For the first time in College Football Playoff history, Alabama wasn't one of the four teams competing for a chance to play for the national championship.
The Crimson Tide had reached the CFP each of the previous five seasons, but this year, they lost twice in the final four weeks of the regular season, falling to LSU and Auburn. Not only did that keep them out of the playoff, but it also denied them a New Year's Six bowl.
Instead, Alabama will conclude its season by playing Michigan, one of the strongest teams from the Big Ten, in the Citrus Bowl at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida, on Wednesday.
Here's everything you need to know about the upcoming matchup.
Citrus Bowl Information
Date: Wednesday, Jan. 1
Time: 1 p.m. ET
Live Stream: WatchESPN
Odds (via Caesars): Alabama -7
This will be the first time Alabama and Michigan have met since 2012. The Crimson Tide beat the Wolverines 41-14 on Sept. 1 of that year to even the all-time series between the two programs at 2.
The Citrus Bowl will also be a first meeting between head coaches Nick Saban and Jim Harbaugh in their careers.
So, while this might not be where the Crimson Tide want to be during bowl season, there are some exciting elements of this matchup against the Wolverines, including trying to establish conference supremacy and attempting to take the lead in the all-time series against another strong program.
"Fifty years ago, if you talked to your grandmother and said Alabama and Michigan are playing, they would think that was a pretty good thing," Saban said during his Monday evening radio show (h/t AL.com's Mike Rodak).
In 10 games overall this season since taking over from the injured Tua Tagovailoa, Crimson Tide quarterback Mac Jones has passed for 1,176 yards, 11 touchdowns and three interceptions.
That included a solid performance in the Iron Bowl, where he went 26-for-39 for 335 yards and four touchdowns in Alabama's road loss to Auburn.
While the Crimson Tide had some solid performances from their offense, their defense had some uncharacteristic struggles this season. In their two losses, they gave up 46 points to LSU and 48 to Auburn.
Part of the reason is that Alabama relied on some inexperienced players at key positions, such as true freshmen linebackers Shane Lee and Christian Harris.
"I think they got better throughout the year," Alabama defensive coordinator Pete Golding said at a press conference. "They had their growing pains, I had my growing pains, it wasn't always perfect by any means. But it was a situation that we were put in. But I'm extremely proud of how they handled themselves and the preparation they put forward."
Like Alabama, Michigan only lost to strong teams during the regular season. The Wolverines fell to Wisconsin and Penn State earlier this year, then lost to Ohio State in their last game. However, they also own quality wins over Notre Dame and Iowa.
For Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson, this won't be the first time he has faced Alabama. While playing for Ole Miss on Sept. 30, 2017, he and the Rebels lost a road matchup to the Crimson Tide 66-3. Patterson, a sophomore at the time, went 14-for-29 for 165 yards and two interceptions.
"It didn't exactly go my way," he said at his Sunday press conference. "I just remember going and playing in that game as a [sophomore]. I was a completely different player back then, and I was just happy to get the experience."
Patterson will look for better results this time. And it's possible he'll get them, as Michigan is better than his former Ole Miss team, and this year's Alabama squad isn't quite as talented as its 2017 version.
If Alabama and Michigan are both motivated to win—which can sometimes be difficult for teams that had playoff aspirations—then this has the potential to be one of the better non-CFP bowls of the season.