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On Sunday, the College Football Bowl Schedule was released and potentially the best game that is not one of the Playoff Semifinals will take place in Orlando with the Alabama Crimson Tide taking on the Michigan Wolverines. This match-up is between two of college football’s most storied programs with two of the most dynamic head coaches in the sport.
Even without their star quarterback Tua Tuagovailoa, the Crimson Tide have enough talent to put on a show for their fans traveling to Orlando. On offense, quarterback Mac Jones has plenty of weapons in Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III, Jaden Waddle and leading receiver Devonta Smith to throw to. All four of those players will playing on Sundays in the very near future.
On the ground, running back Najee Harris ran for 1,088 yards and 11 rushing touchdowns. But he’s just as dangerous through the air as he caught seven touchdown passes on the season. Alabama has had no problems scoring this season as they averaged 48.3 points per game and finished third in passing yards per game.
This issue has been defense at times. Alabama gave up 48 to Auburn two weeks ago and 46 in their loss at LSU. The losses came in different styles, however.
In the LSU game, Heisman Trophy front-runner Joe Burrow threw three touchdown passes in the first half. The Crimson Tide were down by 20 halftime and had to fight from behind and fell short.
In the Auburn game, the defense played better, allowing only 34 points but still giving up big plays. Jones throwing two interceptions that were returned for touchdowns allowed the scoreboard to end up at 48 for the Tigers.
Anfernee Jennings is the leader of the defense with a team-high 7.5 sacks and 73 tackles on the season from his linebacker spot. In the secondary, Xavier McKinney leads the team interceptions, tackles and forced fumbles. He should be all over the field on New Year’s Day.
For the first time in the last four seasons, Alabama will not be playing in the college football playoffs but Nick Saban won’t allow this this group to not take this game seriously. Even with the two games allowing over 40 points on the scoreboard, this group was 15th in the NCAA in points allowed per game at 18.8.
The Michigan Wolverines enter this contest at 9-3 on the season and their three losses were against teams that will being playing in the Big Six bowl games. In those losses, quarterback Shea Patterson has thrown only three touchdown passes and three interceptions.
In the wins this year, he’s thrown 19 touchdown passes and only three interceptions. When he’s playing well, the Wolverines have a very good chance of winning the game.
Not unlike Alabama, who has multiple big play wide receivers, Michigan has a trio of receivers who can make plays in different ways. Leading receiver Ronnie Bell (43 catches for 694 yards) causes problems by being able to get open and extending drives with his hands. Nico Collins is the deep threat and can make the big play down the field. Junior Donovan Peoples-Jones has six touchdown catches, including four in Michigan’s last five games.
On the ground, Michigan uses a two-headed running attack. Freshman Zach Charbonnet leads the team with 642 yards on the ground and has two games with over 100 yards rushing. However, hasn’t had a game over 50 yards on the ground since their victory over Notre Dame on October 26th.
Sophomore Hassan Haskins has 561 yards and has been leading the team in carries over the last few weeks. He has two 100 yard plus rushing games in the back end of the season.
On defense, the Wolverines used a very balanced attack to get after the quarterback. They had five players that had four or more sacks on the season. The team finished with 37 total for the season.
Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh will coach this game just like any other and he will have three weeks to plan how to stop one of the most dynamic offensive units in college football.
The VRBO Citrus Bowl will take place on New Year’s Day at Camping World Stadium on ABC at 1pm Eastern time.