ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan has reached the halfway point of the 2016 season, and has its bye week before it hosts Illinois at 3:30 p.m. on Oct. 22 for homecoming. With the season turning toward the second half, Landof10.com will take a look at how Michigan (6-0, 3-0 Big Ten Conference) has fared so far this season.
Following Michigan’s first 10-win season since 2011, its coaching staff faced one major hurdle during the offseason: hire a third defensive coordinator in as many seasons.
The transition, however, wasn’t a hassle. Michigan simply followed its course by hiring Don Brown from Boston College in December, and has continued to shine as one of the nation’s top defenses.
That defense is, in a word: stingy. Entering the bye week, Michigan had the No. 1 defense in the country (212.8 yards allowed a game), was No. 9 in the country in rush defense (99.17 yards) and has recorded 24 sacks.
Michigan made one other hire, Brian Smith as defensive backs coach, but the bulk of the staff remained intact , allowing for continuity that has helped Michigan play well during an undefeated first half.
Unlike 2013, when questions surrounded Michigan’s 5-0 start — a piecemeal offensive line, near-losses to Akron and Connecticut, minimal production from the running game — Michigan has had few concerns during the first half of this season.
That’s in part because of the mindset Michigan’s coaches have instilled in its players. It may sound like a cliche, but Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh continually impresses a “championship week” mentality on his program where each opponent, whether it’s a top-10 team like Wisconsin or a struggling program such as Rutgers, is prepared for at the same level.
Also, Michigan has one of the more resourceful staffs in the Big Ten, which zooms in on facets of each opponent that can be exploited. For example, Michigan took advantage of a decimated linebacking corps and ran for 326 yards against Penn State. It also manhandled Penn State’s offensive line and sacked quarterback Trace McSorley six times.
With the second half of the schedule opening Saturday against Illinois, many have already circled Nov. 26 on the calendar — Michigan’s annual grudge match against Ohio State. In fact, when asked about Ohio State last week, Harbaugh deflected the question. That’s another thing Michigan continues to impress upon its players: Don’t look too far ahead on the calendar.
COACHING GRADE: A
Check out the grades for other aspects of Michigan’s 2016 season: