College Football Preview: Michigan vs. Alabama

   on August 30 2012 6:03 AM

Two of the most historied college football programs square off for the fourth time ever on Saturday night. 

 

No. 2 Alabama takes on No. 8 Michigan at Cowboy Stadium. It is the only game this Saturday that features two ranked teams. To make it even sweeter, these two teams have a good chance of playing in the BCS National Championship. The loser of this game could see those title hopes go out the window. This is a must-win game for both teams to get a signature win on their resume. 

This is the 2012 version of Oregon vs. LSU. The Tigers gained a ton of momentum after their signature win in the season opener against the Ducks in 2011. 

Alabama and Michigan are hoping to do the same.

Alabama has to reload after losing 11 starters from last years team. 

Trent Richardson, Marquis Maze, and Brad Smelley are all gone. Richardson was a Heisman finalist last year and was the sixth leading rusher in the nation. 

Maze, Smelley, and Richardson were the top three receivers for the Crimson Tide last year.

Mark Barron, Dre Kirkpatrick, Dont'a Hightower, Courtney Upshaw, Josh Chapman and DeQuan Menzie were all defensive stars that played a pivotal role in winning the 2012 BCS National Championship. 

Now they are all gone and it will be up to the new starters to learn quickly. 

Alabama had one of the best defense's in FBS history. They were tops in the nation allowing only 8.8 points/game and 191.3 yards/game. 

There is a reason why Barron, Kirkpatrick, and Hightower were selected in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft.

Head coach Nick Saban has four returning defensive starters from last years team and his new guys better get equipped quickly against one of the best offenses on Saturday.

Michigan has 14 starters returning this year, but most importantly, Denard Robinson is back. 

He will be one of the favorites to win the Heisman this season.

In 2010, Robinson became the first player in FBS history to pass and rush for 1,500 yards in one season. He broke the Big Ten Conference record for total yards in a season. He threw for 2,570 yards and rushed for 1,702 yards and had 32 total touchdowns.

Last year, he led Michigan to their first BCS bowl game since 2007. It was the school's first BCS bowl win since 2000. 

Robinson threw for 2,173 yards and rushed for 1,176 yards. He had 36 total touchdowns and became the fourth quarterback in FBS history to throw for 2,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards twice. (Colin Kaepernick, Joe Webb, and Brad Smith are the other three.) 

If he does it again this year, he will be the first quarterback in FBS history to do it three times. 

He will have his hands full going up against Alabama on Saturday.

Junior quarterback, A.J. McCarron, is the most important returnee for Bama'. He was one of the most efficient passers last year. He threw for 2,634 yards and completed nearly 70% of his passes. He had 16 touchdowns to only five interceptions. 

He will have a lot more on his shoulders this year with the loss of Trent Richardson and a boatload of defensive stars. 

Alabama is hoping Eddie Lacy can lead the way in the backfield. Richardson made Bama' fans quickly forget about Mark Ingram, and they are hoping Lacy can do the same.

He rushed for 674 yards and seven touchdowns averaging 7.1 yards/carry as a sophomore. He will be the feature back in 2012 and will see the rock a lot more. 

Five-star recruit, T.J Yeldon (Daphne HS), should see plenty of carries. He has the talent to be one of the best running backs in the nation before his college career is over. Expect him to make some big plays for Alabama in 2012 as a true freshman. I can almost guarantee he will have a game-changing play this Saturday.

The offensive line is the bright spot for the Crimson Tide in 2012. They return four starters, but most importantly, Barrett Jones is back. He was an All-American last season, and is arguably the best offensive lineman in the country. 

Also, expect Cyrus Kouandjio to have a big year as he returns from a knee injury. He was a top-five recruit in 2011 and should help bolster one of the best O-lines in the nation.

The two major weaknesses for Alabama are at wide receiver and the inexperience on defense. 

They lost their top four receivers from 2011. 

Kenny Bell, DeAndrew White, and Michael Williams will need to step up this year to take some pressure off McCarron's shoulders. They totaled 507 yards and six touchdowns receiving in 2011. 

Alabama was dealt some horrible news earlier this month when Chris Black hurt his shoulder and is out 3-4 months. The four-star recruit was the second rated receiver coming out of high-school this year.

It will be interesting to see how Alabama's defense comes out on Saturday. They will be facing one of the most dynamic offense's in the country. 

Nico Johnson is the defensive leader for the Crimson Tide. The senior linebacker was fourth in tackles for Alabama last year and will have an even bigger role this year. Johnson and C.J. Mosley will be crucial this season. Mosley had 36 tackles and two sacks in 2011, but the junior linebacker will see plenty of action in 2012, and could have a monster season.

The secondary and defensive line should be legit this year, but there are a lot of new starters, so it could take some time. 

Senior defensive tackle, Jesse Williams, is an absolute beast. He is expected to be a first round selection in 2013. He is the only returning starter on the D-line and will have to carry a lot of the load on his shoulders. 

Robert Lester is one of the best safeties in the nation. The senior has 10 interceptions over the last two seasons. 

Dee Milliner finally gets his opportunity to be the full-time starter at defensive back and will get a chance to show why he was one of the most touted corners coming out of high-school. He had three interceptions last year and will have a chance to double that number in his junior season. 

Now taking a look at Michigan, they only lost seven starters from last seasons 11-win team. 

The main weakness for the Wolverines heading into this season is on the defensive line. Mike Martin was selected in the third round of the 2012 NFL Draft and was the leader on the D-line in 2011. 

Martin, along with two other starters on the D-line are gone. 

The depth at wide receiver could be an issue for Michigan on Saturday night. Roy Roundtree and Jeremy Gallon need to step up for the Wolverines to take some pressure off Robinson. 

Roundtree had an amazing sophomore season, but did not have much success as a junior last year. He was third on the team with 355 yards receiving and only had two touchdowns. As a sophomore he led Michigan with nearly 1,000 yards receiving and and seven touchdowns.

Michigan needs the Roundtree of 2010 if they want to contend for a BCS National Championship.

Head coach Brady Hoke has a very tough decision on his hands. Junior running back, Fitzgerald Toussaint, was charged with a DUI and Hoke still has not decided on whether or not he will play on Saturday.

Toussaint rushed for 1,041 yards and nine touchdowns last year. 

Toussaint and Robinson became the first teammates since 1975 (Rob Lytle and Gorden Bell) to both rush for over 1,000 yards in a season. 

If Michigan wants to beat Alabama on Saturday they need Toussaint on the field. 

The linebacking corp and secondary should be among the best in the nation this year. 

Senior linebacker, Kenny Demens, is one of the best middle linebackers in the country. His 94 tackles were tops on the team in 2011.

He is surrounded by two talented linebackers on the outside. Sophomores' Jake Ryan and Desmond Morgan both got better week-by-week in 2011.

 

They should be even better this season.

 

Redshirt senior, Jordan Kovacs, has come a long way during his Michigan career. 

He was a walk-on when he came to Michigan, now he is one of the teams' captain. Kovacs is one of the best safeties in the nation and his hard work has made every single one of his teammates better. He sets the example and is the anchor for the Wolverines defense. 

The secondary is filled with a ton of experience. Expect them to be ready for this Saturday against Alabama. If they can force McCarron into some turnovers the Wolverines have a good chance to pull of the upset.

Most football games come down to turnovers. Whoever wins the turnover margin will have a great chance to pull it out. 

Both teams have a lot of question marks heading into Saturday, but a lot of the questions will get answered soon.

I am not big on predictions, so I will leave it up to you guys to comment on this article to predict some scores. If you predict the score right I will write on any topic of your choice.