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 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.
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 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!