BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart spent the season covering Big Ten football, and he’s wrtitten up team-by-team season recaps for all 12 Big Ten teams. Every day, Dienhart will post a recap for each Big Ten school, in alphabetical order. Up first: Michigan. Watch our video from the Wolverines’ much-awaited victory over heated rival Ohio State now and read Dienhart’s season recap in this post. Did you miss the others? They’re all right here.
Record: 10-2 overall; 6-2 Big Ten
Bowl: Sugar vs. Virginia Tech
Season recap: No one envisioned a 10-win season and the school’s first BCS bowl bid since the 2006 season when Brady Hoke took over for Rich Rodriguez. But it happened, in what was one of the most remarkable turnarounds in the nation this season. The big story in Ann Arbor? Defense. The unit ranked 110th in the country in 2010; it finished 18th his season—with basically the same players. Credit coordinator Greg Mattison, who did as masterful job with a new 4-3 scheme after arriving from the NFL. It looks like Michigan is back after the 15-22 Rodriguez era.
High point: Michigan ended seven years of frustration against Ohio State with a thrilling 40-34 victory to cap an unexpected 10-win season. The emotional victory was preceded by a thoroughly dominating 45-17 win over No. 17 Nebraska that was Michigan’s most complete effort of the 2011 campaign.
Low point: It’s never fun to lose to Michigan State, but the 24-16 loss at Iowa was more painful. It was the Wolverines’ second defeat in three games and ended with Michigan having four shots from the 3-yard line with 16 seconds left only to come up short in its last chance to perhaps tie the game.
Offensive MVP: QB Denard Robinson. Yes, he still has some issues with turnovers (Big Ten-high 14 interceptions), but “Shoelace” remains one of the nation’s most explosive and deadly players. He finished with 1,163 yards rushing and 16 scores, while throwing for 2,056 yards and 18 touchdowns.
Defensive MVP: T Mike Martin. None of his stats stood out, but he was the driving force and leader up front for a much-improved Wolverine defense. No doubt, Martin’s presence helped Ryan Van Bergen and Craig Roh excel up front for a defense that ranked second in the Big Ten vs. the run (129.1 ypg).
Tom Dienhart is a senior writer for BTN.com. Find all of his work at www.btn.com/tomdienhart, follow Dienhart on Twitter at @BTNTomDienhart, send a question to his weekly mailbag here, and click here to subscribe to his RSS feed.