By Ashley Dunkak
ANN ARBOR (CBS DETROIT) – Saturday’s glamorous Top 25 showdown at the Big House will come down to the most unheralded, overlooked men on the field – the linemen.
Michigan’s interior offensive line includes redshirt sophomore Graham Glasgow, redshirt freshman Kyle Kalis and redshirt sophomore Jack Miller. Miller, the center, appeared in six games in 2012. Graham, the left guard, got into five games as a reserve last year. Kalis did not play in any games in 2012. The first start ever, for Glasgow, Kalis and Miller, was last Saturday’s 59-9 blowout of Central Michigan.
On the opposite side of the ball, the youngest member of the Notre Dame defensive line is sophomore Sheldon Day, who played in all 13 games in 2012. Talented junior Stephon Tuitt started every game for the Irish last year and is on the watch lists for the Maxwell Award and the Bednarik Award, among others. Most formidable of all, though, is most certainly senior Louis Nix, listed at 6-feet-3 and 342 pounds and also on the Maxwell and Bednarik watch lists. Both Tuitt and Nix have gotten consideration as preseason All-Americans.
“It’s just inexperience versus the best one-two punch at defensive line in college football, so it’s going to be a tough matchup,” ESPN College GameDay analyst David Pollack said. “If Michigan can kind of neutralize that matchup, I think they have a chance to win.”
Easier said than done, obviously, but for the Michigan offense to have any ability to operate, the young players on the Wolverines’ offensive line have to be stellar.
“I’m really going to focus on how those three are holding up against Louis Nix because I think how they hold up will affect the Notre Dame linebackers and just the overall kind of success or lack thereof of what Michigan’s trying to do,” GameDay analyst Kirk Herbstreit said.
Of course, whether Michigan’s offense is productive will be moot if the Wolverines defense is not solid, and that starts with the ability to disrupt Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees, who completed 27 passes for 315 yards the last time the Irish visited the Big House, in 2011.
“They have to affect Tommy Rees,” Herbstreit said. “They have to get him to put the ball into coverage. Mentally, physically, do whatever they can to affect him.”
Herbstreit, who has a long history with the Big Ten starting with his years as the Ohio State quarterback, said the other key to the game will be the big play.
“Historically, there’s always a play that, 20 years from now, ‘Oh, that’s right,’” Herbstreit said. “2013, who will that be? Who will make that play to be able to be the difference in the game? I think that ultimately could decide the outcome.”