Michigan Football: Wolverines' 4 Keys to Stopping Louis Nix
Prior to May, Notre Dame's Louis Nix was just another good player at a rival school.
On Sept. 7, the historic—yes, it's historic, coach Brian Kelly—matchup will be played for the final time at The Big House in Ann Arbor.
Coming off a 59-9 victory over Central Michigan, Hoke has yet to lose at home. Kelly's Irish defeated Temple, 28-6, and were ranked at No. 14 in the latest AP poll, three spots ahead of Hoke and Co.
Will Hoke be the meat chicken or will it be Notre Dame?
Much of that depends on how well the Wolverines contain Nix, a former 4-star prospect.
Frustrate, Bother and Pester
Typically, senior All-Americans are on-point, focused and penalty-free.
Well, Michigan fans figured out that's not always true after left tackle Taylor Lewan was caught bending the rules a couple of times Saturday versus the Chippewas.
The case was the same for Louis Nix, who, like Lewan, is one of the best at his respective position.
Nix was flagged for a pair of offsides calls Saturday during Notre Dame's 28-6 victory over Temple. It was the first game of the season and Nix was likely excited and eager—that's to be expected.
However, Saturday's clash with Team 134 is one of the most important of the season for Nix's Irish. Will he have nerves going into The Big House? Is he past his mistakes from opening week?
If so, Michigan has to keep with the penalty spree and give Nix reason after reason to prematurely jump off the line.
Frustration plays a large part in that equation, too. If a player is flustered, penalties seemingly pile up with ease. Keeping Nix hot-headed would be the ideal situation for the Wolverines, who lost 13-6 in 2012.
Speaking of the obvious, attacking a player's weaknesses are a great way to gain an advantage.
Louis Nix is one of the strongest linemen in college. He's most certainly NFL-bound and poses a physical challenge for younger, less developed opponents. Underclassmen need not apply when it comes to battling Nix, who posed as a 340-pound quarterback during Notre Dame's spring game.
Michigan doesn't have to worry about Nix throwing the ball Saturday. However, the Wolverines should worry about Nix throwing around Wolverines. Then, they can concentrate on carrying out the mission of stopping him.
According to a recent draft profile, he indeed has an Achilles' heel.
Wayne B. Jones of NEPatriotsDraft.com wrote the following about the husky Irish nose guard:
Strength and endurance must improve for competition on the next level. He needs to build more upper body strength to shed quickly from blockers. Nix is a good bull rusher, but he needs to develop more and varied pass rushing moves.
In essence, Jones hints at Nix's propensity for getting winded. He's a big guy, that happens. He's definitely a "motor" player, though. Michigan can't underestimate him. The wise choice would be to give Nix plenty of attention so that way he's forced to put his hands at his side in between plays, bend over or show other signs of fatigue.
After that, it's time to attack again.
Nix bull rushes well, that much is true. But he's not really mobile. By wedging him away, Michigan's offensive line can derail a 350-pound train bound for quarterback Devin Gardner and their running backs. He's not impossible to defend, but he can be handled.
Saturday, mission "Melt Irish Chocolate" commences.
Instill Confidence in Centers
During the 2013 BCS title game, Alabama center Barrett Jones held Louis Nix at bay.
Obviously, being a competitor, Nix begged to differ.
But a score of 42-14 and 265 yards rushing yards are hard to argue against.
As a Rimington Award winner, Jones was on the top of his game last year. And if that's what it takes to corral Nix, Michigan can certainly use that as motivation for sophomore Jack Miller and junior Joey Burzynski.
Two years ago, the Wolverines had David Molk, a Rimington winner. Offensive line has long been a source of pride for Michigan football. By watching film of past dominant lines and taking after Molk and Jones, the pair of Wolverines centers can better prepare themselves for Nix, an elite defender.
The whole "respect all, fear none" mentality must be the mindset for Miller and Burzynksi. With a young middle of the line, tackles Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield may have to assist on occasion.
Defeat Irish by Respecting Nix, D-Line
Notre Dame's defensive line may be the best in the country.
According to college football guru Phil Steele, it is.
That being said, the Wolverines will have their hands full with Louis Nix, but there's also Prince Shembo and Stephon Tuitt to contend with.
Why worry about only Nix? There's reason to worry about everyone. But that's high-level football, and Michigan can't waste a lot of time asking what-ifs about Nix; he'll get his standard five or six tackles and cause trouble, sure. But he's just one player.
Maintaining the line of scrimmage and minimizing the impact of the rest of Notre Dame's line should have a domino effect, stopping one side can cause momentum to carry across the line, one player at a time.
Hoke is probably giving his players the obligatory "control what you can control" speech right about now. Handling a game well in advance is next to impossible, but handling a game one play at a time isn't.
Simply said, that's the way Nix should be addressed—not at a game-wide level, but at a single-play level.
Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81