I began writing this with the intention of proving why Michigan would shockingly defeat Alabama. It proved to be a bit more difficult than I had hoped.
This week’s “Game of the Century,” is a perfectly hype-able primetime event with classic motifs of a “Big Game Brent" Musberger classic: North vs. South, SEC vs. B1G, and Offensive Firepower vs. Defensive Domination, with two historical football powers facing each other.
The game can be a statement game for Michigan and the B1G Ten, as well as an opportunity for Alabama to prove that losing its Heisman finalist running back and six starters from their No. 1 ranked 2011 defense will not stop them in its quest for back-to-back national titles and three titles in four years.
In the last decade of college football, the phrase most used by pundits and fans alike is, “You can’t beat the SEC.”
The past few years have only verified this claim, as the last six BCS national titles have been won by below the Mason-Dixon Line universities—the 2012 game being a culmination of a decade of dominance, with not one, but two SEC powers vying for the crystal football.
The country’s toughest conference has earned its reputation and has no intention of relinquishing the throne.
Alabama plays football as it was intended: Run, run, run plus defense. But mainly defense.
As the 2011 San Francisco 49ers of college football, Alabama dominates with defense, a strong running back tandem and a quarterback, who is a “game manager” and the MVP of the 2011 BCS Title game—an award that he won because it couldn't be given to the entire defense.
The issue for the Tide on Saturday will be that the five returning defensive starters have their work cut out for them against an innovative, confusing, spread offense attack from the Maize and Blue, having never faced a dual-threat quarterback quite like Denard Robinson.
Even with the recent suspension of Michigan’s starting running back Fitzgerald Toussaint, a 1000 yard rusher in 2011, Michigan still brings an offensive attack generally foreign to SEC defenses.
“The biggest thing about this defense is…the experience we had last year, we don’t have this year,” said Alabama head coach Nick Saban on a media conference call earlier this week (h/t RollTide.com. The importance is placed on “how these guys mature, how they focus.”
“When you lack college experience, sometimes you make more mental errors.”
Without the usual ability to play a “warm-up game” like most big programs begin with, Alabama’s new D will be thrown into the biggest game of its lives as its first starting experience.
Sportswriters and talking hair-dos also point out that Alabama lost its top four pass-catchers to graduation and the NFL, which may limit its offensive attack.
But really, other than Marquis Maze, can anyone name another 2011 starting receiver for Alabama? Didn't think so. It won’t matter.
Alabama is not a pass first, second or if they had it their way, third team.
New starting running back Eddie Lacy is to Trent Richardson as Trent was to Mark Ingram, not to mention Jalston Fowler and freshman T.J. Yeldon sharing the load with Lacy. It also does not hurt to have three to four NFL-caliber offensive linemen opening up a few running lanes.
Conventional wisdom says that “You can’t beat the SEC.” “Defense wins championships.” The classic Woody Hayes quote, “There are three things that can happen when you throw a pass, and two of them are bad.”
Alabama football exemplifies those, but the most telling adage as of late is if you give Nick Saban a month or more to prepare, it does not matter how good the other team is.
Conventional wisdom is conventional for a reason. Michigan will be out-worked, out-manned, and especially, out-coached.
Even with the new defense, new pass-catchers, a stable of running backs and the reliably average A.J. McCarron at quarterback, the Houndstooth machine will roll on.
Bama wins it 31-20.