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Taylor Lewan-Stephon Tuitt is must-watch matchup for scouts

One of the best individual matchups of the season will happen Saturday night in the Michigan-Notre Dame game.

Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan will spend much of his night trying to keep Notre Dame defensive end Stephon Tuitt out of the Wolverines' backfield, and NFL scouts will be watching.

Lewan (6-feet-8, 315 pounds), a fifth-year senior from the Phoenix area, surprised more than a few observers by returning to Michigan for his senior season. He was seen as a likely first-round pick in the 2013 draft but stayed in school anyway. Tuitt (6-6, 322), a junior from the Atlanta area, has drawn a ton of attention for his size/speed combination.

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Tuitt played the second half of last season with an injury that required sports hernia surgery in the offseason; he is healthy and 10 pounds heavier now.

One of the game's big storylines will be whether Lewan needs much help in fending off Tuitt.

"I love it," Tuitt told reporters about the matchup. "You want to go out there with the best of the best. That's how you become better."

Tuitt said he expects Lewan's "A" game and that "I definitely have to bring mine when I go against him."

Lewan told reporters that Notre Dame has "a great defensive line. Overall, they're all good. I'm excited for the opportunity that our young offensive line gets to go against them."

The young and inexperienced interior of Michigan's line could prove troublesome Saturday. While Lewan and fellow fifth-year senior Michael Schofield form one of the nation's best tackle duos, projected interior starters Graham Glasgow, Kyle Kalis and Jack Miller have started one game each in their careers. That could mean big things for touted Notre Dame senior nose tackle Louis Nix III and the Irish's inside linebackers. Michigan's tailbacks don't have blazing speed and need to be effective running between the tackles. If Nix mucks things up in the middle, that's a huge boost for the Irish.

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly knows, though, that Michigan also is going to try to run outside.

"When you have [Lewan] on the edge, they're going to try to run to his side," Kelly said at his news conference this week. "You know they want to get the ball outside your defense, so we have to be really good on the edge. We have to do a great job of keeping the ball inside our defense. So whoever is there has got to do a great job of making sure they can control the edge of the defense."

Mike Huguenin can be reached at mike.huguenin@nfl.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.

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