Michigan's Offensive Line Will Not Be Able to Handle Notre Dame's Front Seven

Zach Dirlam@Zach_DirlamSenior Analyst IISeptember 16, 2012

The Michigan Wolverines offensive line is still struggling to get in rhythm.
The Michigan Wolverines offensive line is still struggling to get in rhythm.Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Although the University of Michigan blew out the UMass Minutemen 63-13 at the Big House on Saturday, in what amounted to be nothing more than a glorified scrimmage, the Wolverines did not find a solution for their problems along the offensive line. 

"I wasn't frustrated with our offensive linemen, because I know how hard they go to work, how much they put into it," Michigan's head coach Brady Hoke said after the rout, according to Michael Spath of TheWolverine.com. "But at the same time, they've got to do better." 

The Wolverines piled up 294 rushing yards and close to 600 yards of total offense, but Hoke knows Michigan's toughest games are on the horizon and that the offensive line must get better if they hope to contend for a Big Ten championship this season. 

"I don't think we moved the line of scrimmage as well as we needed to," Hoke said. "We better play with better leverage, combination block better when we're doing that, and we'd better finish. 

"I told them the same things I told you, it's a great win, but if (we) want to win the Big Ten Championship, we've got to improve in a lot of areas, and that starts up front on both lines of scrimmage." 

After seeing the Wolverines offensive line in action, hearing Hoke's comments after the game and watching the Notre Dame Fighting Irish's front seven completely shut down the Michigan State Spartans offense late Saturday night, there is a major cause for concern as Michigan prepares to travel to South Bend, Ind., this weekend. 

The Fighting Irish held one of the Big Ten's best running backs, Le'Veon Bell, to 77 yards on 19 carries, in addition to recording five sacks and keeping Michigan State out of the end zone the entire night. 

In fact, the Spartans only managed to run two plays in Notre Dame territory in the second half of their 20-3 loss. Additionally, Michigan State never crossed Notre Dame's 26-yard line and only had four plays go for 15 or more yards. 

Notre Dame's defensive front, led by monstrous junior nose tackle Louis Nix and sophomore defensive end Stephon Tuitt, battered Michigan State's offensive line for much of the game and constantly pressured Andrew Maxwell, who only completed 23-of-45 pass attempts. 

Standout linebackers Manti Te'o and Prince Shembo also helped the Notre Dame defense keep Bell in check for the whole contest, which is not a good sign for Michigan's starting running back Fitzgerald Toussaint. 

The bottom line is: Notre Dame's front seven looked scary-good against the Spartans and the Wolverines offensive line is still trying to jell, which is a mismatch waiting to be exposed next Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium. 

Michigan fans will be quick to dismiss Notre Dame's early season success and hang their hopes on the Wolverines' current three-game winning streak against the Fighting Irish; however, these two teams look to be headed in very different directions this year. 

The Wolverines look as though they will be stuck in a dogfight with Michigan State and the Nebraska Cornhuskers for the Legends Division title, while Notre Dame finally appears as though it can live up to their preseason press clippings. 

Unless Michigan's offensive line finds a ferocity unknown to mankind this week in practice, it will be tough sledding for the Wolverines against Notre Dame's stout front seven.

Zach Dirlam is the former Lead Editor of the College Basketball section as well as a Big Ten columnist for the FOX Sports/MSN/YardBarker affiliate website Sports at Work.

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