Michigan Wolverine and Alabama Crimson Tide fans have had this big matchup circled on their calendars the day the 2011 season came to an end. Every day that passed by, college football fans were left wondering if it was Sept. 1 yet.
The wait is almost over, as we are just a week away from kickoff.
While this game will feature two prestigious schools and two historic football programs, Alabama seems to be the overwhelming favorite heading into the big matchup. Despite Michigan winning double-digit games last year, it seems like nobody is giving the Wolverines any respect.
Here are a few reasons why Michigan could make things a little difficult on Nick Saban's club.
Alabama is coming off of its second national championship victory in three years, while Michigan has not won a national championship since 1997. The program just reached a BCS bowl last season by the skin of their teeth for the first time since 2006, but this is a school that expects nothing but the best every year.
Now that Wolverine fans remember what it feels like to be considered a contender again, you can bet that they want to taste that success once more. Still, it feels like many credit last year's success to the lack of a tough schedule and don't consider the Wolverines much of a threat to a national championship this season.
Michigan is the hungrier team, more disrespected team and the heavy underdog, and you can never count out the team that is playing with a chip on its shoulder.
It is always fun to go back and look at the history of teams and see if you can discover any trends that take place. And during the last two seasons after Alabama has won a national championship (which would be the 1993 and 2010 seasons), the Crimson Tide are a combined 6-5-1 against ranked teams. Not exactly the best record in the world for a defending champion.
The average margin of loss during those five games was only 8.2 points, but two of those losses, and the tie against Tennessee in 1993, were all against teams ranked lower than Alabama.
Of course the coaching staffs and players are different, but history does have a funny way of repeating itself. And with the way everyone is against the Wolverines in this matchup, Michigan certainly needs every type of advantage it can have heading into this game.
While the Wolverines defensive line is unproven, the secondary returns every one of its starters from last year. That includes three upperclassmen in Jordan Kovacs, Thomas Gordon and J.T. Floyd, who all have a bunch of experience under their belts.
The Michigan defensive backfield was ranked 16th in the country last season, allowing just 190 yards in the air per contest. It is also a side of the ball that continues to improve under defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, who has quickly turned the defense around.
If Michigan can do a good job of slowing down the Crimson Tide's running game, it will force A.J. McCarron to throw the football. Sure, we saw what he was capable of in the national championship, throwing for 234 yards and completing 67 percent of his passes.
But is that really the same McCarron the Crimson Tide are going to get all season?
I would rather take my chances and force the second-year starting quarterback to beat me, rather than trying to stop several talented running backs all night.
While Michigan has a lot of reason to feel good about their defense, the identity of the Alabama defense is gone. The main players that helped the Crimson Tide become one of the best defenses of all time have all moved on to the NFL.
This means that there are going to be many first-year starters expected to step in right away and contribute. And while many of these young players are former five-star recruits, it is hard to imagine these guys picking up the complicated defense Kirby Smart and Nick Saban run in Tuscaloosa right away.
It would have been better if these players began the season with a few cupcake opponents to kind of ease into the transition, but Michigan has many playmakers on the offensive side of the ball, which could create a handful of issues for the Tide in Week 1.
Speaking of playmakers, it doesn't get much better than the combination of quarterback Denard Robinson and running back Fitzgerald Toussaint. They combined for more than 2,100 rushing yards and scored a total of 46 touchdowns last season.
It is still unknown if Toussaint will play in this game after his offseason arrest, but head coach Brady Hoke has to play him if the Wolverines are expected to have any chance in this matchup.
Robinson must find a way to complete passes consistently in this matchup in order for Nick Saban to ease up on the pass rush he will throw at the senior quarterback. But with the playmaking ability of Robinson and the tough-nosed running of Toussaint, this is really the biggest reason that Michigan has a slight chance to pull off the Week 1 upset.
This offense is going to live off of the success of the ground game in this contest, and both players must play the best game of their collegiate careers to help lead the Wolverines to victory.