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Michigan MLB Kenny Demens will anchor the defense in 2012. His unit's job is to keep the opposition close
In my opinion, the most important feature of a major upset is game flow. Michigan must disrupt Alabama's rhythm early and often, and can do so with imposing defense.
The Wolverines needn't look far for a prime example of defensive emphasis put into practice. The Crimson Tide proved to everyone that a grind-it-out style of play trumps explosive individual play over the course of a game and a season. In 2012, Alabama punished rival LSU to win the NCAA National Championship by a score of 21-0.
LSU never crossed midfield.
Alabama's performance against LSU, while less an upset than a Michigan win in 2012 would be, gives merit to the philosophy based on protecting possession and controlling the clock. They executed to perfection on both sides of the ball, highlighted by committing zero turnovers the entire game.
Michigan needs to impose on Alabama's offense in the same manner that the Tide beat up LSU. Luckily, 'Bama lost key cog RB Trent Richardson to the NFL draft, which should throw off the balance of their offense.
The Wolverines will need to take advantage of a less formidable ground game and put legitimate pressure on QB AJ McCarron throughout both halves. Doing so will keep the maturing QB from picking apart Michigan's still-questionable secondary.
Michigan's defense has room to grow in coordinator Greg Mattison's professionalized system that features an array of positioning and pressure schemes. Several key returning starters (DE Craig Roh, MLB Kenny Demens, DB's J.T. Floyd and Blake Countess) must play the best games of their career to keep the Wolverines close.
With explosive talent on the offensive side of the ball, all the Michigan D has to do is keep the Crimson Tide close. If the Wolverines are within striking distance in the closing minutes at Texas Stadium, anything can happen.