Alabama Football: Predicting Stats for Crimson Tide's Showdown Against Michigan
The epic battle with Michigan will commence in just one short day, and it will be, by far, the most exciting game on Saturday. Who will step up, and what will their numbers look like?
Here we will examine several statistical categories with a rough look at what the teams will put up.
The focus will be on the leaders in each category for each team and what they are likely to put up.
This is a bit of what the numbers from Saturday's game very well may look like.
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Denard Robinson is a much more capable passer than most folks (especially those in the South) give him credit for, but his arm is far from legendary.
He struggled at times in 2011 in a system completely new to him. However, his best statistical game came against arch-rival Ohio State, where he completed 82.4 percent of his passes for 167 yards and three touchdowns.
That was in the final game of the regular season, and his numbers were clearly improved over his 45.8 completion percentage against Notre Dame in Week 2.
Robinson is going to miss a lot against 'Bama, but when he hits, he will hit big.
Prediction for Robinson: 150 yards, 9-of-20 passing, one touchdown, one interception.
With that being said, I will lay it out right here that A.J. McCarron is better. McCarron won't need to rely on his legs, as he will let his arm do the talking, just as a quarterback should.
After what he did to LSU's defense on January 9, 2012, there should be no doubt that McCarron will have his way with Michigan's secondary.
Prediction for McCarron: 300 yards, 22-of-30 passing, two touchdowns, no interceptions.
Why McCarron will lead: He will have too many young yet talented weapons in addition to three veteran targets in tight end Michael Williams, running back Eddie Lacy and receiver Kevin Norwood. When it's obvious that McCarron can take on Michigan's defensive backs, Alabama offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier will stick to the pass and the receivers will stay in bounds.
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Though Denard Robinson can pass better than former LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson, he just won't be able to get it done through the air. Robinson will struggle to hit a 50 percent completion rate and take to the ground.
Robinson will pass plenty of times to keep the defense honest, but Alabama's passing defense is always spectacular. Even in 2010, they ranked 13th nationally in passing defense.
When Alabama has fielded young defenses in the past, they had difficulty with scrambling quarterbacks and no quarterback they have faced can scramble like Robinson, including Cam Newton and Tim Tebow.
A veteran Alabama defense could hold Robinson to less than 50 yards, but this new defense will give up quite a few to Robinson while they learn the hard way.
Prediction for Robinson: 120 yards, five YPC, one touchdown.
This is all going to be about Eddie Lacy on the Crimson side of the ball. He appears to be healthy and ready to go. He will get the most carries as the new guys (T.J. Yeldon specifically) get used to the big lights, but he will share enough of the carries with them.
Lacy is going to spin his way to a lot of yards after contact but with an emphasis on the passing game, he's not going to put up impressive numbers beyond yards per carry and touchdowns, as he will mostly be fed the ball in the red zone (something that Nussmeier will do that Jim McElwain did not).
Prediction for Lacy: 80 yards, six YPC, two touchdowns.
Why Robinson will lead: He's fast as lightning and greased up to boot. There will be plenty of designed runs for him and his ability to improvise on broken plays is incredible. He will get some solid yardage against the Tide, including several runs for 10 yards or more.
Tide receiver Kevin Norwood.
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Denard Robinson's success (or lack thereof) through the air will go hand in hand with that of two players: receivers Jeremy Gallon and Roy Roundtree.
It's going to come down to who can keep up with Alabama's half-veteran/half-freakishly talented secondary.
That will likely be six-foot senior Roundtree as opposed to 5'8" Gallon, assuming that Roundtree is truly OK after his minor knee surgery.
Prediction for Roundtree: four catches, 70 yards, one touchdown.
Alabama's newly revamped receiver corps is something of a wonder in terms of total talent. There is no Julio Jones or Dorial Green-Beckham on this squad, but there are a whole lot of guys that are darn near as good.
McCarron will be sticking with what worked so well against LSU and keep chucking the ball at redshirt junior receiver Kevin Norwood.
Norwood led the Tide last year in yards per catch with 17.27, and he's the tallest of the starters at 6'2" and 195 pounds.
Prediction for Norwood: eight catches, 130 yards, one touchdown.
Why Norwood will lead: Thus far, he has proven he is the Tide's best receiver at the moment when it comes to a combination of talent and experience. He is a redshirt junior with great size and proved he can hang with the best after embarrassing Tyrann Mathieu and LSU in the championship game. McCarron will spread the ball around a lot but tag Norwood the most.
Safety Jordan Kovacs
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Two players in blue and maize are going to be all over the field making tackles. They are linebacker Kenny Demens and safety Jordan Kovacs, both seniors.
Both of these players are going to rack up some tackles, but it will likely be Kovacs who is forced to bring folks to the turf the most.
Demens will struggle against Alabama's rushing attack due to the strength of the Tide's offensive line, and running backs will often make it to the secondary. That is where Kovacs will come in.
