News Now: Important matchup: No. 4 Alabama vs. No. 1 Michigan

The quarterback the Wolverines will see this season is the most exciting one yet.

On New Year’s Day, Michigan will take on Alabama at the Rose Bowl. Since the Crimson Tide upset the Wolverines 35-16 in the Citrus Bowl four years ago, the Wolverines have not faced Alabama. Thankfully, Michigan’s team is far superior this time around, and Alabama’s is as well.

The Wolverines will face a range of difficulties from Nick Saban and Alabama, who will not be taking anything lightly. Let’s examine the most important Rose Bowl matchups.

The defense of Michigan versus Jalen Milroe

Why Milroe presents a different challenge for Michigan's defense

Dual-threat quarterbacks have typically presented enormous challenges for the Wolverines. How to contain Jalen Milroe remains an issue even though this current squad has improved defensively to better plan against various attacking approaches.

Max Duggan of TCU was especially elusive in last year’s College Football Playoff quarterfinal, as he managed to dash for 57 yards and two scores. Due of Duggan’s rushing prowess, TCU was able to march easily up and down thefield.  If the Wolverines hope to restrict Alabama’s offensive success, they must stop Milroe’s productivity on the ground.

Milroe, a first-year starter, has experienced mixed results this year. After a home loss to Texas early in the season, he was benched. Saban does not put up with Milroe’s accuracy or decision-making because it had become a problem and was not positioning the team for success.

Key Matchups: No. 1 Michigan vs. No. 4 Alabama - Maize n Brew

But ever after defeating Ole Miss, he hasn’t turned around. He has played incredibly well since then and is headed into the Rose Bowl off a significant victory over Georgia.

Fortunately for the Wolverines, Alex Orji, their backup quarterback, can help imitate Milroe’s play style. They’ll be better equipped to handle whatever Alabama throws at them thanks to this. Michigan must limit Milroe’s running ability and apply pressure to him frequently if it is to truly shut down Alabama.

This season, Alabama has had some difficulties keeping the quarterback safe. After 13 games, the Tide have allowed 43 sacks. In order to confuse Milroe and force him to hang onto the ball longer than he would want to, Jesse Minter will have a number of looks prepared. In order to catch up to Milroe, expect Michigan to accelerate quickly off the edge.

Michigan’s rush offense versus Alabama’s defensive line

This season, the Wolverines’ offensive balance was far better. Given J.J. McCarthy’s skill, the offense had to adjust to move the ball both via the air and on the ground. But Michigan pounded the rock down the stretch to revert to its bread and butter.

In contrast to last year, Michigan will have the finest running back in the CFP at its disposal, and they should be able to exploit a rush defense that is inferior to, or at least comparable to, the rush defenses of the four teams they have already faced this season. However, the Tide will attempt to outshine Michigan through the air thanks to its up-front playmakers.

Probably licking their chops, Mike Hart and Michigan’s backs are analyzing video from the Alabama vs. Auburn game. It required a fourth-down miracle for Alabama to win since the Tigers were able to rush for 244 yards. Michigan will probably need to use quarterback Payton Thorne’s dual-threat skills in order to have comparable success as Auburn did in opening up the run game.

Large men in Alabama’s front line will be difficult to move, particularly without All-American right guard Zak Zinter. All of the players on Alabama’s defensive line weigh more than 290 pounds, and senior Justin Eboigbe leads the group with 59 tackles and seven sacks. Michigan will need to think outside the box since this team probably won’t be easily subdued in the trenches.

The Wolverines might be able to make up for any lack of strength with their speed. Michigan might use more outside runs and bootleg plays. The coaching staff can use Corum’s shiftiness to get things going inside if Michigan can open things up a bit and wear down the big players up front. The offense probably won’t be successful early in the game if it runs at the fangs of the Alabama defense.

Nick Saban versus Jim Harbaugh

Many people believe that current Alabama team lacks the depth and talent of many of Nick Saban’s previous teams. Although there are several areas where the Tide might be abused, bear in mind that head coach Nick Saban, who is without a doubt among the greatest in football history, has had nearly a month to prepare for this match.

College football’s most successful active coach is Nick Saban. As a head coach, he has won seven national titles, three of which were during the CFP era. Alabama enters the game against Michigan with a 9-4 postseason record and has only missed the playoffs twice. He’ll need to use his special skill to take advantage of flaws in teams that many weren’t even aware existed when facing the Wolverines.

This season, Harbaugh and the Wolverines have encountered numerous distractions. It is quite the accomplishment that Michigan was able to run the table for a second straight season despite suspensions and the scandal around sign-stealing.

In the past, Harbaugh has had a terrible difficulty getting ready for skilled non-conference opponents. But this time, Harbaugh is approaching the bowl game differently; instead of overanalyzing the opposition, they are putting a lot more of an emphasis on remaining fit and fresh. There’s no reason to alter now as the Wolverines have succeeded thus far by maintaining their health and concentrating on the basics.

In addition, Saban has employed a novel strategy in his preparation for the Wolverines, bringing on former Michigan linebackers coach George Helow. On paper, Saban made a wise coaching decision with this. It will take time to determine how much of an effect this will have on the result of the game, but it can’t hurt to hire someone who is well-versed with Michigan’s defensive strategies and Jesse Minter.

While on-field performance will ultimately decide the Rose Bowl champion, coaching decisions made throughout the game will have a significant impact. In order to overcome the Crimson Tide, the Wolverines will need to play disciplined football under the direction of seasoned playmakers, as they have done throughout the season.

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