Saturday, September 1, 2012

Preview: Michigan vs. Alabama

Rush Offense vs. Alabama Rush Defense
Michigan had the #13 rushing offense in 2011 while averaging almost 222 yards a game.  Unfortunately, that included Fitzgerald Toussaint's nearly 87 yards per game, which will likely disappear for week one while he serves a suspension for a DUI.  He'll likely be replaced by sophomore Thomas Rawls, who had just 13 carries in non-critical situations last season.  Meanwhile, Alabama replaces nine starters on defense but had the #1 overall rushing defense in 2011.  They will still be good at stopping the run, even with all the new contributors.  The Crimson Tide will likely abuse the middle of Michigan's offensive line with blitzes, slants, and brute strength.  I would not be surprised to see a total output like that from the Sugar Bowl against Virginia Tech, when Michigan rushed 30 times for 56 yards.
Advantage: Alabama

Pass Offense vs. Alabama Pass Defense
The Wolverines suffered from what amounted to a mediocre passing game last season, finishing #93 in total passing yardage and #40 in passing efficiency.  Robinson struggled early in the season while adjusting to a pro-style system; he improved later in the season when offensive coordinator Al Borges determined that Robinson isn't a very good passer, instead calling easy passing plays.  On the season, Robinson completed 55% of his passes and threw 15 picks.  Now Michigan is without its top receiver from last season (Junior Hemingway) and has a crew of guys who aren't #1 receivers or who haven't played college ball yet.  Meanwhile, Alabama was #1 in passing defense, #1 in pass efficiency defense, and #29 in sacks.  Despite breaking in all the new starters, the Crimson Tide will still be better than Michigan in this area and cause some confusion for the Wolverines.
Advantage: Alabama
Rush Defense vs. Alabama Rush Offense
Michigan has new starters at all four spots along the defensive line, with Craig Roh moving from weakside end to the strong side.  It is expected to be the biggest weakness of the defense.  Meanwhile, all of the back seven return, including leading tackler Kenny Demens, the middle linebacker.  The Wolverines will probably put eight guys in the box (including safety Jordan Kovacs) and take their chances against the pass.  Starting running back Eddie Lacy may miss Saturday's game with a sprained knee, so the rushing load may fall to junior Jalston Fowler (56 carries, 385 yards, 4 touchdowns last year) or true freshman T.J. Yeldon, a 6'2", 216-pounder.  Redshirt freshman Demetrius Hart could also figure into the rotation.  Michigan's safeties are good tacklers, so there shouldn't be a ton of big plays in the running game, but Alabama will be able to push around the Wolverines up front.

Pass Defense vs. Alabama Pass Offense
The Crimson Tide were very balanced in 2011, rushing for 214 yards a game and passing for 215.  Quarterback A.J. McCarron is very careful with the football (just 5 interceptions last season), and while he doesn't have a ton of capability to make big plays in the passing game, he was the 25th-most efficient passer in the country last season.  However, he lost his top four targets from last season, leaving junior Kenny Bell as the leading returning receiver (17 catches, 255 yards, 2 touchdowns).  Michigan was #16 in pass defense and #36 in pass efficiency defense, and all the key components of their coverage return.  The Wolverines will likely take a step back in sacks (#29 last season) now that Mike Martin and Ryan Van Bergen have graduated, but they will probably blitz more frequently to make up for the lack of athleticism up front.

Roster notes
  • Michigan recruited DT Chris Bonds, S Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix, LB Trey DePriest, CB John Fulton, RB Dee Hart, CB Cyrus Jones, OL Ryan Kelly, OL Arie Kouandjio, OL Cyrus Kouandjio, LB Dillon Lee, CB Dee Milliner, LB Tana Patrick, RB Blake Sims, CB Geno Smith, DE Dalvin Tomlinson, and CB Jabriel Washington
  • RB Dee Hart was once committed to Michigan prior to the firing of Rich Rodriguez
  • Head coach Nick Saban and TE/ST coach Bobby Williams both used to be head coaches at Michigan State
  • Denard Robinson throws at least two interceptions
  • The rush defense holds up better than expected
  • Michigan rushes for less than 100 yards
  • Alabama 31, Michigan 17


  1. Sadly, I think that prediction is right on the money.

  2. What a ballsy prediction.