The Michigan defense enters the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl as the No. 1 unit
in the nation, allowing 262.5 yards per contest. On average, the Wolverines
surrender 17.6 points per game, but five opponents have been held to 10
points or less. U-M is one of 10 units nationally to surrender fewer than 200
first downs on the season (191).
Michigan ranks first or second in the Big Ten in seven of eight major
categories, and lists top-10 nationally in five statistics. The Wolverines
boast the No. 2 pass defense in the country, allowing 145.9 yards per contest
and eight of 12 opponents have recorded season-lows in total offense when
The Wolverines are looking to right the ship after an uncharacteristic
performance in the team’s regular season-ending loss at Ohio State. The
defensive unit is led by a stout front seven and a dominating secondary which
utilizes press coverage and one-on-one matchups to shut down opposing
quarterbacks. The Wolverines can generate pressure with or without blitzing
thanks to an aggressive and violent front four, and when they do send extra
men into the backfield, the play ends up in a loss of yards more often than
not. This Michigan lineup includes 12 All-Big Ten honorees, including five
first-time honorees and four players who have earned first-team accolades
on either the coach- or media-selected ballots.
The drum from which this defense draws its beat is junior linebacker and cocaptain
Devin Bush. Bush leads Michigan in tackles for the second year in a
row with 80 stops this season, and his 9.5 tackles for loss and 5.0 sacks are
second among U-M defenders. He has been named the Big Ten Nagurski-
Woodson Defensive Player of the Year, the fifth in program history, and was
also selected as the Big Ten Fitzgerald-Butkus Linebacker of the Year, just
the second in Michigan’s history.
The defensive line is led by fifth-year senior defensive lineman Chase
Winovich, also an All-Big Ten first team selection by the coaches and media.
The Associated Press’ Midseason Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year leads
the team with 14.5 tackles for loss, sixth among all Big Ten defenders. His
62 tackles are third among all Wolverine defenders and first among linemen.
Winovich paired with Rashan Gary, a first-team selection by the coaches
and second-team selection by the media who has since declared for the
NFL Draft, to make life difficult for opposing offensive tackles. Inside, firstyear
starter Carlo Kemp (tackle) and fifth-year senior run-stuffer Bryan
Mone (nose) produced career-highs across the board while establishing a
formidable inside presence for the maize and blue, and versatile lineman
Kwity Paye made an impact at multiple positions.
Michigan has a deep unit to create pressure up front, aided by aggressive
linebackers. Josh Ross and Devin Gil stepped into bigger roles for the
Wolverines, while stat-stuffer Khaleke Hudson recorded at least one of each
of the following: tackle for loss, sack, pass breakup, fumble recovery and
blocked punt. Pass rush protégé Josh Uche is top-five in the Big Ten with 7.0
sacks and has registered 8.0 tackles for loss on just 14 total stops, meaning
more than 57 percent of his tackles are made in the opponent’s backfield.
Michigan’s secondary has been an elite unit all season. Defensive backs
Lavert Hill (first team, coaches and media), David Long (first team coaches,
third team media), Josh Metellus (second team coaches, second team
media) and Tyree Kinnel (honorable mention, coaches and media) each
earned all-conference accolades. Opposing quarterbacks are completing just
48.8 percent (150-of-307) of their pass attempts against the Wolverines with
a 13:11 touchdown-to-interception ratio against.
Long (one interception, eight breakups), Metellus and Watson (three
interceptions, six breakups) are all tied for the team lead with nine pass
breakups apiece and Michigan’s four pick-sixes have helped create 75 points
off turnovers this season. Four players in Michigan history have multiple
interceptions returned for touchdowns, and two of them are on this roster
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