Cowboys Classic: Michigan vs. Alabama Preview

The last time Michigan and Alabama played each other was in the 2000 Orange Bowl when the Maize and Blue defeated the Crimson Tide 35 to 34 in overtime. Tom Brady was the quarterback, and threw for four touchdowns. Brady twice led the Wolverines back from 14 point deficits tying game at 28 in third. A scoreless fourth quarter led to the first overtime game in BCS history. Brady led Michigan down the field for the touchdown as Alabama missed the extra point. Can Denard Robinson lead Michigan to big win in his final year?

Will tomorrow’s Cowboys Classic be just as fun? Let’s find out what each team has to do to win:

Three keys for Alabama vs. Michigan:

1. Stop Denard Robinson

Alabama is the defending BCS national champion, and return just four defensive starters. Their biggest test is stopping the senior Denard Robinson. Last year, the defense led the nation in four major defensive categories: total yards, rushing, passing, and scoring defense.

Junior linebacker C.J. Mosley, senior safety Robert Lester, and senior nosetackle Jesse Williams are returning big names for the Crimson Tide. Mosley had 37 tackles and 2 sacks a year ago. Lester had 39 tackles and two interceptions and Williams had 24 tackles.

Nick Saban has had since spring ball to prepare for Denard Robinson. I am sure he will be ready.

2. Run the football 

Michigan lost two big defensive lineman in Mike Martin, and Ryan Van Bergen and Alabama should take notice of it.

Yes, Alabama lost Trent Richardson, but senior Eddie Lacy returns after rushing for 694 yards and 7.1 yards a carry last year. Not to mention Alabama has a beastly offensive line led by Outland Trophy winner Barrett Jones (left center to tackle, tackle D.J. Fluker and guard Chance Warmack.

Watch for freshman tailback T.J. Yeldon, who had 179 total yard in Alabama’s spring game.

3. A.J. McCarron needs to be a game manager. 

A.J. McCarron is coming off a big national championship win

A.J. McCarron managed Alabama’s 2012 BCS National Championship win against LSU. He went 23 for 34 for 234 yards in the game, and was named offensive MVP. It certainly helps with a great offensive line and a returning running back.

Last year, McCarron completed 66.8% of his passes threw for 2,634 yards and 16 touchdowns.

When you have a stellar defense, all you have to learn is how to manage games. A “younger” defense is going to be on top of their game to help pick McCarron up.

3 keys for Michigan vs. Alabama: 

1. Look past the suspension of Fitzgerald Toussaint. 

It will be hard for Michigan to be without Fitzgerald Toussaint tomorrow against Alabama. Toussaint was a 1,000+ yard back a year ago, but he had to pay the price for getting arrested. Now, Michigan is without the junior back.

Thomas Rawls, and Vincent Smith have to take pressure off Denard Robinson by finding holes because that is exactly what Toussaint did a year ago.

Vincent Smith is a veteran and will be looked to fill the loss of suspended running back Fitzgerald Toussaint.

Both Rawls and Smith averaged six yards a carry in 2011, and have monster left tackle Taylor Lewen opening gaps to run for them. Lewen is 6’8″ and 309 pounds and started 13 games a year ago.

2. Contain Alabama

Alabama is a grind it out team. They love to run the ball, and pass when you expect the run. Michigan loses Martin, and Van Bergen, but return Craig Roh, who had 32 tackles and 4 sacks a year ago. Will Campbell also returns to anchor the line. They face a tough offensive line, and mounts a big challenge.

The biggest playmaker on defense that must be big is senior Jordan Kovacs. Kovacs is a former walk-on, and now captain. He had 75 tackles and 4 sacks last year.

Also, the Wolverines have senior linebacker Kenny Demens, who had 94 tackles and 3 sacks a year ago. A possible player to watch is freshman Royce Jenkins-Stone, who had 145 tackles as a senior in high school. Also, watch second year cornerback Blake Countess. Countess started the final six games last year, and had six pass break ups.

3. Denard Robinson must be great

Denard Robinson is the key to the game for Michigan

Denard Robinson is known for his running, and his passing can be great and bad at the same time. The biggest factor Robinson has going for him is he is facing seven new defensive starters for Alabama.

