It doesn’t take much of a football expert to see that the Michigan offensive line is playing better this season than in the previous three under coach Jim Harbaugh. Credit a familiar name, Ed Warinner, because Harbaugh does.

The line coach of Ohio State’s 2014 national championship team and the Buckeyes' offensive coordinator in 2015 and ’16 is in his first season with the Wolverines after spending last year at Minnesota.

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OSU defenders who studied video this week in preparation for Saturday’s game against the Wolverines could see the Warinner influence.

“The one thing that stuck out with me with coach Warinner in my time here was the way he always preached finishing blocks,” middle linebacker Tuf Borland said. “That’s something that is evident up there. They’re big; they’re nasty. They’re going to try and finish you.”

>> Video: Ohio State RG Demetrius Knox on his former coach Ed Warinner

It has added an attitude to an offensive line that at times in recent years had trouble protecting its quarterbacks. That transfer quarterback Shea Patterson has succeeded all season is in part testament to the Warinner effect.

“Ed has been just phenomenal,” Harbaugh said this week. “He’s a great teacher. He’s got each of our linemen playing their best football. And he gives answers; that’s what the players are looking for the most. He definitely has contributed to us winning as many games as we have this year.”

Ohio State senior guard Demetrius Knox said he misses working with Warinner, who parted ways with the Buckeyes and coach Urban Meyer after the 2016 season.

“Our program is one big family, and when he left, it was like losing a family member,” Knox said. “I’m happy things are going well for him still now, and he has a great opportunity over there. But he’s definitely going to get our very best.”

Whether Warinner’s knowledge about many of the Buckeyes gives the Wolverines some sort of advantage is a moot point to Knox.

“I haven’t really thought about that, but I believe the key to this game is toughness, and at the end of the day, there’s no secret to toughness,” Knox said. “Either you are, or you aren’t, and that’s the goal for this game.”

The Game, in a nutshell

When defensive tackle Davon Hamilton was being recruited by the Buckeyes out of Pickerington Central headed toward the 2015 signing class, there was a meeting he had with defensive line coach Larry Johnson and then-defensive coordinator Luke Fickell at a Pickerington restaurant that clinched his decision, he said.

“The first thing they asked me was, ‘Obviously, you’re from Columbus. Do you understand what it means to beat the Team Up North?’ ” Hamilton recalled. “I gave them my definition of what that was, and (coach Johnson) was, like, ‘Well, I’d like to have you down on campus for a little bit.’”

As for that magic answer, he said he told them that “overall, it means everything to me. Obviously, we’re not supposed to lose The Game.”

tmay@dispatch.com

@TIM_MAYsports