Michigan OL Taylor Lewan downplaying clash with fellow All-American Jadeveon Clowney
ANN ARBOR -- Nine offensive and defensive linemen were named first-team All-Americans last week.
Two will face off against each other Jan. 1, when No. 19 Michigan battles No. 11 South Carolina in the Outback Bowl.
Taylor Lewan. Jadeveon Clowney.
A titanic clash of big men.
Lewan, though, is trying to downplay his matchup with South Carolina's star defensive end.
"At the end of the day, it's not an individual matchup," the left tackle said last week. "Obviously, he and I will have our battles here and there, but there are times when I have the three-technique going up to linebackers. We have screen plays. There are a lot of different things. It's not like it's going to be one-on-one all the time.
"It's about the University of Michigan and South Carolina. It's not about Taylor Lewan and Jadeveon Clowney."
But it doesn't diminish Lewan vs. Clowney as one of the game's biggest draws.
Lewan had a standout season on an offensive line that otherwise struggled. He was named the Big Ten's Offensive Lineman of the Year, made the league's first team and last week was honored as a Walter Camp first-team All-American.
He's being projected as a top-15 prospect if he declares for the NFL after this season.
Clowney, meantime, led the nation with 13 sacks and was second with 21.5 tackles for loss. He was named the SEC's Defensive Player of the Year and was a unanimous All-SEC selection.
He won the Ted Hendricks Award last week as the nation's top defensive end, and already is being projected as a top-five pick if he declares for the NFL after next season.
This will be the greatest challenge of Lewan's career.
"He is a phenomenal player," Lewan said. "I know he has done a great job. He had 13.5 sacks, 23 tackles for loss. He has done a great job, and I'm excited to have the opportunity to play against him."
Lewan is trying to downplay the matchup, yet has Clowney's statistics memorized?
"Well, yeah -- they're big numbers," Lewan said. "He plays with a motor. He plays very fast, strong. He can shift. He likes to swim a lot, get your hands of him. He's fast, too.
"He brings a lot of things to the table, in both the run and pass game."
Lewan's ability to contain Clowney will be a key to Michigan upsetting South Carolina, which is a 4.5 favorite in the Outback Bowl.
The Gamecocks aren't explosive offensively, especially with star tailback Marcus Lattimore out with a knee injury, but their defense is one of the most disruptive in the country. They rank 12th in total defense, 13th in scoring defense, 15th in rush defense and sixth in sacks.
South Carolina's strength is its defensive line, led by Clowney.
All eyes will be on Lewan and his ability to blunt that attack.
-- Download the Michigan football on MLive app for iPhone and Android
-- Download the Michigan basketball on MLive app for iPhone and Android
-- Follow Kyle Meinke and Nick Baumgardner on Twitter
-- Like MLive's Michigan Wolverines Facebook page