With the College Football Playoff (CFP) selection show now firmly in the rearview mirror, it’s time to shift the focus to the task at hand: actual football games.
No. 1 Michigan will face off with No. 4 Alabama on New Years Day in the Rose Bowl. We here at Maize n Brew have our own thoughts on the game, but we’ll get to those in time. For now, let’s survey the landscape and see what the national media has to say about the matchup.
Richard Johnson, Sports Illustrated
Alabama wins if: The Tide can stay in two-high coverages on defense
Saban said after the SEC championship game that the Tide got out of a defensive structure with only one safety deep once Georgia marched down the field on the first drive of the game. Bama’s front stood tall against the Georgia run game all day and was able to do it with two safeties deep (meaning fewer players closer to the line of scrimmage). A probable game plan will be Bama’s defense forcing Michigan to prove it is as adept in the run game as it purports itself to be with Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards. If Bama can stay in two-high coverages in the Rose Bowl and make J.J. McCarthy throw to beat them, is he up to the task?
Michigan wins if: The Wolverines can force Jalen Milroe into mistakes
When the ball is in Bama quarterback Jalen Milroe’s hands, the question isn’t whether you can stop him, it’s if you can hope to contain him as a runner. But as a passer, Milroe can make mistakes and put the ball in harm’s way. He’s gotten better over the course of the season, but if it is the Tide that have to chase in an aerial duel, are they good enough to pull that off with a passing game that doesn’t test the intermediate parts of the field too often?
Bill Bender, The Sporting News
Jalen Milroe averaged 220.2 passing yards with 10 TDs and one interception in Alabama’s last five games, and he’s up against the top-scoring defense in the FBS. Which team generates a running game and sustains that in the second half? J.J. McCarthy will make it interesting, but how will Michigan’s offensive line hold up against an Alabama pass rush that features Dallas Turner? Alabama is 3-1 S/U as an underdog in the CFP era. You just can’t give that card to Nick Saban.
Pick: Alabama wins 26-23 in an UPSET
Pete Fiutak, College Football News
I sort of don’t think Alabama is THAT good, mostly because I sort of don’t think the SEC this year is THAT good.
It’s not like the Big Ten is a killer, but I believe in the Ohio State talent level, and I do think the world has badly blown off Penn State because of its totally absent downfield passing game - that D is for real.
There’s just something psychotically methodical about this Michigan team, just like a few of other recent CFP teams.
Whether it was 2016 Clemson that played like it couldn’t rest until it had another shot at Bama, or 2020 Ohio State that totally lost its mind at the idea of a global pandemic possibly keeping it from righting the perceived wrong in the epic Fiesta Bowl loss to Clemson, to the 2020 Bama team that went scorched earth after going two seasons without a national title, this Michigan team seems to have that same laser focus.
And it’s not just because of the Michigan vs Everybody thing. It’s because of the embarrassing face-plant against TCU.
My issues with 2023 Bama are the same as 2022, and definitely 2021. That ‘21 team was obviously outstanding, and it almost won the national title, but we all know what BAMA looks like (2020, 2015, 2011).
2023 Michigan isn’t 2021 Cincinnati.
First Thought Bowl Prediction: Michigan 26, Alabama 20
Dennis Dodd, CBS Sports
If you like slobber-knocking defense, this one’s for you. Michigan is attempting to become the first team to allow less than 10 points per game since (surprise!) Alabama in 2011. How’s that for serendipity?
Kris Jenkins is the latest in a list of All-America worthy defensive tackles. Offensively, Harbaugh will go down swinging by pounding the ball before setting up the occasional play-action pass.
The Crimson Tide are typically salty themselves on D. In fact, this unit might be better than the one that featured Will Anderson Jr. last season. Pass rusher Dallas Turner is having an All-American season. We’ll probably be watching the two best defensive backs in the country as Michigan’s Mike Sainristil and Alabama’s Terrion Arnold each have five interceptions.
Like he was against Georgia, the difference might be Milroe. The comparisons to Tim Tebow are valid — both as a thrower and runner. If things get close — and they will — there is every chance Milroe will be the best ball carrier on the field.
In what should be a Rose Bowl classic that goes down to the final 5 minutes, take Alabama.
It seems as though there is no real consensus regarding this game just yet. The only thing that everyone can agree on: it should be a close one!