The buzz after Alabama's convincing 21-0 win over LSU suggests that the Wolverines will be no match for the Crimson Tide when they open the 2012 season at Cowboys Stadium.
The Crimson Tide had just wrapped up their second BCS title in the last three years, and it was also the SEC's sixth straight championship since Texas defeated Southern Cal in 2006.
The SEC is no doubt the dominant conference in college football today.
"I think it's different styles of football," LSU center P.J. Lonergan told a New Orleans television station." Over here at LSU and the SEC, we are a lot more focused on running the football and big-time defense. I just think those are different styles of football. We just play different here."
It's also no secret they play with better, faster players, packed stadiums, and an excellent recruiting base. The population shift from the rust belt to the sun belt has helped in that regard.
But the top teams in other conferences play similar football.
Except for the last few seasons, Michigan has done well against SEC competition. Overall, the Wolverines are 20-6-1 during the regular season and 7-3 in bowl games. Hopefully, performances like the 52-14 loss to Mississippi State have been tucked away in the past.
Wolverines head coach Brady Hoke is slowly reviving the SEC's staple of running the ball and playing good defense. Recruiting the fastest players (with size, too) will come in time, and Hoke is making inroads there, too.
Scout.com has Michigan's 2012 recruiting class rated third in the nation, ahead of every SEC school except Alabama.
With National Signing Day nearly three weeks away (Feb. 1), there's still room for the Wolverines to add three or four players. One possibility is cornerback prospect Armani Reeves, who conceivably could contribute immediately.
The most likely commit to play right away is 6'3", 320-pound tackle Ondre Pipkins, who would move into Mike Martin's nose tackle spot.
The Wolverines must fill a few other spots, but defeating Alabama is entirely possible.
Let's see what Michigan must accomplish to bring home a victory:
Devin Gardner (7)
Just because Alabama's defense allowed only 8.8 points a game and shut down LSU twice, there's no reason for concern.
Only six defensive starters return, and two of the top three tacklers have departed.
Michigan should have learned something from playing Bud Foster's Virginia Tech defense.
One way to combat a quick defensive unit is to attack it with some three-step drops. Of course, that's not Denard Robinson's forte, but Devin Gardner's size makes him a natural for that type a game.
To beat Alabama, Michigan will have to employ both quarterbacks, so why not do it at the same time?
Reviving the diamond formation and sending Robinson in motion would add to the fun.
Going into spring practice, Michigan's offensive line will be missing a pair of starters and plenty of confidence.
The puzzling thing is that the line played well at times against some fairly good teams. Illinois, Ohio State and Nebraska all fared reasonably well in the Big Ten, and Michigan moved the ball with little problem.
Truth is, the line was ineffective against Notre Dame, Michigan State and Virginia Tech.
To beat Alabama, Michigan must at least get a standoff.
Look for redshirt freshman Jack Miller to win the competition at center, and redshirt freshman Chris Bryant to play often. True freshmen Kyle Kalis and Erik Magnuson will make spring practice interesting.
Fitzgerald Toussaint (28)
Fitzgerald Toussaint was missing against the Hokies, and Stephen Hopkins was missing most of the season.
Toussaint rushed for over 1,000 yards and was a huge reason the Wolverines were successful down the stretch.
The combination of center David Molk's injury and Virginia Tech's defense totally minimized Toussaint's effectiveness in the Sugar Bowl.
Hopkins has all the tools to be a solid Big Ten power back, but he's yet to show it on a consistent basis. Michigan has employed Hopkins primarily as a blocking back, but it would be nice to see him carry the ball just a bit more.
Sophomore Thomas Rawls, at 5'10", 219 pounds, gives the Wolverines a third power back. Somehow, Michigan will have to re-establish the running game if it intends on knocking off Alabama.
Denard Robinson (16)
Alabama used this concept to slow LSU's pass rush. It resembles how an offensive line sets up a screen pass.
As the ball is snapped, some members of the line shift to one side and the quarterback rolls with them. Denard Robinson would have better visibility and the tight end coming across would be an excellent target.
Throwing the ball deep would either result in a long gain, or at worse a 50-50 ball. And if you watched the Wolverines all season, you'll know Michigan won its share of them.
Logan Thomas (3) and Ryan Van Bergen (53)
Alabama's offense in 2012 will be a far cry from the 2011 outfit. Any day now, star running back Trent Richardson is expected to forgo his senior season and enter the NFL draft.
Alabama will also lose its top four receivers, but there's no real reason for concern, since quarterback A.J. McCarron returns along with running back Eddie Lacy.
McCarron completed 66.7 percent of his passes along with 16 touchdowns and only five interceptions. Lacy averaged 7.1 yards per carry with seven touchdowns.
For the Wolverines to have any chance at an upset, they must take McCarron out of his rhythm. To do so, Michigan will need a solid pass rush, some clever blitz packages and an improved secondary.
Better special teams play, including solid performances from punter Matt Wile and kicker Brendan Gibbons, might also make the difference.