Sept. 1 is just under four months away, and though that's a long time for college football fans, it's nowhere nearly enough time for the Michigan Wolverines to prepare for the Alabama Crimson Tide.
That is why Michigan is getting started right now, according to AL.com. Though players cannot officially begin practice yet other than brushing up their skills on their own, the coaches are already burning the midnight oil.
Unfortunately for Michigan, the Tide have just as much time to prepare. One of Nick Saban's greatest strengths is preparing for games.
Michigan will give it its all in preparations as well as on the field, as Alabama will be its toughest opponent in 2012, the Big Ten title game included (should Michigan get that far).
However, Michigan is not the toughest opponent on the Tide's 2012 schedule, and the Tide are more than capable of defeating anyone on their schedule, so here are 10 reasons why Alabama will start its 2012 season with a win.
The season opener between these two teams will be played in Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
It's quite a hike for both teams, so the turnout of fans should be about the same, making home-field advantage is irrelevant.
What is relevant is the fact that it's not a home game for the Wolverines. Home games are one of the main reasons Michigan went 6-2 in conference play, with its only two losses being road games against Michigan State and Iowa.
Michigan played a total of eight home games last season, which included close games against Notre Dame and nemesis Ohio State.
Alabama, however, can travel anywhere and win. LSU dodged a bullet last November when it beat the Tide, but Alabama trudged into New Orleans (LSU territory) and didn't just take the Tigers to the woodshed, it buried them in it.
Denard Robinson plays the quarterback position, but he's more of a Reggie Bush-type running back. He's lean at 6'0", 190 lbs. (Bush is 6'0", 203 lbs.), which are far from ideal measurements for a quarterback.
That doesn't mean he can't pass the ball—because he can—he's just not that great at it.
In 2011 he completed only 55 percent of his passes for 2,173 yards (8.4 yards per attempt), with 20 touchdowns to 15 interceptions. His numbers were even worse during his team's two losses. He went 9-of-24 in the loss to Michigan State and 17-of-37 in the loss to Iowa.
Granted, it was Robinson's first year in a new offense (they let him run wild the year before and he did well in the passing game when they feared his running ability), and he needed some time to get accustomed to a more pro-style offense, but has he changed?
Will he have adjusted to staying in the pocket more? It's not likely, and Alabama's always stout secondary is going to suffocate him.
With Robinson's ineptitude in the throwing game, the Wolverines' offense will become one-dimensional, and when a team becomes one-dimensional against Alabama...
Ever since Tim Tebow ran for a few clutch first downs in the 2008 SEC Championship Game, Alabama has not been beaten by a scrambling quarterback's running ability.
Even Cam Newton, the 2010 Heisman Trophy winner that ran for 1,473 yards that year, only managed 39 yards on 22 carries in the 2010 edition of the Iron Bowl. Newton was a scrambler who was also a really good passer, and his 216 passing yards with three passing touchdowns are what helped the Tigers to a win, not Newton's feet.
Robinson's scrambling ability may help extend a few plays and snag him a couple yards here and there, but it will be largely ineffective against the Tide and, quite honestly, is almost certain to get him hurt.
If you want to "improvise" as a quarterback taking the field against the Tide you have to be one big, tough dude, or you just might be heading to the sideline with a broken coccyx.
You can't run the ball against Alabama.
Tim Tebow, Cam Newton, Jordan Jefferson, Tauren Poole, Chris Rainey, Michael Ford, Spencer Ware, Alfred Blue, Kenny Hilliard, Silas Redd, Zac Stacy, Vick Ballard and Onterio McCalebb are some notable players that couldn't run the ball against Alabama.
If they can't run the ball, what chance does Denard Robinson have?
Remember this guy? That's LSU's Jordan Jefferson trying to run against the Crimson Tide and looking as if he had never played football in his life.
To be fair, however, Denard Robinson is a lot faster than than Jefferson.
He allegedly ran the 40-yard dash in 4.32 seconds back in high school, but back then they also claimed his lanky, 185-pound frame benched 315 lbs., and both seem a little skewed.
So, yes, Robinson is fast, but he looks a whole lot faster when those clunky Big Ten defenders are trying to chase him down.
As far as the term "fast" goes, it's a lot more than just straight-line speed. It's more about reaction speed, closing speed and change-of-direction speed. When it comes to reacting, closing and changing direction, Alabama can do it infinitely faster than any of the teams that the Michigan players have ever witnessed on the field of play.
The Wolverines' record from 2011 looks good, but against good defenses (Michigan State, sixth nationally in total defense 2011; Virginia Tech, 10th nationally in total defense 2011), they struggled mightily.
Even when he's dancing to "Thriller" while on the field, Robert Lester (pictured) is one of the best defenders not only on his team but in the entire nation.
The same can be said of most players on the Alabama defense.
When they were "rebuilding" in 2010, the Tide were ranked fifth nationally in total defense. Other teams in the top five were Boise State and TCU, who played practically nobody in 2010 while Alabama played in the SEC. They were also first in the SEC in total defense and ahead of Florida by a significant amount.
So while Alabama's defense is reloading—not "rebuilding"—it is one of the premier defenses in the nation.
With vets like Robert Lester, Jesse Williams, Nico Johnson and DeMarcus Milliner, Alabama has one scary defense.
Toss in some fearsome up-and-comers like Vinnie Sunseri, Deion Belue and Trey DePriest, and Michigan will be wearing black and blue instead of blue and maize when it heads back to Ann Arbor.
