Michigan’s defense doesn’t exactly have one standout “star” per se, but rather five players who all significantly stand out in multiple areas. And while they had a relatively slow start to the season, they only keep improving. Last Saturday, against Indiana— who have the best passing offense in the Big Ten— Michigan’s defense didn’t allow the Hoosiers to score in the final 44 minutes of the game.
Tackles-wise, the Wolverines’ defense is led by senior linebacker Khaleke Hudson, who has racked up 89 total tackles. (Ohio State’s Malik Harrison leads the Buckeyes with 61, for some perspective.) He also has two sacks for 20 yards and three pass deflections.
His 89 total tackles is the third most in the Big Ten. After a disappointing performance last season— especially against the Buckeyes with just 3 total tackles— Hudson is back and better than ever.
Khaleke Hudson on last year's game: "It fuels us ..." pic.twitter.com/OwxViMStu8— TheWolverine.com (@TheWolverineMag) November 25, 2019
Junior defensive back Ambry Thomas has also been excellent for the Wolverines, even though he was supposed to miss most of this season due to battling colitis over the summer. Thomas has 32 total tackles— 27 of which are solo— three pass deflections, three interceptions, and two fumble recoveries.
Thomas is joined by defensive back Lavert Hill, who leads the team with seven pass deflections, and has 3 interceptions. Hill, like Hudson, was also unspectacular against the Buckeyes last season, racking up just one single tackle. This year, if he can keep his penalties at a minimum, will likely be a pain in the you-know-what for the Buckeyes’ receiving core.
Sophomore defensive lineman Aidan Hutchinson has been all around electric on Michigan’s defense, tallying 53 total tackles, 4.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, and six pass deflections.
Hutchinson was only on the field for eight snaps during last year’s matchup, so he’s ready to make a real impact on Saturday.
“We were all in the locker room, and no one was even talking about (the Indiana) game,” he said Saturday. “We’re all just ready for next week.”
If anyone is going to be an annoyance for Ohio State’s offensive line and quarterback Justin Fields, its senior linebacker Josh Uche. Uche’s specialty is rushing the quarterback, leading the Wolverines with 8.5 sacks and 2 forced fumbles. He’s also coming off his best game of the season against Indiana, where he had five total tackles (all of which were solo), one sack, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery. He’s no Chase Young, but he’s one of the better linebackers Ohio State will face.