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October 28, 2013At a gargantuan 6-8, 315, fifth-year senior left tackle Taylor Lewan knows what it feels like to be bullied.
He begrudgingly admitted it during Monday's weekly Michigan football press conference, remember the Wolverines' 28-14 loss at Michigan State in East Lansing in 2011, a grudge match of a game that the Spartans dominated along the trenches.
"If someone came up to you and hit you right in the face, would you take that personally? Yeah, I'd take it personally," Lewan said. "Every single time. No one likes to get bullied, and that's what they did to us two years ago. They bullied us.
"That's tough for me to admit, because I don't like getting bullied. I don't want it to happen. It's going to be a physical game, and we're not going to be bullied this year."
During the press conference, at which Lewan, fifth-year senior right tackle Michael Schofield, redshirt junior outside linebacker Jake Ryan and Michigan coach Brady Hoke addressed the media, the word "physical" was uttered no fewer than 30 times.
The Wolverines always talk about physicality - but not necessarily like this. The Wolverines and Spartans play in a nationally televised contest Saturday afternoon, and physicality is going to be the name of the game.
Facing a team that ranks first nationally in total defense (215.5 yards per game), first nationally in rushing defense (54.9 yards per game), third nationally in passing defense (153.7 yards per game) and third nationally in scoring defense (12.3 points per game), Michigan knows what expect.
"We have to play more physical than they do," Lewan said. "They're a physical team. They have the No. 1 defense in the nation. It's a great opportunity for us. Devin, the big games we've played in, he has played great. I'm excited for this offense, defense, our whole team. I'm excited to see what happens.
"I expect every single guy, whether they're a freshman or a senior, to understand the rivalry between Michigan and Michigan State, especially guys from Michigan who understand the rivalry a lot more than other guys do. You prepare, prepare, prepare and get ready for a physical game. It's the biggest game of your life, because it's the next game. If we want to win a Big Ten Championship, we have to win them all."
Schofield said the first moment he realized how "big and intense" the Michigan State rivalry was was the first offensive snap of the 2011 game, the first time he played against the Spartans.
You can talk to the youngsters about the fierceness of the game - but they won't truly know until they strap on the pads.
True freshman left guard Kyle Bosch, who will likely become the fifth Wolverine in history to notch a start as a true freshman along the offensive line, is in the boat.
"He'll get it come the first play of the game," Schofield said. "My first time really understanding was the first game against State two years ago. When you play against them, you really understand how big and intense of a rivalry it is. He'll understand it pretty quick."
But his linemates are not worried about how he will respond.
"He's mean," Lewan said. "Being a true freshman, he might not know every call. I didn't know every call when I was his age, but I knew that when I was on the field, I was going 100 percent and trying to take someone out. Legally of course. And I think Bosch has that same thing about him. I'm excited about him for the future. I think he will be a great player, going down the road. Right now, he's prepared, he's physical and I'm excited to see him play."