Michigan-Alabama is the top game of the weekend, not only for the Big Ten but for all college football. The nation will be watching. And that means the nation is going to see one team leave Dallas with an 0-1 record and probably a public humiliation on its hands.
But who's going to take it worse? Whose momentum will come screeching to a halt? Who's more likely to give up on the season, pick up a whiskey habit and spend weeks on end in bed, concerning friends and loved ones? Or whatever the football equivalent of that would be—losing to Kentucky or Indiana, probably.
For Michigan, a loss in Dallas will be tough, because barring serious shenanigans, a loss won't just mean one mark in the loss column. Nick Saban's defense is so well-coached and fundamentally sound—not to mention athletic—that how his team handles Denard Robinson will effectively be a blueprint for how to shut Michigan's offense down. That's not what the Wolverines need in Week 1.
And yet. the answer to this question is most assuredly Alabama. For as much as Michigan doesn't need to start the season 0-1, Alabama would be utterly wrecked by the loss. The Crimson Tide is one of a very small group of legitimate national championship contenders this season, and this is a game that a championship-caliber team wins.
Moreover, the game is in Dallas, and while that's far enough away that it's considered a neutral site, the reality is Alabama's sending hordes and hordes of fans west to create a 'Bama-friendly atmosphere. It's not a home game for the Tide, but it'll be close.
And beyond all that, it's going to be imperative that Alabama wins this game because it's the heavy favorite. Alabama is favored by up to 14 points, according to betting websites that you should not visit because gambling on amateur athletics is morally bankrupt. If you start off your season by dropping a game you're expected to win by two touchdowns, that's enough to send any season into a tailspin.
Thus, there's a certain pressure on Alabama that Michigan's just not facing. If Michigan loses, eh, they weren't supposed to win anyway. It's the defending champion in a hostile environment; how many teams would conceivably win that game more than twice out of 10 tries? But if Alabama loses, there lies the deep embarrassment, one would think.
And yet playing for Nick Saban is enough of a daily challenge that something like the fear of losing probably isn't going to register very highly on Alabama's minds. Pressure? Please. Alabama went to New Orleans to face the only team that beat it during the regular season, in that team's home state, and it came away with a dominating 21-0 victory and the national championship.
In other words, they'd be happy to tell you exactly where to stick that pressure.