Injuries will take a toll on any team, but no team is as effective as Alabama is when it has all its first-string players on the field.
When Alabama has starters on the field that are at less than 100 percent, it causes problems. It happened against LSU in the first outing in 2011 when Barrett Jones and Marquis Maze were both hobbling injured.
It was necessary to keep Jones in at left tackle as Cyrus Kouandjio was out for the season (with no one on the roster capable of playing left tackle against LSU). But the choice to keep Maze in at receiver/returning boggles me to this day, but that's another matter.
The point is, if you want to take 'Bama down, you have to hit the Tide when they are plagued by injuries. They are impossible to beat when they have no key injuries. You can't go toe-to-toe with Goliath when he has a...healthy toe.
What's scary about a tide is not how big it is, but how deep it is, and the Crimson Tide are about as deep as it gets.
As stated in the previous slide, having healthy starters is very important for every team, including Alabama. However, 'Bama takes it one step further: Its second-string players are often just as good (sometimes arguably better) than the starters, and they get nearly as much playing time in many cases.
One such case is Eddie Lacy.
Had Lacy not been plagued with turf toe throughout the year in 2011, Trent Richardson likely would not have gotten enough carries to give him Heisman candidate statistics.
Alabama plays its second string a lot, and it is a nearly seamless transition on the field. There's no such thing as tiring out and wearing down Alabama. Nick Saban rotates fresh faces in so often that are of the utmost quality without skipping a beat.
It's almost impossible to win a war of attrition against 'Bama as the Tide's second string on the field is not a liability, and they will trounce you nearly as well as the starters.
Jim McElwain, Alabama's previous offensive coordinator, has moved on to greener(?) pastures, and Doug Nussmeier has replaced him.
As a realistic fan, McElwain did pretty well at Alabama. However, also as a realistic fan, I realize the sheer amount of talent he had on his offense.
Numerous trophy winners, numerous All-Americans, numerous high NFL draft picks—all topped off by one Heisman Trophy winner (Mark Ingram) and one Heisman Trophy finalist and Doak Walker winner (Trent Richardson).
With that being said, I will dish out some criticism and say that McElwain probably could have done a little better. Since 2008 the Tide have an average ranking of 24th in the nation in scoring offense. It's not a bad number, but it really could have been a little better when you take the talent into consideration.
As an example I will offer this question: Why didn't they run the ball more in the red zone? The Alabama faithful know what I'm talking about.
Perhaps Nussmeier can make it a little better? Maybe.
What makes a new offensive coordinator a weapon, and not a liability, is that he will be able to add new ideas and new game plans to the table to polish off the old game plan.
The advent of Nussmeier at Alabama has, undoubtedly, made much of the offensive game film obsolete.
Study as they might, antiquated game film will not help the Wolverines.
If I said to an Alabama fan, "Find me a better defensive coordinator in the nation than Kirby Smart," he or she would say, "There isn't one!"
If I said the same to a non-Alabama fan, he or she would probably go Brett Favre on me. "Yea, I'll find one, maybe, I don't know, probably, I don't know. Well, maybe. I don't know...maybe."
Sure, Smart has gotten a lot of talent to work with at Alabama, but he's turned a lot of raw players into stars. His players always get the job done.
And the secret to their success is all talent, right? Not so fast, my friend!
Smart calls all the right plays, putting the right packages on the field. He dares offenses to call the run when the 'Bama defense is set up to defend the pass. He dares offenses to throw the ball when they are set up to defend the run.
The real trick is that he dares them to try and figure out if they are set up to defend the run or the pass.
Nobody can make an offensive coordinator's head spin more than Smart. Quite frankly, he confuses the hell out of them.
Most people think Nick Saban is the mastermind behind the defense, and though he does play his part, he pretty much gives Smart the full reins when it comes to defensive play-calling.
Try and outsmart Smart. I dare you.
A.J. McCarron's mother doesn't like the periods in his name, but technically it's the right way to punctuate it.
And, boy, McCarron sure has come a long way since the place his was at when this picture was taken of his baby face. He now looks like a right ol' redneck (aka an Alabama fan), beard and all!
McCarron is about to go on a tear, but I must say something very controversial before I get into detail.
Marquis Maze and Darius Hanks were quality receivers, and that's the truth. However, Hanks was too slow and Maze was too small for McCarron to really throw some nice passes as a rookie.
Those two had the experience needed to get the job done, but they weren't nearly as talented as the guys waiting on the bench.
Those two have graduated and those inexperienced yet talented rookies are ready.
In addition, McCarron is no longer a rookie. He's an experienced, SEC battle-tested quarterback with a national championship ring. He also has an army of wide receivers that are, individually, far and away more talented than Maze and Hanks put together, and they now have some experience to back it up.
McCarron put up 199 yards passing with one interception in the first game against LSU and 234 yards with no interception in the title game in New Orleans, and he was working with mostly inexperienced receivers.
USC's Matt Barkley is the favorite quarterback to win the Heisman, but mark my words: McCarron will give him one hell of a run for his money.
McCarron's Heisman run starts on Sept., 1, 2012. It just so happens that the Tide play the Michigan Wolverines on that day.
Harry Callahan, John Rambo, Martin Riggs, John McClane, Rooster Cogburn, Tony Montana, A.J. McCarron.
They all have one thing in common: They are all gunslingers. However, only one of them is real.
McCarron is a real gunslinger, and he doesn't miss.