Alabama Football: Crimson Tide Opener May Be Easier After Michigan RB Suspended

Barrett SalleeSEC Football Lead WriterJuly 23, 2012

Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart
Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby SmartKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Alabama hasn't been afraid of playing big-time season openers since Nick Saban took over as the head coach in 2007.

The Crimson Tide opened up in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game vs. Clemson in 2008 and Virginia Tech in 2009, will play Michigan in the Cowboys Classic in Arlington, Texas this season and will return to the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game to play Virginia Tech and West Virginia in 2013 and 2014, respectively.

Saban has said that these big-time openers vaulted his team to strong seasons before, and the one this season may have just gotten a bit easier.

According to the Detroit Free Press, Michigan has suspended starting running back Fitzgerald Toussiant indefinitely after the junior was arrested for operating a vehicle while impaired. Michigan head coach Brady Hoke released a statement (via the Free Press):

Fitz made a poor decision and has been suspended indefinitely because of that action. There are expectations that come with being a football student-athlete at the University of Michigan, and those responsibilities were not met in this instance. We will use this as an opportunity to educate Fitz and make sure he understands the high standards that we have established within our program.

Toussiant rushed 187 times for 1,091 yards and nine touchdowns last season, establishing himself as a big-time part of that offense, which features dual-threat quarterback Denard Robinson.

Considering the seriousness of the charge, Toussiant's status for the season opener versus Alabama is now in doubt.

If he is not allowed to suit up, that's a big-time advantage for the Crimson Tide.

By now, you've heard that Alabama is looking to fill holes on defense left by the departures of linebackers Dont'a Hightower and Courtney Upshaw, cornerbacks Dre Kirkpatrick and DeQuan Menzie, safety Mark Barron and defensive tackle Josh Chapman.

While Alabama will be filling those holes with talented players, some of whom have significant playing time under their belts, playing against a team like Michigan in the season opener is a tough task.

Alabama could play disciplined football for the majority of the game, but Robinson is the type of quarterback who can make you pay on even the most minor blown assignment. Having a functional running back lining up beside him is a big reason why.

That's why losing Toussiant is a big deal. If he's not available, Michigan's starting running back could be 5'6", 172-pound Vincent Smith or 5'10", 210-pound sophomore Thomas Rawls. No matter where Michigan turns, nobody on the roster is as established as Toussiant, which means even more Crimson Tide eyeballs on Robinson.