolete. Illinois was impotent and only managed 134 total yards of offense with a huge chunk (105 yards) coming on the ground.
While it was another impressive defensive performance, it came against a team struggling mightily to move the football this season.
The real concern for the defense should come from the two 200-plus yard rushing performances of Alabama and Air Force.
Several Big 10 teams are capable of running the football effectively and stand between Michigan and their goal of capturing the Big 10’s Legends’ division title.
Michigan State, Nebraska, Ohio State and Northwestern are all formidable offenses that can and will pound the football and rack up rushing yards. Their physical offensive linemen will be the biggest challenge the Wolverines’ defenders have seen since the team’s Week 1 loss against Alabama.
Ohio State and Michigan State, more than anyone else remaining on their schedule, know how to pound the football against the Wolverines and have top-tier talents carrying the football.
Braxton Miller and the Buckeyes pose a dynamic threat in Urban Meyer’s spread offense. The ability for Miller to explode, like Denard Robinson, is exemplified by the play-calling of Meyer.
Meyer finds ways to get the football in his hands and get him out into space to make plays. He isn’t the only threat carrying the football, and Michigan will have its hands full trying to keep track of everything.
Michigan State is highly under-performing this season and just came off a huge double-overtime loss against Iowa. However, they tend to play Michigan tough regardless, and they have one of the best running backs in the conference on their sideline.
Le’Veon Bell is capable of making plays when nothing is there by making defenders miss and extending plays with his relentless running. The Wolverines will likely bottle up the rest of the Michigan State offense and it will be up to Bell to keep the Spartans competitive.
While Michigan’s defense has been somewhat impressive, they still have a long road ahead of them against their remaining Big 10 schedule.
They'll need to be at the best of their game to avoid being upset down the stretch.
Mike Hoag Jr. is a Breaking News Team writer with Bleacher Report and also covers the NFL and the Cleveland Browns for the site.
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