The Michigan Wolverines speak confidently about being the bigger bully in the Rose Bowl. They admit Alabama Football and the SEC have been known for 'bully ball,' but Michigan intends to "punch the bully in the mouth."
Talk is cheap, but Michigan is to be commended for boldness. There is some risk the Wolverines will give the Crimson Tide added motivation, but Alabama players need no added incentive. A National Championship is the goal and Michigan stands in the way.
Both teams will stick to their strengths in the Playoff semi-final. For Michigan's offense, the main strength is power running. On offense, the Wolverines rely on execution and don't get in a hurry. They will frequently use extra blockers to take on the Crimson Tide's run defense. Alabama will likely counter with its less-used base defense, but with Michigan's pace, the Tide should be able to situationally sub as needed.
Alabama Football Defense and Michigan Running Game
Michigan has little choice, but relying on 'bully ball' will fail if the Wolverines are not the baddest bully. Some context is of value, to consider how strong is the Michigan rushing attack. The Alabama Crimson Tide played eight opponents with a higher yards-per-carry average than Michigan. Check out the details below, including the national rankings for the stat.
- LSU Bengal Tigers - No. 1; 6.22 YPC
- Tennessee Vols - No. 6; 5.59 YPC
- Georgia Bulldogs - No. 18; 5.08 YPC
- Auburn Tigers - No. 23; 4.98 YPC
- Kentucky Wildcats - No. 24; 4.97 YPC
- Texas Longhorns - No. 26; 4.93 YPC
- Ole Miss Rebels - No. 60; 4.40 YPC
- Mississippi State Bulldogs - No. 60; 4.39 YPC
Take away Jayden Daniels rushing for 163 yards in the LSU game and the Bama defense was solid against the run. Michigan's YPC average is 4.27 yards; No. 72 among FBS teams. Unless the Wolverines have some exotic schemes that confuse the Crimson Tide defense, bullying the Tide on the ground will be a tough task.
Michigan's offensive game plan will need balance. J.J. McCarthy may be able to provide it. He is accurate with short to intermediate throws, as well as being elusive when protection breaks down. Relying too much on their QB could also be a problem for the Wolverines. Michigan struggled in pass protection in the Penn State game. Because of a strong pass rush by the Nittany Lions, McCarthy threw only eight passes. In Michigan's limited passing attempts Penn State made a sack and a quarterback hurry. After which, the Wolverines abandoned their passing game.
If Paul Finebaum is accurate in calling Jim Harbaugh a college football dinosaur, the Wolverines will have no surprises for the Alabama Crimson Tide.