On Thursday, we dropped a story about the five reasons Michigan will beat Alabama. But today, we will be playing contrarian and listing the five reasons the Tide will be victorious.
1. Nick Saban and program excellence
These two things kind of go hand-in-hand over the last two decades, but Alabama has been the most prestigious dynasty of the 2000s. Head coach Nick Saban has seven national championships dating back to 2003 with LSU.
After joining Alabama, Saban went on a tear of titles in 2009, 2011 and 2012 during the end of the BCS era. Since the College Football Playoff era began, he’s won another three in 2015, 2017 and 2020.
The Crimson Tide have made six national championships of the CFP era, and this is the eighth time they have made the postseason tournament. Saban has the coaching experience advantage over Jim Harbaugh at the collegiate level by a wide margin.
2. Jalen Milroe’s explosiveness
Jalen Milroe will be the most athletic and the best overall quarterback Michigan has faced, and he has played at a really high level in the second half of the season.
Historically, the Wolverines have struggled against mobile quarterbacks. It’s part of the reason why Ohio State went on that long run with Urban Meyer — even pre-Meyer — and the game plan the Buckeyes had seemingly every year with their signal callers.
Milroe has flashed in some big games with his legs, including two games this year where he crossed the century mark. Michigan’s defense will be tasked with keeping him in the pocket and continually putting pressure on him. If is isn’t able to do that, Milroe will make the Wolverines pay with both his arm and legs.
3. Alabama’s relentless pass rush
The Crimson Tide’s pass rush is among the best in the country. They average 3.3 sacks per contest, tied for seventh-best in the country.
Their top two playmakers are Dallas Turner and Chris Braswell, and they each have performed in big games this season. Both of them had a sack in the win over Auburn, Turner earned his ninth of the season against Georgia in the SEC Championship, and Braswell had two in the win over Tennessee.
Michigan’s offensive line has been weakened with the injury of Zak Zinter, and both tackles have struggled to keep J.J. McCarthy upright against quality competition. Penn State’s pass rush is slightly better than Alabama’s, but the two are very comparable. While Michigan won, Penn State basically took McCarthy (eight pass attempts) out of the game.
It’s safe to say all Michigan fans would like to see a better performance from the offensive line against a strong pass rush.
4. Michigan has stunk in the CFP and in bowl games under Harbaugh
As good as Alabama has been in the spotlight, Michigan has been the opposite. The loss to TCU in the Fiesta Bowl last year was somewhat embarrassing. The Wolverines were the better team, but they played their worst game of the season, costing them a shot at the National Championship. The year prior, the Wolverines ran into Georgia — a team destined to win the championship — and were severely outmatched.
Under Harbaugh, the Wolverines are 1-6 in bowl games and haven’t won since his first season with the program. Even in contests where it has felt like Michigan should have the advantage, it has come out flat and lost winnable games.
5. J.J. McCarthy doesn’t take care of the football
The two pick-sixes from McCarthy last season against TCU cost the Wolverines the game. It was so atypical of his career in Ann Arbor for the last two seasons, and it came in the most important game at that point.
McCarthy was elite at the beginning of this season, but since Harbaugh’s suspension, he has dropped off quite a bit. Since the calendar turned to November, McCarthy has thrown one touchdown pass (against Ohio State) and one interception (at Maryland). At one point, he was the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy, but he ended up finishing 10th.
When McCarthy was playing at the pinnacle, it felt like the Wolverines were absolutely unbeatable. They remain undefeated and didn’t need him to have elite games against Ohio State and Penn State, but that may have to change to beat Alabama.