The Alabama Crimson Tide are playing on New Year’s Day. But with how the season went, it certainly doesn’t feel like anything except a “game that’s happening.”
With losses to their arch rivals, the LSU Tigers and Auburn Tigers, under their belts already, the Tide will be playing for nothing but pride in the Citrus Bowl. For the first time since the College Football Playoff era began, ‘Bama will not be competing for a National Championship. Instead, they will merely be looking to do layman’s work against the Michigan Wolverines of the Big Ten.
Michigan comes into this one with plenty of pride on the line for themselves. A win will vault them up to another 10-win season under Jim Harbaugh. But it certainly doesn’t feel like anything miraculous. The Wolverines lost to the Wisconsin Badgers, the Penn State Nittany Lions and, of course, the Ohio State Buckeyes. So, basically, they lost to all of their big rivals too, sans the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
There are some reasons to be ‘concerned’ about Alabama in this game. None of which really settle on the offense besides the quarterback situation. Despite it being a leery possibility that plenty of players would sit out, it certainly seems like everyone will be a go. That being said, Mac Jones didn’t look too great against Auburn. Yes, Jaylen Waddle certainly balled out and saved Jones’ bacon. But it’s not like Jones was really setting the world on fire. Jones will be facing a similar tough test in the Michigan defense, who have one of the best sack rates in the entire country. If they can pressure Jones often, Alabama’s offense could certainly be in trouble. Najee Harris could be a problem, but he will face a run defense that has been pretty stout, despite a few hiccups along the way.
Defensively is where Alabama has been weak this year. That’s a pretty surprising statement to make, but it’s true. This is not an elite Alabama defense. It’s a very good one, but it’s not elite. And they will be absent some players. Trevon Diggs chief among them, as well as Terrell Lewis and DJ Dale. Michigan’s offense has been solid, not spectacular. But they have been good at finishing drives this year. If they can chain together some good plays against a weaker ‘Bama defense than usual, then they could put the Tide on their heels. Look for the likes of Zach Charbonnet and Hassan Haskins to be keys for the Wolverines.
Plus, and you know how it goes: Is Alabama going to be motivated?
We’ll soon find out.
HOW TO WATCH
Time: 1 p.m. ET
Watch Online: WatchESPN
Spread: Alabama -7.5
Moneyline: Michigan +235 | Alabama -300