Michigan Football will kick off the 2012 season with an epic game against Alabama at Cowboys Stadium on Saturday night. The game will begin at 8:12pm and be televised on ABC. The Wolverines enter the game as a prohibitive long-shot with many expecting the Crimson Tide to pummel them. Brady Hoke was asked at Monday’s press conference if he considered Michigan an underdog. His response was “nope” he followed that up by saying, “I like Michigan”.
I remember in 2008, Nick Saban’s second season at Alabama, that the then ranked #24 Crimson Tide had a huge season opening game against #9 Clemson. Many experts thought Alabama, coming off a 7-6 season, wasn’t up for the challenge. Well, the Tide rolled to a decisive 34-10 victory and finished the season 12-2. This time around it is Brady Hoke in his second season coaching the 8th ranked Wolverines against #2 Alabama. The buildup to this game is similar to the 2008 Capital One Bowl when Michigan was supposed to get crushed by the Tim Tebow led Florida Gators. Instead it was the Wolverines who claimed a 41-35 victory. My point here is that you can thrown the predictions and point spreads out the window. These are two well-coached teams and this game is going to be a dogfight.
You know a Saban coached team is going to be outstanding defensively. The objective for Alabama’s defense will be to contain Denard Robinson, to not let him get to the edges, and make him beat them through the air. They will be led on defense by senior linebacker Nico Johnson and senior DB Robert Lester.
The Alabama offense is powered by the best offensive line in the country which is anchored by the best offensive lineman in the country, Barrett Jones – the 2011 Outland Trophy winner. Trent Richardson has of course moved on to the NFL, but Alabama has a stable of talented backs led by Eddie Lacey and former Michigan recruit Dee Hart. Their quarterback is AJ McCarron, who piloted the Crimson Tide to a national title last season. McCarron completed 67% of his passes last year for 2,634 yards with 16 TDs and just 5 interceptions.
Two areas where Alabama is vulnerable are the secondary and their receiving corps. They had a lot of turnover in both groups.
They are good, they are fast and they are physical. ”Everyone says the SEC is the fastest conference, but Michigan has some fast guys,” Roy Roundtree said. “Have you seen Denard? Have you seen Denard run?”
With a dozen freshmen on the initial depth chart, the Wolverines are a young team. They do have a strong senior class, but lack experience on both lines. On the defensive line Craig Roh has started 38 consecutive games, but the other 3 projected starters, William Campbell (Sr), Jibreel Black (Jr) and Quinton Washington (RS Jr), have combined for zero starts. That is obviously an area of concern going up against Alabama’s outstanding offensive line.
Michigan’s offensive line has more experience than the D-line. Elliott Mealer (Sr) has claimed the starting LG job and is the only starter without any previous starts under his belt. Here is how the O-line will look when the offense takes the field; LT – Taylor Lewan (RS Jr), LG – Mealer, C- Ricky Barnum (Sr), RG – Patrick Omameh (Sr), RT- Michael Schofield (RS Jr).
The running back situation remains unclear. Fitz Toussaint’s (RS Jr) status for the game is unknown and Thomas Rawls (So) may or may not be dinged up. The other backs in the mix are Vincent Smith (Sr) and Justice Hayes (RS Fr).
Senior receiver Roy Roundtree is fully recovered from a minor knee procedure and will play a prominent role in the offense. Roundtree will start opposite of team funny man, Jeremy Gallon (RS Jr). Brandon Moore (Sr) takes over the duties at tight end.
Michigan is of course led by Denard Robinson at QB. He gives them an edge in every game they play, because he is so dangerous and can strike for an 80 yard TD on any given play.
The players are aware that many pundits expect them to lose and lose big, but they don’t care. ”Aw, everybody has their own opinions,” Roundtree explained. “We know what we got. We know the coaches are preparing us. This is Michigan, we expect to win, and that’s what we’re going for.”
Expect a few surprises from Michigan offensively and I’m not just talking about Devin Gardner at receiver. They will add some wrinkles into the gameplan to try and take advantage of Denard Robinson’s big play ability. As I mentioned previously, Alabama’s secondary could be exploited by Michigan’s passing attack. Denard Robinson and Roy Roundtree have a good rapport and could team up for some big plays. At 6-foot-4, 203 pounds, Devin Gardner will present match up problems for the Tide when he lines up at receiver. Robinson is not a prototypical passing QB, but he is more than capable of hitting from some big plays.
Prediction: I think Michigan will keep it close and they have a chance to win this game, but I’m going with Alabama to get the victory. Regardless, the Wolverines will impress.
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