ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- In one day, Michigan vanquished a rival it had not beaten in four seasons, forced the second rushing of the field after a big win in as many seasons, and, perhaps most importantly for the Wolverines, gave themselves control of the Legends division race.
Not a bad day of work, especially when you consider Michigan did it almost completely with defense and special teams.
Those two units comprise the majority of this week’s Michigan 10 -- the Wolverines football power rankings.
(Previous week’s ranking in parentheses)
1. LB Jake Ryan (1): Ryan claims the top spot for the second consecutive week after a typical stat-stuffing Saturday with 10 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble. Ryan is the best player on the Big Ten’s top defense -- one that has allowed just one second-half touchdown in the past five games. As valuable as Denard Robinson is to Michigan’s offense, Ryan is approaching that level defensively.
2. LB Desmond Morgan (3): Ryan’s counterpart led Michigan in tackles with 11 and continued to show good instincts and lateral movement to get from the edge of the box to the sideline with ease. His skills there prevented a Michigan State touchdown in the first half, and he has become one of the Wolverines’ most reliable players.
3. QB Denard Robinson (2): The senior did not have his best game, but broke his streak of bad luck against Michigan State, gaining 96 yards rushing and leading a game-winning drive with less than two minutes remaining. This wasn’t the Robinson who torched Purdue and Illinois, but Michigan State’s defense is leaps and bounds better than both of those teams.
4. K Brendan Gibbons (NR): Gibbons nailed the game-winning field goal with five seconds left, his third field goal of the day. For a kicker who lost his job to a walk-on two seasons ago, he has rebounded to make two crucial kicks for the Wolverines -- the game-winner against Virginia Tech in the Allstate Sugar Bowl last season and then Saturday against Michigan State.
5. WR Drew Dileo (NR): The Louisiana native does not receive the opportunities or attention some of the other Michigan receivers do, but Dileo has a knack for big catches in big games. His 4 grabs for 92 yards, including a 20-yarder to set up Gibbons’ game-winning field goal, were a key factor in Michigan’s win.
6. S Jordan Kovacs (9): Kovacs notched his 300th career tackle and also had an interception that led to a Michigan field goal in the second half that gave the Wolverines a 9-7 lead. While Kovacs hasn’t had the consistent tackling numbers he had the two prior seasons, he had five tackles Saturday to go along with the interception. He also has taken on a new role, dropping into the box as a linebacker when Michigan chooses to run a 4-4 front.
7. CB J.T. Floyd (NR): The fifth-year senior didn’t have a huge day statistically but defended Michigan State’s receivers well, broke up a couple of passes and was asked to play even more conservatively -- and in an almost isolated state -- because of Michigan’s scheme to bring eight and sometimes nine players into the box. It meant if a receiver beat Floyd, it could be a big play. That rarely happened.
8. S Thomas Gordon (5): Gordon had six tackles and a pass breakup and, like Kovacs, was asked to drop down into the box a lot to help in run support. He’s often the forgotten member of the Michigan defense, but he’s also a valuable, consistent member of the secondary.
9. LB Kenny Demens (4): The fifth-year senior turned in another consistent performance, making 6 tackles and controlling the middle of the field for Michigan, which allows Ryan and Morgan to roam more freely to make plays.
10. P Will Hagerup (8): The junior saw more action than he usually does and had his first truly poor punt of the season in the second half, when he shanked a punt 30 yards. But he still averaged 43.6 yards and is a field-position changer.