Michigan vs. Alabama
Teddy Covers' Recommendation:
Saturday, 5 pm PT @ Arlington, Texas - ABC
Alabama -11 O/U 46
Alabama -14 O/U 46.5
Rob Veno's Power Rating: Alabama -15
Michigan enjoyed one heck of a first season for Brady Hoke, finishing their 11-win season with a thrilling overtime victory over Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl. But it’s not going to be an easy task for the Wolverines to repeat that level of performance in 2012. Michigan suffered significant graduation losses on both the offensive and defensive lines; bad news for ultra-hyped senior quarterback Denard Robinson.
Nor can the Wolverines expect to win every close game like they did last year; undefeated in games decided by a touchdown or less. And make no mistake about it – this is a step up in class game for the Wolverines. Michigan’s last three step-up-in-class games on the road? They lost 42-7 and 37-7 at Ohio State, and 52-14 to Mississippi State; completely non-competitive in all three contests.
Alabama suffered major graduation losses as well, but Nick Saban’s program is quite capable of withstanding the losses of eight NFL draft choices, including four in the first round. No coach in the country has more elite level talent stockpiled on his bench than Saban. This defense has ranked in the top five nationally in each of the last four years, capable of disrupting the Wolverines at the line of scrimmage, with enough team speed to keep ‘Shoelace’ Robinson in the pocket, not making plays with his feet.
Alabama doesn’t beat itself very often; ranked in the top 5 nationally in fewest turnovers in each of the past three seasons. Returning quarterback starter AJ McCarron threw only five interceptions in 328 pass attempts last year – in sharp contrast to Robinson’s 15 INTs on 258 throws. And with 95 career starts returning on the offensive line, look for the Crimson Tide to enjoy solid offensive balance, keeping the Wolverines defense out of sync throughout.
Michigan’s offense was stymied against the two best defenses they faced last year. Michigan State held the Wolverines to 14 points and 250 yards. Virginia Tech held Michigan to 184 total yards, but Michigan won the turnover battle and got the breaks, managing to score 20 points in regulation. The only game last year where Bama allowed more than 14 points came in a late season affair against FCS Georgia Southern; a game where Saban emptied his bench. Saban might empty his bench here, but not before Alabama has an insurmountable lead.
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