Predictions that Alabama would handle Michigan in its season opener last night were probably plenty; but few could have guessed it would be so lopsided.
The Crimson Tide proved they continue to have staying power atop the Associated Press Top 25 Poll, even after losing as much talent to the NFL draft as they did since winning the 2011 BCS National Championship.
The Wolverines demonstrated they are not a Top 10 team in the FBS and will struggle to meet expectations set last year.
Here are some takeaways from Saturday night’s debacle.
Michigan’s Defensive Regression
With Alabama running backs and wide receivers barreling into them, bulldozing them over and bullying their way downfield, the Wolverines defense was manhandled physically.
What was a vastly improved defense in 2011 under head coach Brady Hoke suffered a major setback by allowing a true freshman running back to run rampant for 111 yards on 11 carries.
The Wolverines defense also allowed A.J. McCarron to do anything he wanted in the passing game, consistently blowing coverage, leaving wide receivers and tight ends to roam free throughout the Michigan defensive backfield.
The couldn’t tackle, they couldn’t cover their checks and they couldn’t stay off the field for any considerable amount of time.
Denard Robinson’s Struggles
There goes Robinson’s hopes to be a Heisman Trophy winner
Alabama forced Robinson into an atrocious passing performance, reminding viewers of his struggle to throw accurately.
The senior signal-caller completed 11-of-26 of his passes, finishing with 200 passing yards, 71 of which came on a single play. According to ESPN Research Notes, Robinson connected on 3-of-14 pass attempts longer than 15 yards, beginning the game 0-for-9 with two interceptions.
One of his two interceptions came in part due to a pass interference penalty that was not called. Nevertheless, he overthrew receivers and continuously challenged Alabama’s top defensive backs.
Shoelace, who has made a name for himself because of his ability to run effectively, managed a mere 27 yards rushing on 10 carries. In his defense, he ran just twice in the first half.
The absence of 1,000-yard rusher Fitzgerald Toussaint due to a team suspension limited Robinson and the Wolverines’ options on the offensive end. Still, Robinson will need to be better in the pocket as the season progresses, especially if he cares at all about his NFL draft stock.
Alabama’s Defense Still Dominant
The Crimson Tide defense deserves the lion’s share of credit for keeping Robinson in check.
Although it needed to replace six starting defensive players from a squad which ranked first in all four major defensive categories last season, the ’Bama defense displayed its dominance over what is believed to be a potent Michigan offense.
Cornerback Dee Milliner swatted away everything Robinson served up to his side of the field on Saturday. Adding injury to insult, Milliner intercepted one of Robinson’s errant throws in the first quarter and registered a bruising hit on him during the return.
Robinson was almost knocked out of the game for good when the quarterback extended himself to convert a 4th-and-3.
The Tide defense forced three interceptions in all, two leading directly to scores, including a return for a touchdown.
If there were any questions whether Alabama could return to its stout defensive form from a year ago, they have now been answered.