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February 11, 2013
By The Numbers: U-M pass defense's surprising success
Michigan ranked fifth nationally in pass defense during the 2012 season, allowing just 169.5 yards per game. A remarkable achievement considering the Wolverines defended just 21.2 percent of their opponents' 132 incompletions.
Florida State led the country in pass defense this past year (161.9 yards per game), recording 59 pass breakups and 11 interceptions as they were responsible for disrupting 30.2 percent of their opponents' 232 incompletions.
Among the NCAA's top-10 pass defense leaders, BYU got its hands on the most passes, physically disrupting 45.7 percent of the Cougar opponents' 164 incompletions. Alabama was second with 42.2 percent.
Overall, the average among the nine other teams in the top 10 was 37.3 percent, creating considerable wonder that the Maize and Blue were that successful without actually getting their hands on that many attempts.
As noted previously, Michigan did not face a pass offense that ranked among the top 50 nationally. Purdue (55th, 238.4 yards per game) was the top foe on the Wolverines' schedule while South Carolina (57th, 238.0 YPG) also ranked in the top 70. The other 11 competitors ranked 71st or lower.
U-M secondary coach Curt Mallory noted recently that tight, aggressive coverage, which Michigan employed this year, and deep safeties also serve as a deterrent to teams, and makes completing passes, especially the downfield bombs that can quickly add yardage to a rival's tally, difficult. The Maize and Blue allowed only 14 pass completions all year of 30 yards or more.
Still, Michigan lived dangerously when the ball was up in the air as it showed an inability to break up passes or intercept passes. U-M had just seven interceptions this year, tying the program's single-season record low of 1961, 1958, 1941 and 1938.
During the past 15 years, Michigan has held opponents below 200 yards passing per game six times, and has always defended more passes than it did this past season. In 1997, the national-championship defense led by Charles Woodson got its hands on a program-best 45.2 percent of 155 incompletions while the 2007 (34.1 percent) and 2003 (31.1 percent) defenses also broke the 30-percentage mark.