Michigan Football: Can Don Brown deliver vs Ohio State?

Michigan football DC Don Brown promised the Wolverines would be better against Ohio State. But can he deliver on that?

If you listen to what Michigan football coaches said to the media in the past week, between Jim Harbaugh, Josh Gattis and Don Brown, it’s clear they know they have to figure out the Buckeyes.

Harbaugh talked to NBC Sports about how the Wolverines needed to beat them. It’s obvious but still good to hear.

And Brown, the fifth-year coordinator of the Michigan football defense agreed.

“I think Coach [Harbaugh] addressed the Ohio State issue yesterday. He’s the boss,” Brown said. “That’s what he said; that’s what I’m going to try to do. He’s the boss. As far as that goes, I’m getting in line right behind him.”

Every Michigan football coach, fan, player, whatever knows that in order for the program to take the next step, Ohio State must be conquered. I’m not saying Michigan needs to flip the script and win a bunch of games in a row against the Buckeyes, because let’s face it, that’s going to be extremely difficult for any program to do.

OSU is a juggernaut right now. Their recruiting success is unparalleled in the Big Ten, with few rivals nationally too. But Ohio State churned out NFL draft picks like nobody’s business in the 1990s too and U-M still managed to beat the Buckeyes.

Michigan, as it showed in the NFL draft, with 10 guys getting picked, still has talent too. But does it have enough for Brown to deliver on his promise to be better against Ohio State?

“Once again, OSU was a huge negative for us,” Brown said. “I’m not going to live in that world, and I don’t want our players to live in that world. We acknowledge it; we move on from it, and hopefully I do a better job, because I don’t blame the players for anything. You blame the old guy, right here. I’ve got to do a better job getting our guys ready, and I promise I’m going to.”

Can Brown, Michigan football adjust vs OSU?

Brown’s defense is known for aggression and for the most part, that strategy has led to a lot of success. Brown’s teams are 0-4 against the Buckeyes, but his units have also had dominant performances in wins over ranked teams like Notre Dame, Wisconsin (twice), Penn State, as well as two straight victories and dominant showings against Michigan State.

For the most part, Michigan has as much or more talent than most teams on its schedule. Outside of Ohio State, no team in the Big Ten is more talented than the Wolverines and so against those teams, Brown will have success. Against less talented teams, his defense just destroys people.

Even last year, Iowa and Notre Dame were both top-15 teams and Brown’s defenses made them look foolish, holding them to a combined 17 points.

The problem is that against teams like Ohio State, that aggressive approach tends to backfire and lead to big plays. When you play a lot of one-on-one against Ohio State and Alabama, you are going to get burned. It’s as simple as that.

In this era of college football, it’s hard to find any defense that’s not vulnerable to being gashed. Even Ohio State’s great unit gave up a lot of yards in the first half to U-M last year.

However, if you look at the Wolverines across the board, you have to feel pretty good about the defense. On the D-line, Aidan Hutchinson, Kwity Paye and Chris Hinton should all be studs, along with Carlo Kemp who was solid. Cameron McGrone could be an All-Big Ten defender and the secondary should be loaded with Ambry Thomas, Vincent Gray, Daxton Hill and Brad Hawkins.

Michigan needs more pass rushers to emerge and also, Hutchinson, Paye and Hinton need to improve in that area this season. But you can see Michigan having multiple first or second-team All-Big Ten guys, so if Brown can make some adjustments, maybe this defense can do better.

There is talent at all three levels of the defense, Brown just needs to find a way to make it work against Ohio State. And I’m not talking about a shutout, I’m saying hold the Buckeyes to under 30 and Michigan football might actually stand a chance.