The 2020 calendar year begins with the Citrus Bowl as #14 Michigan takes on #13 Alabama down in Orlando. The Michigan Wolverines (9-3) enter this game coming off of a loss to Ohio State 56-27 that ended their four-game winning streak. The Alabama Crimson Tide also enter this game coming off of a loss, losing 48-45 to Auburn in the Iron Bowl.
Michigan was the recipient of a lot of criticism throughout most of this season. A 9-3 record is good for most teams but not a blue blood like Michigan. A close win against a bad Army team to get the Wolverines to 2-0 was followed up by a disappointing blowout loss to Wisconsin 35-14. The second loss for Michigan came to Penn State 28-21, a game they were trailing 21-7 at halftime. Their final loss of the season to Ohio State, while a blowout, is understandable considering just how dominant the Buckeyes have been all season.
Aside from their three losses to highly-ranked teams, the Wolverines have put together a very good season. They have a couple of quality wins against a good Iowa team, Notre Dame and two Big Ten teams who were surprises this season in Illinois and Indiana. Prior to their loss to Ohio State, Michigan’s offense put together four very good games. The Wolverines averaged nearly 42 points per game in that span against Notre Dame, Maryland, Michigan State and Indiana. Over their last three games, quarterback Shea Patterson has looked good for Michigan as he compiled 1,055 passing yards and 10 touchdowns in that span.
As good as the offense has been playing of late for Michigan, the defense is still the strength of this team. The Wolverines are 19th in the country in points allowed this season. They own the nation’s fifth-best pass defense and 24th-ranked rush defense. Michigan was great at limiting big plays this season as they allowed the fifth-fewest yards per play this season.
For the first time since its induction, Alabama will not be playing in the College Football Playoff. The Crimson Tide lost two close games this season to two tough SEC opponents in Auburn (48-45) and LSU (46-41). Outside of those two losses, the Crimson Tide were dominant in every one of their wins this season. However, just three of their wins came against opponents above .500 and none of them won more than eight games (Southern Miss, Texas A&M and Tennessee).
Losing quarterback Tua Tagovailoa for the season was a big blow to the Alabama offense. With Mac Jones coming in as his replacement, the Crimson Tide went 1-1 with him as a starter. Their one win was against FCS Western Carolina. Jones went 10/12 for 275 yards and three touchdowns in that game. In their loss to Auburn, Jones was 26/39 for 335 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions. This test against a very good Michigan defense will be a tough test for Jones.
Alabama has historically been a dominant defensive team but not so much this season. The Tide were 15th in the country in points allowed this season but they struggled against their two toughest opponents this season in Auburn and LSU (allowed a combined 94 points in those two losses). To make matters even worse for this defense, they will be without two key players in linebacker Terrell Lewis and defensive back Trevon Diggs as they are skipping this game to get ready for the NFL Draft.
While both teams must be disappointed in not making the CFP, Alabama has to be the most disappointed. The desire to play will be a big question for this Alabama team and is one major reason why Michigan looks like a great play in this game. Patterson will be playing in his final game at Michigan and will be looking to finish his career on a high note. Against an Alabama defense that has shown weaknesses against quality teams, Michigan’s offense should put together a solid game. The tough Wolverines defense will give Jones and that Alabama offense all they can handle. This should be a close game that sees Michigan cover the spread and possibly pull the upset and get the win.
Image from: Fox News