[Note for people who don't read who posts what: Ace posted this. You probably didn't read this either. DAMN YOUUUUU.]
|WHAT||Michigan vs Alabama|
|WHERE||Cowboys Stadium, Arlington TX|
|WHEN||8 pm Eastern, September 1st 2012|
|THE LINE||Alabama -13.5|
|TELEVISION||National on ABC|
|WEATHER||sunny, mid-90s, roof expected to be closed so it doesn't really matter|
[Image via Tower of Bammer]
It's the opening game of the season, so certainly the Wolverines have scheduled a directional Michigan school or similar creampu...
Michigan takes on defending national champion Alabama, which is ranked second in both preseason polls despite returning just 11 starters. There is good reason for this: Nick Saban has turned Tuscaloosa into an NFL talent factory, one that shows no signs of slowing despite the heavy personnel losses. Michigan's toughest test traditionally comes in the last regular season game; this year, it's the first.
Run Offense vs Alabama
Jesse Williams shifts from end to nose tackle; this should not be a problem
The Crimson Tide defense posted one of the most dominant seasons in collegiate history in 2011, allowing ten yards per game fewer than any other team in the country. A look at their run defense, game-by-game, reveals their numbers could have been even better if not for one obvious outlier:
FCS school Georgia Southern was the only team to crack 3.6 yards per carry against Alabama, and they more than doubled that figure. Flukes are flukes, however, and a triple-option FCS team managing that kind of output against that defense screams irrelevance unless Al Borges breaks out the flexbone tomorrow. The rest of the year, Bama allowed more than three ypc just twice, to Penn State (still boasting Silas Redd) and LSU (first matchup—the second didn't go so well).
This isn't the same Alabama outfit, of course; they lose nose tackle Josh Chapman and a pair of All-American caliber linebackers in Dont'a Hightower and Courtney Upshaw. The Tide can replace that talent effectively, sliding 320-pound end Jesse Williams down to the nose and inserting former blue-chip recruits Trey DePriest and Adrian Hubbard into the lineup at linebacker, but replicating last year's success will be difficult.
Then again, Alabama ceded just 2.4 yards per carry last year en route to crushing the entire universe. Giving up a full yard more per carry would've still placed them inside the top 25 nationally—there may be regression, meaning the extent of their destruction is limited to merely our own galaxy. Williams reportedly bench-pressed 600 pounds(!!!) over the summer—as a JUCO transfer who originally hails from Australia, he's just beginning to reach his potential. Starting ends Damion Square and Ed Stinson each played in all 13 games last year (Square started all 13) and weigh in at over 280 pounds. The Tide carry a reputation for being strong up the middle and that should not change this year.
At linebacker, Nico Johnson and C.J. Mosely combined for 11 TFLs in 2011 and should greatly improve on that output now that they're out from under the shadow of Hightower and Upshaw. Johnson is listed as the co-starter at both MIKE and WILL, while Mosely will stick to the weak side. You may remember DePriest from his recruitment, when the five-star out of Springfield, Ohio, appeared to favor Michigan at one point before choosing to head South. He tallied 25 tackles as a true freshman last year and is a star in the making. Strongside linebacker Hubbard functions more as a defensive lineman in Alabama's 3-4 defense.
On the Michigan side, their performance in this regard may hinge on the status of Fitzgerald Toussaint [UPDATE: forget that]—it takes a dynamic runner to be effective against this defense, and Thomas Rawls and Vincent Smith do not fit that bill.
If Toussaint isn't available, Moving the ball on the ground will be a difficult proposition, especially since Alabama can then key on Denard Robinson without having to fear the guy next to him.
As long as there are no injuries along the offensive line, the Wolverines should hold up in the trenches. The pressure will be on Patrick Omameh—who's struggled against bigger, stronger linemen—and new starter Elliott Mealer to not give any ground; if they're getting knocked into the backfield, the efforts of Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield will be for naught.
If, as expected, Toussaint is not available, it'll take a monster effort from Denard for Michigan to consistently move the ball. He's capable, of course, especially against a defense facing its first full-speed test of the season. As detailed in FFFF, it usually takes misdirection to find running room against the Tide, so we'll see if Borges gets creative to try and get Denard into space on the edge.
Key Matchup: The interior line vs. Jesse Williams. As I said, Lewan and Schofield could dominate and it won't matter if Omameh, Mealer, and center Ricky Barnum can't keep Williams from getting a push up the middle. If the interior line can fight Williams to a draw there's a chance Denard and the backs can put together a few decent runs, perhaps (please?) by running some inverted veer, which Auburn (and Cam Newton) ran with great success against the Tide in 2010.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the news. Which is mostly bad.]