The Michigan Wolverines are back. Maybe it’s not safe to say so until after this weekend, but then again, that’s what people will say when the weekend is complete and the Paul Bunyan Trophy returns to Ann Arbor.
In other words, the Wolverines will win in this latest chapter of their in-state rivalry with the Michigan State Spartans.
Why such confidence in Michigan? Above all things, it’s the man who coaches them. That man is Jim Harbaugh, who’s more than defied expectations in his first year. This team wasn’t expected to be very competitive until Harbaugh’s second year, but that hasn’t stopped them from posting a 5-1 record that easily could be 6-0 if it weren’t for a turnover-filled game in week one against the Utah Utes.
Michigan’s been the story of the Big 10 this season and each week they continue to get better. They are built in the image of their head coach; they’re fiercely competitive and they play with such passion and fire. The biggest thing they’re showing right now is confidence. This team isn’t scared of anyone; they won’t back down regardless of who they play, and neither does their coach. As long as Coach Harbaugh is roaming the sidelines this team will always be prepared and will play their best football week to week.
But besides their head coach, Michigan’s plan for success in 2015 has been simple: Defense, defense and more defense. With the exception of Boston College, no one in the nation does it better than the Wolverines on defense. They have allowed just 14 points all season and in the last three games, they haven’t given up a score. They are among the nation’s best and they have the statistics to back it up:
- Second in the nation in total defense
- Third in rush defense
- First in scoring defense
- First in third down defense
- Fifth on first down defense
One of the special things is how many juniors and seniors start on defense; the youngest player on the starting 11 is sophomore cornerback Jourdan Lewis. These guys at the peak of their development as players and they’re really balling at an elite level (Seriously, understand that it’s very difficult to shut out three Division 1A teams in a row. These are some of the best athletes in the nation that we’re talking about).
However, it’s more than just experience that these veteran Wolverines bring. They are hungry. They haven’t had much success; they haven’t won a ton of significant games in their careers, especially against their neighbors down in Columbus, Ohio and over in East Lansing, Michigan. They are tired of losing and they certainly realize the opportunity they currently have in front of them, which they aren’t taking lightly.
This is their year. This is Michigan’s year. With all due respect to Sparty and Buckeye Nation, The Wolverines are in the driver’s seat to come out of the Big 10 Conference as victors not next year or in a few years, but right now.
Devon Ashby, NFL/NCAAF Analyst