Tale Of The Tape: #2 Alabama Vs. #8 Michigan
- CoachingThere may be no better college football coach in the country than Nick Saban. What else could you ask for? He recruits as well as anyone (the No. 1 class in the country the past two years) and can game plan with the best of them (see last year’s BCS championship rematch).Brady Hoke has done no wrong since arriving in Ann Arbor in January 2011. He assembled an outstanding coaching staff, recruited well, and, oh yeah, beat Ohio State, Michigan’s first win against its archrival since 2003.
- OffenseThe Crimson Tide runs a pro-style offense behind a big, talented offensive line—center Barrett Jones is the best lineman in the country. Quarterback A.J. McCarron won’t have Heisman finalist Trent Richardson in the backfield with him, so the junior will be asked to do more this season.Denard Robinson is on everybody’s preseason Heisman watch list, and for good reason. He’s the most electrifying player in the country. The rest of the Wolverine offense lacks elite playmakers.
- DefenseMost schools would have trouble replacing three first-round NFL draft picks on one side of the ball. Alabama reloads with plenty of top-level recruits, but many are unproven at the college level.The transformation of Michigan’s defense from 2010 to last season was nothing short of a miracle. The unit went from 107th in scoring defense to sixth and made a similar jump in yards allowed.
- Special TeamsJeremy Shelley returns after connecting on 19 of 21 field goals from under 40 yards (he was 2 for 6 from longer). Christion Jones takes over kick returning duties from the explosive Marquis Maze.Michigan has uncertainty at punter despite returning two players who saw action last season. Its reliable kicker, redshirt junior Brendan Gibbons, returns after a surprisingly good 2011.
The atmosphere in Cowboys Stadium should be electric on Saturday night as these two top programs square off. Alabama is near the top of all major polls for a reason. Despite losing a ton of talent, there’s no shortage of it in Tuscaloosa. Some of the young, inexperienced defenders might get embarrassed by Robinson on a few plays, but Michigan’s re-tooled defensive line faces a stiff test. It should be competitive, but Saban’s squad has the edge.