Michigan Football: Wolverines' Defense Must Step Up to Avoid Lackluster Finish

Richard LangfordCorrespondent INovember 11, 2012

November 10, 2012; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Northwestern Wildcats wide receiver Cameron Dickerson (19) is tackled by Michigan Wolverines safety Thomas Gordon (30) , linebacker Jake Ryan (center) and cornerback J.T. Floyd (left) in the fourth quarter at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE
Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE

The Michigan Wolverines picked up a nice 38-31 win in overtime on Saturday over conference rival Northwestern. But if this defense does not start playing better, who is going to care? This season won't end in anything but disappointment. 

The Wolverines' defense is a solid 17th in the nation points allowed at 18.2 per contest. However, that defense is slipping. 

Over its last three games, Michigan has allowed 22.3 points per game. However,  throw out the 13 they allowed to the 94th-ranked scoring offense of Minnesota and that number looks even worse. 

Michigan allowed 23 to Nebraska as the Wolverines' defense wilted away, giving up 16 points in the second half in a game in which the defense needed to step up and give the offense a short field. 

Against Northwestern, the Wolverines' defense came up huge at the end of the game. It prevented Northwestern from running out the clock when the Wildcats got the ball back with the lead and just under four minutes left in the game, and then it got the pivotal stop in overtime. 

However, that same defense also allowed the Wildcats to rattle off 431 yards of total offense, 248 of which came on the ground. This allowed Northwestern to dominate time of possession by just four seconds shy of nine minutes. 

Now, Northwestern is a very good running team, but this Michigan defense was supposed to, and needs to, be better. 

Michigan has a winnable game up next against Iowa, but then it will close out the regular season against Ohio State, and the Buckeyes have a better running game than Northwestern. If the defense doesn't improve, I expect the Wolverines to be run off the field and left staring at an 8-4 regular-season record. 

This will still find the Wolverines in a decent bowl game, but much more was expected for this team that was No. 8 in the nation when it played its first game.