Saturday evening's bout with Alabama was nothing short of an eye-opener for the Michigan Wolverines. Although the Alabama game seemed like every bit of a knockout punch, the Wolverines still have complete control of their 2012 season outlook.
Wolverines coaches Brady Hoke, Greg Mattison and Al Borges were all stymied by Nick Saban's impressive Crimson Tide.
Alabama cruised to victory by the score of 41-14.
On college football's biggest stage, the advantage was more than clear. Michigan was easily overmatched by an Alabama team that was nothing short of dominant.
Fresh off a BCS Championship and after losing some of its top talent to the NFL Draft, Alabama looked poised to defend the title. True freshman running back T.J. Yeldon was explosive behind college football's best offensive line, carrying 11 times for 111 yards.
The Crimson Tide defense bottled up QB Denard Robinson, limiting Michigan's best playmaker to 27 yards on the ground. Denard's 200 yards through the air are deceiving, as he only completed 11 of 26 passes.
Michigan's first step toward recovery from its awful drubbing in Texas Stadium is to acknowledge the greatness of its opponent. The sting of defeat mostly comes from the disparity that is still very much evident between Michigan and the powerhouse teams of the SEC.
As soon as the Wolverines can turn their eyes forward to the rest of the 2012 season, the team will be on track to make waves in the Big Ten and have a chance to contend for a Rose Bowl berth.
The Wolverines need to tip their hat to the SEC, Nick Saban and the quality athletes that comprise the Crimson Tide football team. Michigan is just not on the same level yet.
Having acknowledged that much work is still ahead, Michigan can refocus on the rest of the season. Next on the schedule is Air Force, which should provide a feel-good win as the Wolverines return to Ann Arbor.
Defensively, the team just learned that sophomore cornerback Blake Countess will miss the rest of the season with a knee injury (via MGoBlog.com). Still, the improving unit is sure to have an easier time against opponents like Air Force, Notre Dame, UMass and Purdue.
Winning the next four games should re-instill confidence to a team that cannot feel too comfortable after the opening night fiasco.
At 4-1, the Wolverines will be back on track and ready for important Big Ten games ahead. This year's highly anticipated Michigan State showdown in Ann Arbor will be the Wolverines biggest remaining test.
Michigan should not have too difficult a time rebounding from the 41-14 blowout they just got handed. After all, the first game of the season can be used as a barometer.
Michigan will not face a team as strong as Alabama the rest of the way. The Wolverines now have a speed and execution level to aspire to, as the team has seen the best college football has to offer.
Brady Hoke will remind his team that they are indeed still in the drivers seat for their 2012 season. Despite having the wind crushed from the Wolverines collective lungs, all hope is not lost.
Heading into the second week of the season, I predict Michigan will turn its vengeance against Air Force.