Could Michigan Give Alabama a Run for Its Money in 2013?

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Could Michigan Give Alabama a Run for Its Money in 2013?
Leon Halip/Getty Images

After getting blasted 41-14 by Alabama in its opener last season, would Michigan have a chance to reverse the outcome if the two met again in 2013?

Even though the epic nature of the game faded as the season reached its climax, don’t forget that coming into the hype-filled Week 1 clash, the Wolverines were ranked No. 8 while the Crimson Tide were No. 2.

If a rematch did take place in 2013—this time around it would have to be played in the postseason—Michigan would need to right the series of wrongs they committed in last season’s debacle to even have a chance.

Here are four of the statistical lowlights from the Wolverines' performance in 2012, along with a forecast for each area if they were to battle the Tide again in 2013.

 

The Floodgates Opened Early

Michigan gave up 21 points in the first quarter of its loss to Alabama, ending the game before it had even begun.

In the 12 other contests the Wolverines played in 2012, they gave up 41 first-quarter points, an average of 3.4 per game. Alabama, on the other hand, scored 132 points in the first quarter of the 13 games that followed the opener, an average of 10 per game.

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Alabama's DeAndrew White scores on a 51-yard pass play in the first quarter of the 2012 win over Michigan.

These averages make it logical to say that Michigan would perform better in the first quarter of a rematch, especially because the game would be in the postseason.

What diminishes this happy outlook is that the Crimson Tide are set to return 81.4 percent of its yard earners this season while the Wolverines return 69.4 percent of its tackle earners.

Once again, advantage Alabama.

 

Poor Rushing Defense

Michigan gave up 232 rushing yards to Alabama in 2012, a number that is 82 yards more than the 150-yard-per-game average the Wolverines allowed on the ground last year.

The Crimson Tide, on the other hand, averaged 227.5 rushing yards per game last season, making the single-game number against Michigan look more like the norm.

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
T.J. Yeldon ran for 111 of Alabama's 232 rushing yards vs. Michigan

Given that Alabama will be stacked at running back and that Michigan has only two returnees on the defensive line, things could look similar in 2013.

Yes, the Tide would run the ball down the Wolverines' throats again, and given that Alabama’s passing attack should only get better, it could get ugly on the scoreboard.

 

Sloppy Play

Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson threw two interceptions (one for a touchdown) versus Alabama, while his backup, Russell Bellomy, threw a third.

Though Robinson will be replaced by Devin Gardner in 2013, the trend of mistakes won’t necessarily end with the change.

In five starts in 2012, Gardner threw five interceptions versus 11 touchdowns, a number that spread evenly to one pick per start.

Beyond this, Alabama finished last season ranked No. 12 nationally in interceptions and returns more experience to its defensive backfield in 2013 than it did a year ago.

All of which points in the direction of more Michigan mistakes.

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Michigan's Denard Robinson threw two picks in the Alabama game.

In addition to the turnovers, Michigan committed eight penalties for 99 yards in its game with Alabama.

The good news is that the Wolverines have never averaged more than 50 penalty yards per game under Brady Hoke.

The number of Michigan penalties would likely not be as great in a rematch, especially because it wouldn’t be played as the first game of the season, where mistakes are more likely.

 

No Running Game

Michigan, which averaged 183 rushing yards per game in 2012, rushed for only 69 yards versus Alabama.

This variance can be explained by keeping in mind that Alabama had the No. 1 rushing defense in the FBS last season, giving up an average of only 76 yards per game.

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
With 33 yards on 13 carries, Vincent Smith led the Wolverines in rushing vs. Alabama.

Michigan returns only two starters to its offensive line in 2013, and regardless of who specifically carries the ball, it is likely Alabama would again shut the door on the ground game.

To add even more fuel to the fire, the Crimson Tide return 70 percent of their tackle earners from last year’s unit.

This all adds up to a prediction that Michigan would struggle against Alabama in a rematch similarly to how it did in 2012. That is, with the exception of penalty yards and possibly first-quarter points allowed.

Really, it’s difficult to argue the Wolverines would do anything more than improve their 27-point margin of defeat.

Leon Halip/Getty Images

But, that said and all logic aside, this is college football and anything could happen.

Think back to 2011 when unranked Texas A&M got destroyed by No. 7 Oklahoma, 41-21, in the regular season.

Then speed forward a single year to 2012, when the No. 10-ranked Aggies swaggered into the Cotton Bowl and destroyed the No. 12 Sooners, 41-13.

Yes, friend, anything could happen in 2013.

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