Robinson has to be nearly perfect for Michigan to win. About every Michigan fan knows that. He has senior wide receiver Roy Roundtree to count on, who has 123 career catches.

Robinson completed just 55% of his passes and had 15 interceptions last year. He can’t have many, if any turnovers against the Crimson Tide because they will capitalize on them. Robinson must be on the money with his throws.

It should be a fun game to watch, and whoever loses it may break their national championship hopes!

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Ranking the Best NFL Quarterbacks: 1-5

Nearly two weeks of the NFL season have wrapped up and there are just eighteen days until the Dallas Cowboys play the New York Giants on September 5 for the first regular season game. Fans are getting anxious and cannot wait to cheer on their favorite team, player, or fantasy football team.

To help you get prepared for the 2012 season, here are my top five quarterbacks to start the season:

1. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

Aaron Rodgers has won a Super Bowl and fell a little short last year. Rodgers was the 2011 MVP after putting up a stellar season.

Yes, he didn’t break Dan Marino’s passing yards record (Drew Brees did,) but he did throw for 45 touchdowns to only six interceptions as well as throwing for 4,643 yards. Not to mention Rodgers did break Peyton Manning’s quarterback rating with a 122.5 rating.

Rodgers had to put a lot of points up last year as his defense was ranked dead last in the NFL and he has an elite wide receiving corp with Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, Donald Driver, Randall Cobb, James Jones and Jermichael Finley.

Oh and I forgot to mention Rodgers’ mobility. He has ran for 200+ yards the last 4 seasons.

It is throws like this below that make Rodgers so good. Watch as he goes over the top of Joe Haden of the Cleveland Browns to connect with Nelson for the touchdown. Right on the money.

Aaron Rodgers to Jordy Nelson touchdown pass

2. Tom Brady, New England Patriots

Tom Brady is 35 years old, but can still play. He had 39 touchdowns to 12 interceptions last year along with 5, 235 passing yards. He had a passer rating of 105.6 and completed nearly 66% of his passes.

Brady, like Rodgers has some really big targets. He has turned tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez in starts and has Mr. Reliable, Wes Welker running in the slot. The Patriots also added Brandon Lloyd in 2012, so they should be loaded for another Super Bowl run.

3. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints

Wait, you’re telling me Brees is third on my list and he just broke Dan Marino’s single season passing record with 5,476 yards?

You have to be confused right?

Brees has a better completion percentage too. He threw for 46 touchdowns but threw 14 interceptions (more than Rodgers and Brady,) and had a 110.6 passer rating.

Brees has a emerging superstar at tight end too in Jimmy Graham along with Marques Colston, Devery Henderson, and Lance Moore.

So, why isn’t he number one? Well, I think not because of Brady’s Super Bowl appearance last year and Rodgers’ Super Bowl win a year ago. Otherwise, it can be a toss-up.

4. Eli Manning, New York Giants

Eli Manning has won two Super Bowls now to his brother’s one. He is now an elite quarterback. What most jumps out at me his ability to succeed in the fourth quarter. In 2011, he had eight fourth quarter comebacks. Whoa.

I guess every year we should write the Giants off early and say Tom Coughlin is on the hot seat and Eli Manning might just lead his team to another Super Bowl, rightNe?

5. Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos

Peyton Manning didn’t play a year ago, and hasn’t take a “big” hit yet after having neck surgery. However, the past speaks for itself. John Elway says Manning is the same passer he used to be.

Cindy Boren of the Washington Post writes, 

“I went back and looked at film from 2010 and 2009 to get a comparison of Peyton, and he looks to me to be the same guy throwing now that he was then. The ball is coming out quicker all the time the more and more time he gets with the offense and getting to know all his receivers and tight ends. . . . That’s always been his style.

“He’s never been the Nolan Ryan of quarterbacks anyway. He’s always thrown the ball with great anticipation and touch.”

(http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/early-lead/post/peyton-manning-is-the-same-passer-he-used-to-be-john-elway-says/2012/08/17/e813c2a2-e882-11e1-936a-b801f1abab19_blog.html)

I guess we will see come Week 1 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Feel free to comment and leave your opinion as well!