What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?
At times last season, Michigan’s defense line seemed like it defied physics, almost. Even when Rashan Gary and Chase Winovich weren’t setting up camp in opponent’s backfields (a rare occurrence), the Wolverines could still rotate in talented players. While the unit lost Mo Hurst to the NFL draft, Michigan’s line projects to be one of the best in the country, up there with the likes of Ohio State’s, Clemson’s and Alabama’s.
For all the Wolverines’ accolades though, Notre Dame’s offensive line is a tad bit more decorated. Despite losing eventual top 10 picks Quenton Nelson and Mike McGlinchey to the NFL Draft, the Irish return three starters on the line.
Nelson’s loss is especially huge, but guard Alex Bars and center Sam Mustipher are both All-American caliber players with experience at multiple positions along the line. Bars particularly has played out at right tackle and both guard positions.
By starting quarterback Brandon Wimbush, Notre Dame is unapologetically committing to the ground game. Look for Wimbush to scramble often in the Fighting Irish’s RPO-laden offense. While his 49.5 percent completion percentage is easy to scoff at, Wimbush can hurt Michigan by causing chaos outside the pocket, similarly to Trace McSorley and Brian Lewerke last year.
Michigan will have to adhere to real situational football, but fortunately, their defensive line is deep enough to do that. Need a run-stuffer in for a draw play? Bryan Mone should do the trick. On passing downs, Michigan can kick Gary inside and have he and Solomon use their speed to overwhelm Notre Dame’s guards.
Under the lights in South Bend, it might be easier or flashier to watch Notre Dame’s receivers take on Lavert Hill and David Long, or see Devin Bush and Khaleke Hudson zip around the field like sharks smelling blood. But like many games in the storied rivalry, this one will be decided in the trenches.