Prediction for Kovacs: 10 total tackles, six solo.
Alabama won't be making a lot of tackles during this match because they are going to win the time of possession battle. They will be forcing the Wolverines off the field too frequently to rack up stats even if they aren't as good as last year's defense.
The guy who will be making the majority of Alabama's tackles will be senior linebacker Nico Johnson. Johnson is a run-stopping specialist and will be the ideal player to keep Michigan running back Fitzgerald Toussaint (if he actually plays) and Robinson on the turf.
Prediction for Johnson: eight total tackles, four solo.
Why Kovacs will lead: Alabama's offense is going to be on the field a lot and McCarron will be attacking Michigan's secondary. Kovacs will have to clean up a lot of messes left by Blue's cornerbacks in addition to helping against the run.
Tackles for Loss/Sacks
Defensive end Craig Roh
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The Wolverines will send Jordan Kovacs into the opponent's backfield as much as possible, but if Alabama keeps the pressure up through the air, it won't be prudent to have him anywhere other than in coverage.
That is going to leave senior defensive end Craig Roh (6'5", 281 pounds) to make things happen in Alabama's backfield, and he will find his target a couple times and he will be the only Michigan player to get to McCarron at least once.
Roh and Kovacs both racked up four sacks and eight tackles for losses each last year.
Prediction for Roh: Two tackles for loss, one sack.
Alabama has a lot of players on defense eager to penetrate the enemy's backfield, but when it comes to bringing down opponents for losses and making sacks, Tide linebacker Adrian Hubbard is going to be getting a lot of numbers this year, though Jack linebacker Xzavier Dickson will add his own spice to the recipe.
At 6'6" and 248 pounds, Hubbard has a ridiculous combination of size and speed to make things happen in space and in the backfield.
He is technically Alabama's Sam linebacker, but Kirby Smart will be calling his number plenty of times to bring down the quarterback.
Prediction for Hubbard: One tackle for loss, one sack.
Why Roh will lead: Once again, Michigan's defense is going to be on the field a lot. Roh is also fleet of foot for such a big guy and ran a 4.75 40-yard dash back in high school. He's also sharp as a tack, much like Alabama's Barrett Jones.
Vinnie Sunseri smashing LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson.
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When it comes to fumbles, Alabama and Michigan don't let them happen often, as they only gave up four and six in 2011, respectively, but those were different teams last year.
If anyone forces a Tide turnover, it will be safety Jordan Kovacs.
'Bama quarterback A.J. McCarron has a habit of not throwing interceptions and will continue that trend against Michigan.
Running back Eddie Lacy is no longer prone to fumbles, either, thanks to excellent coaching by Tide running back coach Burton Burns.
The lone turnover caused by Michigan will come from Kovacs when he makes a brutal tackle on a young 'Bama receiver and forces a fumble.
Prediction for Kovacs: no interceptions, one forced fumble.
Alabama has four defenders who have proven they can cause havoc with turnovers: safeties Robert Lester and Vinnie Sunseri, cornerback DeMarcus Milliner and linebacker C.J. Mosley. Cornerback Deion Belue could be in the mix as well.
When it comes to turnovers, it will be Vinnie Sunseri making waves. He has proven he is the real deal in both regular safety duties and forcing turnovers.
Sunseri is going to go all Vinnie Badger on the Wolverines.
Prediction for Sunseri: One interception, one forced fumble.
Why Sunseri will lead: He has an incredible football IQ and sniffs out the ball like a bloodhound. In simple terms, he just has a knack for making plays. That's why he won the starting position in the base 3-4 defense over former nationally top-ranked prep safety Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix.
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Michigan will put up a great fight, but this Alabama team is far more suited to follow up a championship run than their 2010 version that was only four points away from going 11-1 while still fielding one of the best defenses in the nation.
Denard Robinson will put points on the board with one touchdown pass and one rushing touchdown. Running back Fitzgerald Toussaint will add another on the ground as he will likely play; he is listed on the depth chart for Saturday.
Prediction for Michigan: 24 points; three touchdowns, one field goal.
The Tide offense is really going to stick it Michigan and hang a lot of points on the board. They will not be the seemingly inept offense they were against LSU in November 2011.
The deep receiving and running back corps are going to rack up yards and move the chains, and McCarron, a national championship MVP quarterback, is going look like a Heisman contender.
McCarron will toss two touchdown passes while Lacy will rush for two. Backup running back Demetrius Hart will bust out a big perimeter run for a touchdown as well.
Prediction for Alabama: 41 points; five touchdowns, two field goals.
Why Alabama will win: Alabama is the better team with a better coach, and their bench is so much deeper.
The Tide have a proven pocket passer with good decision-making skills and a quality ground game. Both will benefit from the best offensive line in college football.
Final Score: 41-24, Alabama