clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Column: Dominant offensive line play leads to National Championship, best season in Michigan football history

This championship was won because of the big men up front.

2024 CFP National Championship - Michigan v Washington Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

The Michigan Wolverines have reached the college football mountaintop. After beating Ohio State and winning the Big Ten Championship for the third season in a row, the Michigan Wolverines have won the National Championship for the first time in 26 years, beating the Washington Huskies, 34-13.

It was a truly dominant performance up front by the Wolverines. Michigan rushed for four touchdowns and 303 yards while allowing J.J. McCarthy to be sacked just once. Per the ESPN broadcast, that’s the most yards by any college football team in a National Championship Game in the CFP and BCS eras.

Michigan fans are going to remember those two first-half Donovan Edwards touchdowns forever. Edwards had a career performance at the perfect time, becoming the first player to rush for two 40-yard touchdowns in a CFP title game, per ESPN.

Let’s go back and look at how the big men up front performed on those touchdowns.

This is amazing blocking on the first touchdown. It’s great recognition by Edwards to bounce it outside, but he wouldn’t have scored without guard Trevor Keegan standing up his man, center Drake Nugent getting to the second level, and tackle LaDarius Henderson sealing off his defender to give Edwards the edge.

The blocking on his second touchdown was even better.

Almost every lineman gets a push at the point of attack, and the hole created by guard Karsen Barnhart and tackle Myles Hinton is large enough to drive a pickup truck through. That block by tight end Colston Loveland in the open field is icing on the cake, and Edwards scores from 46 yards out without even being touched by a defender.

It wouldn’t be a Michigan football win without Blake Corum scoring two touchdowns, which is exactly what Michigan’s all-time leader in rushing touchdowns did. On his first score, a pulling Keegan leads the way, and blocks by him and Barnhart down the field put the nail in the coffin.

The Wolverines’ ability to run the football was their biggest strength all season long, and the offensive line played a huge part in that. They helped Michigan score 40 rushing touchdowns this season, tied with Georgia for the most in Division I football. While the Wolverines did play more games than most teams in college football, their dominance upfront was undeniable.

A performance like the one in last year’s National Championship was years in the making.

Sherrone Moore — on top of calling plays and occasionally serving as head coach — has helped develop Michigan’s offensive line into people maulers. It’s a unit that won the Joe Moore award in 2021 and 2022, and while the Huskies took that award from them in 2023, they proved to be the better line when it mattered most.

The Wolverines did this in the title game without Zak Zinter, the All-American and a team captain, and one of the best offensive linemen in the Harbaugh era. While he didn’t play in the Big Ten Championship and the College Football Playoff, he played a big role in this offensive line being as good as it has been the last few seasons. He has enough tape to show an NFL team why he deserves to be drafted.

Many Michigan players who play flashier positions will rightfully be remembered for this season, including J.J. McCarthy, Corum, Edwards, Roman Wilson, Will Johnson, Mike Sainristil and so many others.

But make no mistake: Michigan’s dominant offensive line play all season long won them this championship, with their best performance of the season coming at the best possible time.

Props to Zinter, Barnhart, Keegan, Nugent, Henderson, Hinton, Trente Jones and all the other offensive linemen that made this championship season possible. As long as Moore runs this unit, dominant offensive line play will be Michigan’s identity. I hope undecided offensive line recruits have come to realize that.