Alabama Football analyst John Mitchell from Bama Hammer stopped by to answer a few questions about the big game. Here is the link to the questions I answered for John over at Bama Hammer
1. What worries you most about playing Michigan?
It’s always worrisome to play a team as good as Michigan on the opening weekend. Despite our best guesses, we never know what a team is going to look like in a new season. My biggest concern is Michigan’s ability to hit on big plays. I’m not the biggest Denard Robinson fan, but there is no denying his ability to make game changing plays on the ground or through the air. If you give him a small open running lane, next thing you know he’s streaking down the field for 60 yards. I do think Alabama’s defense will be up to the challenge to prevent Robinson from beating them with his legs, but it only takes one momentary lapse to allow him to make you pay.
2. Who is one Alabama player that Michigan fans haven’t heard of who will make a big impact on Saturday’s game?
Sophomore receiver Christion Jones is a guy who everyone will get to know on Saturday night. Jones will not only be a factor in the passing game as a slot receiver, he will also be the primary kick and punt returner, and he has the potential to be a serious game changer. If you remember the National Championship game, senior Marquis Maze was injured, and Nick Saban sent the then true freshman Jones into the biggest game of his life to return kicks and he performed admirably. Jones only caught 3 passes for 49 yards a year ago, but he earned a starting role as a receiver this season. A few other new faces to keep your eyes on would be RB TJ Yeldon, TE/H-back Kelly Johnson, and Safety Vinnie Sunseri.
3. What is Alabama’s best position group?
It’s undoubtedly the Crimson Tide’s offensive line. Many people believe this unit is the best in the entire country and for good reason. Alabama returns four starters from last season’s offensive line, and the one new starter is Left Tackle Cyrus Kouandjio, who was the #2 ranked player in the country in the 2011 recruiting class. Kouandjio saw a lot of playing time last season before having to undergo season ending surgery. To give you an idea of how good Kouandjio could be, Outland Trophy winner Barrett Jones was moved to center to accommodate him. Jones along with left guard Chance Warmack are preseason All Americans, and right tackle D.J. Fluker is regarded as a potential Top-10 pick in next year’s NFL Draft.
4. What is Alabama’s most unproven position group?
It’s the secondary. “Officially” Alabama returns only one starter from last season’s group in senior free safety Robert Lester. Junior cornerback Dee Milliner is not listed as a returning starter on most publications, but he has made 17 career starts. He took a backseat to JUCO transfer DeQuan Menzie last season, but Milliner started every game in 2010 as a true freshman. The other two starting spots are occupied by new starters. Across the field from Milliner will be JUCO transfer Deion Belue. At strong safety, replacing All American Mark Barron, will be two guys. Sophomores Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix and Vinnie Sunseri will split time. Alabama has plenty of capable players in the defensive backfield, but they have some unproven guys who will have to step up to help the secondary reach last season’s heights.
5. What is your prediction for the game with a final score?
Alabama’s defense is going to force Denard Robinson to throw the ball to beat them. They are going to make him be a pocket passer, and I don’t think he has the ability to beat Alabama with his arm. On the other side of the ball, I think Alabama’s offensive line is going to dominate the line of scrimmage and Alabama will use its four headed monster at running back (Eddie Lacy, Jalston Fowler, TJ Yeldon, and Dee Hart) to pound the football for most of the game. I think it will be a close game at the half, but I see the Crimson Tide wearing the Wolverines down in the final thirty minutes.
Alabama 31, Michigan 14