Contrary to popular belief, the Michigan Wolverines are capable of beating the Alabama Crimson Tide in Week 1 of the college football season.
Alabama is a supremely talented team, but Michigan brings to the table a unique and diverse offense, proficient enough to unsettle the Crimson Tide's defense—one currently in transition.
The Wolverines will undoubtedly have a tough task in front of them, and the stars will have to align just right for Maize and Blue to pull off the upset.
But, if the stars are going to line up, what will the alignment look like?
Here are five keys to Michigan winning in the season kickoff.
It is a well-known fact that winning the turnover battle goes a long way toward winning football games.
This holds especially true for Michigan against Alabama.
The Crimson Tide will employ a steady, run-based offense. The type of philosophy that allows for few mistakes.
Michigan, meanwhile, will utilize the quick trigger instincts and mobility of Denard Robinson.
His abilities are the lifeblood of the offense, but it is essential that he and the rest of the Wolverines offense are not constantly turning the ball over and giving the 'Bama offense a short field to work with.
Another 15 interceptions this year will be unacceptable, and turnovers will be far too costly against a national power such as the Crimson Tide.
Here is an overlooked and somehow underanalyzed aspect of the Michigan/Alabama showdown that is crucial to victory: Will Hagerup.
Yes, the hot-and-cold Michigan punter must bring his best heat to catapult the Wolverines to a W.
When Hagerup is at his best, he looks capable of winning the Ray Guy Award. At his worst, well, not so much.
It goes without saying that pinning Alabama as deep as possible can only benefit the Wolverines.
Hagerup has the talent to be a factor.
If he plays to his ability, he could be the unsung hero of a Michigan victory.
Having Denard Robinson improvise and run around like the proverbial chicken with its head cut off is going to put Michigan on the fast track to being blown out.
The Wolverines must be methodical, balanced and smart when they have the ball.
Obviously, the balance of their offense hinges a lot on the status of Fitzgerald Toussaint, but even if he is unavailable, Michigan must dedicate itself to handing the ball off.
Alabama's front seven is scary good, but if the Wolverines are able to crack through the defensive line early, then the floodgates can open.
Is this scenario likely?
Perhaps not, but Michigan must dedicate itself to being balanced early in the game.
Otherwise, Robinson's improvisation will become a non-factor quickly.
Here is a fact you probably saw coming: Michigan absolutely and positively has to win the battle for time of possession.
Alabama's offense would love to eat up the clock and keep Denard Robinson off the field.
Michigan must be able to counter this strategy with clock-gobbling of its own. This belief clearly goes back to the balance issue illustrated in the previous slide.
If the Wolverines are dominating time of possession, that means the offense is running properly and the defense is not being worn down by the Alabama offense.
An obvious point, but one that needed to be made.
Keep A.J. McCarron and Eddie Lacy off the field!
Unfortunately, no matter how well Michigan does in the time of possession category, Alabama is going to get the ball at some point.
When they do, Michigan's inexperienced defensive line must bottle up 'Bama running back Eddie Lacy and make him beg for mercy.
A little graphic perhaps, but the Crimson Tide excel at letting their gargantuan linemen bulldoze their way down the field.
There is a reason the team collectively rushed for over 2,700 yards last season.
Commit to stopping Lacy and force McCarron to throw the football.
Is he good?
Yes, but it is a fair argument to claim the Michigan secondary is better and can cause turnovers when the ball is in the air.
Alabama's receivers are young, and the Wolverines would be wise to put them to the test early in this contest.
Doing so may be the biggest key to victory.