Michigan vs. Alabama Football: 5 Predictions for Saturday's Matchup

Eric SteitzAnalyst IIIAugust 31, 2012

Michigan vs. Alabama Football: 5 Predictions for Saturday's Matchup

0 of 5

    The biggest game of Week 1 features two top-10 teams in the Cowboys Classic in Dallas, Texas. The matchup, typically reserved for January, features No. 8 Michigan and No. 2 Alabama on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET.

    Senior quarterback Denard Robinson, a Heisman candidate, and the Wolverines look to knock off the second-ranked Crimson Tide and stake their claim at a national title run.

    Both teams know the magnitude of the game that features two programs that have amassed 1,709 wins and 25 national titles.

    The venue at Cowboys Stadium will provide some big-time programs with big-time exposure.

    Despite being 14-point underdogs, Michigan has high hopes for the season opener.

    With junior running back Fitzgerald Toussaint’s status unknown, Michigan has some question marks.

    Here are predictions for the Wolverines against Alabama.

Denard Robinson

1 of 5

    Denard Robinson is one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the country.

    Everyone knows that.

    He has a chance to go against an SEC defense that has reloaded from last season. The Crimson Tide lost several key players to the NFL last season, but have just as many weapons to refill the spots.

    Robinson will have his hands full with this matchup, especially if Toussaint isn’t available.

    Expect a steady dose of Robinson, both through the air and on the ground.

    Robinson will need to be more effective through the air in the season opener. He completed 55 percent of his passes last season but coupled 20 touchdowns with 15 picks.

    Limiting turnovers, especially through the air, will be crucial for Robinson and the Wolverines.

    Punts are OK. Giving Alabama a short field isn’t.

    Expect Robinson to make plays with his feet more than his arm. Two rushing touchdowns could be in order for the Heisman hopeful.

Defense

2 of 5

    Michigan’s defense was 17th in the country in total defense last season (322.15 ypg).

    The Wolverines lost three defensive linemen from last season, including nose tackle Mike Martin. Against a rushing attack like Bama’s, the defensive line will be crucial.

    Seven returning starters on defense gives Michigan some experience.

    Alabama notched 6.46 yards per play last season. If it can keep a similar clip, the Wolverines will struggle.

    Expect redshirt sophomore linebacker Jake Ryan, senior defensive end Craig Roh and senior defensive tackle Will Campbell to have big days.

    The defense will have to hold the Crimson Tide to less than 20 points to give its offense a chance at a win.

In the Beginning...

3 of 5

    On a neutral site and such a big stage, each team’s first drive will set the tone.

    Alabama is a methodical offense. Its first drive will probably take six minutes or more off the clock.

    The Wolverines can’t panic. Three points is better than seven. A six-minute drive with a punt is better than a four-minute drive with a touchdown.

    As 14-point underdogs, Michigan doesn’t have to worry about pressure. It can play a relaxed game. Well as relaxed as possible with a matchup like this.

    Michigan has to be OK with a punt on its first possession, even its first few. Play the field position game until you get your opportunities.

    Expect Alabama to lead 7-0 after the first quarter.

Late-Game Surge

4 of 5

    The 14-point margin that is expected is a bit extreme.

    These two teams are very talented and fairly evenly matched. To think that one team is two touchdowns better than the other is pretty outlandish.

    This game has the making of the BCS national title game between Texas and USC in 2006. That was the year Vince Young (Denard Robinson) led the Longhorns (Wolverines) on a last-minute drive to beat Pete Carroll’s (Nick Saban) Trojans (Crimson Tide).

    Without predicting a specific outcome, this game should come down to the final drive for each team.

    CBSSports.com is predicting a 28-21 margin for the Crimson Tide. Expect a close game regardless of score.

    Michigan, with its big play ability, will benefit from a lower-scoring game, where one play could win it all.

A No-Lose Situation

5 of 5

    This game is really nothing more than a measuring stick for both teams this early in the season.

    Two top-10 teams facing off on a neutral site in Week 1 is only a loss to one team. The BCS has proven that one loss isn’t that important, especially when it’s against one of the top teams in the SEC.

    Just ask Alabama and LSU.

    Michigan and 'Bama have nothing to lose in this situation. One-loss seasons, or even two-loss seasons, don’t eliminate these elite programs from BCS bowl contention.

    A win helps stake the claim at the title shot. Come the end of the season, however, this game will mean very little.

    Games against Michigan State Oct. 20 and Ohio State Nov. 24 will have bigger implications on the overall success of the season for the Maize and Blue.

    A 12-1 season with a Big Ten championship could get Michigan back to a similar stage in January.