ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Michigan tackle Taylor Lewan hopes the team’s offensive line stops playing nice. Lewan said that strategy can only take the Wolverines so far.
“You have to play angry, a little nasty,” he said Monday. “I think our offensive line needs to do that a little bit more.”
The 18th-ranked Wolverines were pushed around up front in a blowout loss to defending champion Alabama. Their offensive line was outplayed by Air Force’s quicker team in a narrow win and seemed to be just OK in a rout over lowly Massachusetts.
Michigan probably won’t again face a defensive front seven as talented as the Crimson Tide’s.
No. 11 Notre Dame, though, might come close Saturday night with its stout defensive line and swarming linebackers.
Michigan coach Brady Hoke insisted he’s looking forward to seeing how his much-maligned line fares against the likes of 6-foot-3, 326-pound nose guard Louis Nix and star linebacker Manti Te’o.
“To see how far we’ve come from Game 1 to Game 4 is exciting,” Hoke said. “There’s no question that it’s going to be a test.
“They have been very productive as a football team and as a defensive team. We’ll have to block at the line of scrimmage and need to do a great job of protection.”
The Wolverines have been pretty good in pass protection, giving up just two sacks in three games.
But they’ve struggled to push defensive linemen around or to get to linebackers consistently in the running game for anybody other than quarterback Denard Robinson.
Hoke said he’s sticking with the same guys that have started so far: Lewan and Michael Schofield at tackle, guards Ricky Barnum and Patrick Omameh, along with center Elliott Mealer.
“What we have determined to be our best five are playing,” Hoke said. “If someone else is better, believe me, they would have stepped up.”
Lewan said the goal for Michigan’s offensive line is to re-establish the line of scrimmage so that it can control the game.
“If we can do that, I think we’ll be successful,” he said.
That won’t be easy against the Irish.
Their defensive linemen are at least 6-3 and weigh more than 300 pounds. They do a great job of making plays, or at least keeping offensive linemen off linebackers Te’o, Dan Fox, Prince Shembo and Ben Councell.
Notre Dame has given up 30 points combined in three games – including just three in Saturday night’s win at Michigan State – in their best start on defense since the 1988 national championship team allowed 27 points over the first three games.
“The most important thing is our defense continues to be the group that we committed to in building when we started this process,” third-year Irish coach Brian Kelly said. “They are starting to get to that level where they can play with anybody.”