Nick Saban the Crimson Tide have several glaring advantages in their matchup with Big Ten power Michigan on Sept. 1.
With Michigan and Alabama less than seven weeks away from clashing in Dallas in the marquee matchup of the opening weekend of college football season, the anticipation for the showdown between heavyweights from the Big Ten and the SEC is building.
While the Crimson Tide will have to replace a number of key contributors from last year’s squad, Nick Saban is ready to unleash the next batch of freakish athletes he has been able to stockpile in recent recruiting classes.
Michigan enjoyed a rebirth in its first season being guided by head coach Brady Hoke, but are the Wolverines ready to take down what is currently college football’s most dominant powerhouse?
Alabama will be favored—by double-digits in some cases—and at first glance, the Crimson Tide appear to have several advantages that should help them claim just their second win over the Wolverines in school history.
Here are five reasons why Alabama will have no problem destroying Michigan.
Hoke and the Wolverines will have to control their emotions when they face Alabama on Sept. 1.
Last season, Michigan’s Sugar Bowl triumph over Virginia Tech was the program’s first BCS bowl victory since 2000 (ironically, an Orange Bowl win over Alabama).
While the win over the Hokies was significant, it brought their record against top 25 opponents to 3-8 over the last three seasons—with none of the wins coming against a top-10 ball club.
By contrast, Alabama is 15-4 against ranked foes since 2009—including seven victories over top 10 teams.
The tilt against the Crimson Tide will be the biggest game in the careers of every current Wolverines player—and considering that Alabama has lived on the big stage in recent years, Hoke will have his work cut out for him in making sure his club avoids catching stage fright.
With months to prepare for a big game, Saban is practically unbeatable.
With the most recent BCS National Championship Game serving as a glaring example, giving Nick Saban months to prepare for a big game means his opponents are in trouble.
In addition, Alabama has won its five season openers under Saban by an average score of 43-10—with two of those victories coming in opening weekend non-conference matchups against top-10 opponents.
It’s a good thing Hoke and his staff started preparing for this game since May, but it’s almost impossible to think that Saban will not find every weakness the Maize and Blue could possibly have with so much time before the two teams lock up in the Lone Star State.
Saban’s history in similar early-season contests makes it highly unlikely for the Wolverines to hand the Crimson Tide their first non-conference defeat in four years.
Nico Johnson and the Crimson Tide front seven will try and shut down Michigan's rushing attack, which features a pair of 1,000-yard rushers.
Michigan’s high-powered offense averaged more than 33 points a game, with most of their damage being done on the ground thanks to a pair of 1,000-yard rushers in quarterback Denard Robinson and running back Fitzgerald Toussaint.
Taking into account that Alabama’s rushing defense has finished no lower than 10th nationally in the last four years, the Wolverines are likely to find rough-sledding against a Crimson Tide defense that specializes in stopping the run.
Consider that in games last season against Michigan State and Virginia Tech—two teams that finished in the top 10 in rushing defense—the Wolverines averaged just 69 yards on the ground (less than one-third of their season average of more than 221 yards rushing per game).
If Alabama is successful in making Michigan’s offense one-dimensional, things could ugly for the Wolverines in a hurry.
Barrett Jones and the Tide OL will face a Michigan DL that's considerably smaller than what they normally face in the SEC.
Perhaps the most glaring difference between the two teams is the size advantage held by the Crimson Tide in the trenches on both sides of the line of scrimmage.
Alabama offensive line will outweigh Michigan’s defensive line by nearly 50 pounds per man, and their defensive line will be four pounds heavier per man compared to Michigan’s offensive line.
With control of the line of scrimmage vital in big games, Alabama’s veteran fronts seem to hold a distinct edge—which should help them accomplish their goals of being able to run the ball on offense and stop Michigan from doing the same.
Considering the size disparity, it’s hard to believe that Michigan’s linemen will not eventually wear down in the second half.
Robinson has struggled against teams that possess elite defenses throughout his Michigan career.
Corralling Robinson will be the toughest task for the Crimson Tide defense—but then again, Robinson has seen few defenses over the course of his career that would stack up to what he will face against Alabama.
While his ability to hurt defenses with his arms and his legs is what makes him special, Robinson averaged just 181 yards (125 passing, 56 rushing) of total offense against the top four defenses Michigan faced last season (Michigan State, Illinois, Ohio State and Virginia Tech—all finished in the top 20 nationally in total defense).
With yards likely tough to come by via the ground in this matchup, Robinson will have to create big plays with his arm.
Considering that plays right into the hands of Alabama’s defense, expect Shoelace—who has thrown 30 interceptions in his Michigan career—to struggle mightily finding throwing lanes versus a physically-imposing Crimson Tide defensive unit.