Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Michigan D Is Just What Chappell and IU Need

If you’re Indiana quarterback Ben Chappell, you gotta like what you’re seeing when you watch tape on Michigan.

The Wolverines, and we’re polite here, are the worst defensive team in the history of ranked college football teams. Has there ever been a ranked team with a defense this bad?

Wait. Sorry. It’s past midnight, we have to be up in about four hours, we’ve been up for like 21 straight hours, and we’re grumpy.

Still, Michigan’s defense is bad. It ranks last in the Big Ten in pass defense, allowing 264.8 yards. It ranks last in the conference in total defense, allowing 400.0 yards. It is next to last in scoring defense at 23.0 points.

This is the kind of defense that gets coaches fired. However, Michigan’s Rich Rodriguez has the magic of his spread attack to thank. Specifically, it’s Denard Robinson directing that attack. As a result, all the issues of the last couple of years (two straight losing records, allegations of NCAA violations over extra hours) have faded from public thought.

Last year as a freshman, Robinson wasn’t ready. He is now, and is on everybody’s Heisman Trophy contender list.

Chappell, of course, doesn’t have to worry about Robinson when the No. 19 Wolverines (4-0) roll into Memorial Stadium. He’s got Michigan’s 3-3-5 defensive scheme to deal with, and while this approach hasn’t stopped anybody, it has put a lot of pressure on opponents.

Given IU’s own defensive vulnerability, does Chappell figure this will be an offensive shootout?

“We’re not worried about scoring a certain number of points. It might be 7-0. You have no idea. That’s why we have to go into this game and really take it one possession at a time because I think it will go back and forth. It always comes down to three or four plays, though, so we’ve got to be ready to make those plays.”

Not many teams play a 3-3-5 defense. It does enable teams to put more speed on the field and given the spread attack dominance in college football, that’s important.

“They have a lot of younger guys on defense,” coach Bill Lynch said. “They’re trying to get more athletes on the field, more guys who can move in space. They’re a good defense.”

Good, of course, is relative. IU (3-0) can punish this defense. In fact, it has to. That’s the only way the Hoosiers can win this game. And if it wants to earn a postseason bid, it has to win this game.

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