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Inside the numbers: A broad look at how Michigan and Alabama match up

The data likes the Wolverines ahead of the CFP semifinal.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 02 Big Ten Championship Game - Michigan vs Iowa Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Michigan Wolverines are officially set to face the Alabama Crimson Tide in the College Football Playoff. The two teams will meet in the Rose Bowl with a chance to advance to the National Championship and face the winner of Washington vs. Texas. Despite being the No. 1 seed, it could be argued Michigan still got the toughest draw of opponents with Alabama entering the contest as white-hot SEC Champions.

It will be a difficult challenge for the Wolverines, but this isn’t the Alabama of old or even the Alabama team Michigan lost to, 35-16, in the Citrus Bowl in Jan. 2020. And this certainly isn’t the Michigan of old or 2020, either. This is a heavyweight clash between two blue-blood programs with everything on the line.

Here is a 30,000-foot view of how the two teams match up across several key statistical categories. Each number represents the respective national ranking in that category. Of course, these numbers don’t tell the full story, but they can give you an idea of where certain battles will be won or lost that will affect the outcome of this game.

OFFENSE

Scoring Offense

Michigan: 14th
Alabama: 19th

Total Offense

Michigan: 68th (Passing: 75; Rushing: 60)
Alabama: 54th (Passing: 61; Rushing: 49)

Third-Down Conversions

Michigan: 15th
Alabama: 14th

Fourth-Down Conversions

Michigan: 6th
Alabama: 1st

Sacks Allowed

Michigan: 33rd
Alabama: 125th

Tackles for loss Allowed

Michigan: 6th
Alabama: 100th


DEFENSE

Scoring Defense

Michigan: 1st
Alabama: 17th

Total Defense

Michigan: 2nd (Passing: 2; Rushing: 6)
Alabama: 18th (Passing: 23; Rushing: 33)

Opponent Third-Down Conversions

Michigan: 15th
Alabama: 25th

Opponent Fourth-Down Conversions

Michigan: 7th
Alabama: 11th

Sacks

Michigan: 25th
Alabama: 9th

Tackles for loss

Michigan: 41st
Alabama: 25th


SPECIAL TEAMS

Field Goal Percentage

Michigan: t-11th
Alabama: 15th

Punting Average

Michigan: 26th
Alabama: t-6th

Kickoff Return

Michigan: 130th
Alabama: 25th

Punt Return

Michigan: 29th
Alabama: 61st

Opponent Kick Return

Michigan: 22nd
Alabama: 15th

Opponent Punt Return

Michigan: 74th
Alabama: 104th


TEAM

Penalties

Michigan: 1st
Alabama: 56th

Turnover Margin

Michigan: 2nd
Alabama: 20th

Time of Possession

Michigan: 11st
Alabama: 51st


There seem to be decent advantage for Michigan in this matchup — Michigan’s defensive line vs. Alabama’s offensive line. The Crimson Tide give up 3.31 sacks per game, while the Wolverine defense compiles about 2.5 sacks per game. The Tide have improved since a really rough start to the season in this category, but Jalen Milroe was sacked four times against Georgia in the SEC Championship.

But Bama’s got a quality defensive unit as well — ranking No. 17 in scoring defense, No. 18 in total defense, and ranking as a top-10 defensive unit on SP+. The Tide have only give up more than 30 points just once all season, in the early-season loss to Texas.

The stats say this should be a hard-fought battle in the trenches, but we will take a closer look at this matchup on Maize n Brew as we get closer to New Year’s Day.