On Saturday, September 1, the Alabama Crimson Tide will begin the defense of their title in Texas against the Michigan Wolverines. Bama is the 12.5-point favorite and, let's face the facts, they are favored for a reason.
They more or less swamped any team that wasn't LSU—but then shut the Tigers out 21-0 in their title-game rematch. They allowed the fewest points per game in the nation and are clearly far more athletic and physical than their Big Ten opponent.
Michigan, however, is a very worthy contender, losing just twice last season. Let's run through some ways that Big Blue can pull out a shocker versus the defending champs.
Shoelace Ready to Run
In his junior season, Denard Robinson rushed for more than 1,000 yards and 16 scores. Facing an elite SEC defense will be a task that Shoelace hasn't yet faced under the bright lights.
The Tide have yet to see a quarterback with Robinson's speed. Their biggest rushing threat from the QB position last season came against LSU's option-running Jordan Jefferson, who proved especially immobile during the NCAA title game.
This will be the most talented team Robinson has ever faced as a Wolverine. For a kid who's done so much to put Michigan back on the college football map, you'd be naïve to count him out of this one.
Starting back Fitzgerald Toussaint was arrested for a DUI and subsequently suspended in July. His status for the opener has been unclear all along, but you have to believe that they'd run their dynamic running back out for the toughest matchup of the season.
Toussaint has returned to practice, which leads you to believe Brady Hoke is preparing to have him on board for the September 1 matchup in Arlington. If he does play, look for Toussaint to make an impact if the Wolverines want to even sniff victory.
Toussaint amassed 1,000 rushing yards last season while averaging a fat 5.6 yards per rush in his sophomore 2011 campaign.
Wolverines Love Being 'Dogs
Against the points spread, Michigan has won nine of their last 12 non-conference games. They've also beat the spread in four out of their last five September games.
This doesn't always equate to wins, but it means the Wolverines usually have the game within reach. As long as the game is separated by only a score or two, you can believe Denard Robinson could lead his team with some late-game heroics.