No. 1 Michigan (13-0) has a stiff test ahead of them in the Rose Bowl when they face No. 4 Alabama (12-1). Part of the stiff test will revolve around limiting the production of Alabama quarterback Jalen Milroe, who will be the most explosive QB Michigan’s faced this season.
Milroe completed 65 percent of his passes this season for 2,718 yards and 23 touchdowns with six interceptions. Milroe’s quite dynamic and can kill a team with his running prowess — Milroe had 468 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground.
Milroe’s had heroic performances of late. Alabama beat then No. 1 Georgia in the SEC Championship Game. Milroe completed just 56.5 percent of his passes but made key plays including two passing touchdowns in the second quarter that turned a 7-3 deficit into a 17-7 lead. Milroe would go on to have a 30-yard run on the final possession of the game that put Bama in victory formation up 27-24. There’s a hit and miss element to Milroe’s game, but he’s still lightning in a bottle and ready to explode at any time.
Jalen Milroe ➡️ Jermaine Burton— 247Sports (@247Sports) December 2, 2023
The former Georgia Bulldog scores against his own team to make it a two-score game at halftime pic.twitter.com/tuf5UFQkjw
Milroe also kept Alabama’s postseason hopes alive in November against Auburn. Trailing 24-20 with 43 seconds left in the game Alabama had a 4th and Goal situation — from the 31-yard line! Milroe, with plenty of time and sending just two pass rushers launched a touchdown pass to Isaiah Bond. Alabama would win the game 27-24.
Alabama needed a touchdown to go ahead with minutes remaining against Auburn. Jalen Milroe had all the time in the world and managed this incredible pass to Isaiah Bond. Roll Tide! pic.twitter.com/DQPJHCs1Hq— ESPN Australia & NZ (@ESPNAusNZ) November 26, 2023
“He’s playing at an elite level,” Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh said about Milroe last week. “You can see the improvement throughout the season. Really seems like he hit an inflection point there right before the halfway mark.”
Harbaugh went on to call Milroe “elite” and commended his timing and decision-making.
“He’s playing really well within the system,” Harbaugh said. “They’ve designed some great stuff for him.”
Milroe finished No. 6 in the Heisman voting, but actually outclassed Heisman winning LSU QB Jayden Daniels back in November. Milroe passed for 219 yards and had 155 yards rushing with an astounding four rushing scores.
Jalen Milroe in the 1st half vs. LSU— 247Sports (@247Sports) November 5, 2023
-165 passing yards
-102 rushing yards
-THREE rushing touchdowns
Alabama and LSU tied up at 21 pic.twitter.com/095cojzI5n
There were bumps in the road for Milroe this season, it wasn’t always smooth sailing. He struggled against Texas in September. Milroe was 14-of-27 for 255 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions in the 34-24 loss, Alabama’s only loss of the season. Milroe also struggled in an unexpectedly close game against Arkansas in October. Milroe was just 10-of-21 but picked up chunks of yards with those ten completions and had 238 yards passing and two touchdowns in a 24-21 win. Still, when factoring in the best and worst Milroe has to offer the evidence indicates he can give a defense fits if he’s allowed ample time to run around and throw the football.
Milroe’s the second-highest rated QB Michigan has faced in ESPN’s Total QBR metric. Milroe ranks No. 9. Coincidentally, the No. 8 QB on the list is Ohio State’s Kyle McCord. McCord was 18-of-30 for 271 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions in Ohio State's 30-24 loss to the Wolverines. Michigan faced two other quarterbacks in the top 30 of the ESPN QBR, with Maryland’s Taulia Tagovailoa at No. 26 and Penn State’s Drew Allar at No. 27. Tagovailoa had zero touchdowns and two interceptions against Michigan while Allar was 10-of-22 for 70 yards with one passing touchdown along with 49 rushing yards and one rushing score. If Michigan can keep Milroe to stat lines similar to the ones above, their chances of beating Bama will greatly increase.
The way to neutralize Milroe is to put him on the ground. Consistent pressure will be important for Michigan’s defense. Alabama ranks No. 114 in sacks allowed, Michigan ranks No. 34 in team sacks. Milroe’s been sacked 38 times, which is seventh most in the nation.
Michigan ranks No. 2 in total defense, Alabama ranks No. 53 in total offense. It would appear the edge should go to Michigan’s defense, but games aren’t won on a stat sheet — the outcome will be earned on New Year’s Day.