Notre Dame won’t play a down of football until September 1st, but when they do, the Michigan Wolverines will be the opponent. It will be Notre Dame’s offensive line that will be the key to victory over Michigan.
When the Irish play Michigan in South Bend to open the season, there will be plenty of intrigue, to say the least. The two teams have a fairly solid rivalry, dating back to their first matchup in 1887. The rivalry, however, really heated up in the late 1970’s. In all, the Irish and the Wolverines have met 41 times. The Wolverines lead the series between the two schools, 24-16-1.
This time around, the Irish and Wolverines should have a little extra intrigue, given that they haven’t met since Notre Dame’s 37… I mean 31-0 victory over the Wolverines in South Bend in 2014.
Aside from the pageantry that certain will follow a matchup between two of College Football’s winningest programs, there will be some gargantuan matchups on the field, featuring each of the team’s biggest players. It’s cliché to say “the game will be one in the trenches.” However, this statement couldn’t be truer for this game, specifically when Notre Dame has the football.
Mark it down: Notre Dame and Michigan will come down to the matchup of the Irish’s new-look offensive line against Michigan’s talented defensive line.
To say the Wolverines are stout up front would be an understatement. Jim Harbaugh’s squad features the lines of Chase Winovich and Rashan Gary at defensive end. Those two registered 131 total tackles, 30.5 tackles for loss, and 14 sacks combined last season, according to Sports Reference (link).
The good news? Michigan loses Maurice Hurst, Jr. at defensive tackle. Hurst contributed 59 total tackles, 13 tackles for loss, and 5.5 sacks a year ago.
The bad news? Michigan still has plenty of a talent to supplement their defensive line. Aubrey Solomon saw some time last season after being the top defensive tackle in the 2017 recruiting class. Brian Mone started last year and should be the group’s anchor when the Michigan defense steps on the field in South Bend.
Notre Dame’s new-look offensive line will have its hands full, especially on the edges. In particular, Liam Eichenberg will be challenged against Winovich in his first career start.
Notre Dame has its fair share of weapons that they have developed, but much of that will be for naught if the Irish are unable to run the football and protect Brandon Wimbush in September. It’s early, but perhaps it’s not too early to say that Notre Dame’s offensive line will be the key to making the Irish the true victors over Michigan.