Alabama, Michigan Meet In Early Top 10 Fight

By: Michael Robinson | Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Alabama Crimson Tide start the defense of their national championship with a huge top-10 battle against the Michigan Wolverines on Saturday night.

ABC will broadcast at 8:00 p.m. (ET) and it’s a neutral site contest at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. There have been only three previous meetings between these historic powerhouses with the last one in 2000. Michigan won two with all decided by four points or less.

Alabama is listed as a 13½-14 point favorite after the spread opened at 11. The total has remained pretty steady and sits at 45½.

The Crimson Tide are ranked No. 2 in both the AP and Coaches Poll. They’re coming off their second national title in three years after shutting down LSU (21-0) in the BCS Championship. Nick Saban is now an official coaching legend and is moving up towards Bear Bryant status in the eyes of the 'Bama fans.

Saban’s teams have relied on the formula of a great defense and running game, with enough of a passing attack to keep defenses honest. The passing game should expand this year with junior quarterback A.J. McCarron earning the trust of his coaches after coming up big (23-of-34, 234 passing yards) in the national championship.

The veteran offensive line should excel in both pass and run blocking. The explosive Eddie Lacy will try to fill the big shoes of Trent Richardson as the featured back, but he’s been somewhat injury prone and is listed as probable (ankle) this week.

Alabama ranked first nationally last year in both points (8.2 PPG) and yards (183.6 YPG) allowed. Gone are stalwarts like linebackers Dont’a Hightower and Courtney Upshaw, plus defensive backs Mark Barron and Dre Kirkpatrick, but the loss of nose tackle Josh Chapman is also big in their 3-4 defense.

An overall drop-off on defense is unavoidable even with several talented players ready to step in.

No. 8 Michigan had a very solid first season under coach Brady Hoke, going 11-2 straight up (8-4-1 against the spread) and even ending with a Sugar Bowl win (23-20 OT) over Virginia Tech as 3-point favorites.

Hoke inherited a talented offense after coming from San Diego State. The team finished 26th nationally in scoring (33.3 PPG) behind dual-threat quarterback Denard Robinson. He rushed for 1,176 yards, but completed just 55 percent of his throws (2,173 yards) and had 15 picks.

Accuracy is still a big question for Robinson, but it will help tremendously if senior wideout Roy Roundtree can have a bounce-back year. He’s probable after having arthroscopic knee surgery on August 10.

The Wolverines want to keep transitioning to a more traditional rushing attack with back Fitzgerald Toussaint (1,041 yards last year). However, his status is still unknown for Saturday after a recent DUI. Sophomore Thomas Rawls will get the start if he’s out.

The defense improved leaps-and-bounds last year under coordinator Greg Mattison, sixth nationally in scoring defense (17.4 PPG) and 17th in total yards (322.2 YPG). There are seven returning starters, but only one along the defensive line, end Craig Roh.

Look for 'Bama to try to exploit the Wolverines up the middle early via the run game.

Make sure to check out the Don Best Pro Odds for the latest betting information for this game and all of college football’s Week 1. You won’t regret it!

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