The Alabama Crimson Tide are fresh off its second national title win in three years with a victory over LSU.
The Michigan Wolverines will face the defending champions September 1 in Arlington, Texas and to the majority across the nation, the odds are against them. Or is there a light at the end of the tunnel for Michigan?
The Crimson Tide are the juggernaut of the SEC and college football. Their defenses since the Nick Saban era have always been top-notch and produced a number of NFL talents.
Michigan had a program revival year last season, after three years of subpar seasons under former head coach Rich Rodriguez and five years since its last BCS berth.
Many scoff at the matchup, particularly because it’s another SEC-Big Ten matchup. Another SEC-Big Ten game, another dreaded debate about "can the Big Ten compete?"
To answer that question, it’s possible that the Big Ten can. It just depends on which offense you face.
The most common opinion on the Big Ten is that it’s too slow to compete against faster teams. Predominantly, the SEC.
But if a Big Ten team, particularly Michigan, wants a chance to beat the SEC, it all starts with a precise gameplan to come out attacking on offense.
Ohio State beat Arkansas in the 2011 Sugar Bowl because it matched Arkansas offensively and contained and slowed down the Arkansas offense when it could on the defensive side.
Evidently for Michigan, Arkansas offense is not comparable to Alabama’s of this year in terms of pro style and being physical.
Containing a ball-control team is extremely hard, especially with a stout defense from top to bottom. Michigan, from the start of the first to the end of fourth, will have its hands full.
On initial glance, Alabama’s speed on the offensive side of the ball is far and beyond unmatched by Michigan's Defense.
Alabama has speed and power at the receiving/rushing ends and on the offensive line, respectively.
Alabama plays a ball-control style similar to the Baltimore Ravens: Run-heavy, but the quarterback has more freedom to throw the ball while maintaining a turnover-free approach.
It’s their 11 on offense versus Michigan’s eleven on defense, and if executed right, they could easily wear down and overpower the Wolverines quickly.
Alabama running back Eddie Lacy has been paying his “40 back” dues as Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson did before him.
His downhill running style will be difficult for Michigan to adapt to, as Alabama will be as physical as possible.
On defense, Alabama should have one primary goal: Attack Denard Robinson.
The past two years Alabama has played Penn State, its quarterbacks have completed 25 out of 69 pass attempts, for a completion percentage of 36.2 and zero touchdowns.
Denard Robinson isn’t a strong passer, even against Big Ten play. If Alabama can play tight man-to-man against the Michigan receivers, it will be a nightmare for Robinson.
Also, Robinson is alpha and omega for Michigan’s offense and if he’s blitzed and knocked around, Michigan’s center point on offense will be lost. Alabama’s defense against the pass-and-run will take care of itself.
The Michigan offense's best bet is to try executing all of its blocks, to give Denard Robinson as much running room as possible.
Each block will be crucial, and Denard is their only hope since Fitz Toussaint is suspended for the time being. It doesn’t have to be wash-down blocks, just enough to give its electrifying quarterback a chance.
Alabama’s defense is severely stacked: The defensive line averages out at just under 300 pounds. An A-game is a necessity for Michigan to try to compete on each down.
Denard Robinson can set up his receivers with screen plays, while dump passes could also work (again, if the blocks are made) but it must be to perfection.
Michigan, on defense, will have a hard time trying to adjust to Alabama’s pro-style/conservative offense. Every starter on Alabama’s offensive line weighs more than 302 pounds, with D.J. Fluker at Right Tackle weighing in at 335 pounds. Michigan’s average defensive lineman weight is only a paltry 269 pounds.
This will be the weak spot for Michigan. Usually SEC teams run high-powered spread attacks. Alabama is a smash-mouth oriented team with an underrated pass attack that puts up numbers and scores.
Michigan has improved its defense, finishing the 2011 season ranked eighth in points allowed last season. Alabama is just a different monster on both sides of the ball, which Michigan has yet to see and Denard Robinson will entirely be dependent upon. Every yard he gets will have to be earned.
We never know in college football, and that’s why the game is played. The anticipated matchup will arise September 1 at Cowboys Stadium.
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