Neither the Alabama Crimson Tide or Michigan Wolverines would prefer playing the Citrus Bowl over the College Football Playoff, yet come New Year’s Day the two will square off in Orlando, Florida.
Alabama had a tough reality check this season, falling short of reaching the CFP for the sixth consecutive season.
The Wolverines, on the other hand, experienced Deja vu after hurting themselves with losses against three ranked Big Ten opponents.
#14 Michigan Wolverines @ #13 Alabama Crimson Tide (-7), 1:00 PM:
- The favorite has covered the spread in each of Michigan’s last five games.
- Michigan is 0-3 outright as an underdog this season.
- Alabama has a 5-4 ATS record as favorites after a loss since 2013. (Stats courtesy of Statschecker).
#13 Alabama (10-2) ranked as high as number one in the nation at one point of the season but came crashing down to earth following a 46-41 home loss to #1 LSU.
The Crimson Tide crumbled with the loss of their best player, and one of the best players in the country, in junior quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
He suffered a season-ending hip injury but managed to start nine games and throw for 2,840 passing yards, with the seventh most touchdown passes in the nation (33).
Despite the loss of Tagovailoa, the Crimson Tide still pumped out points with sophomore backup Mac Jones under center.
Jones completed nearly 70 percent of his passes for 1,176 yards, 11 touchdowns and three interceptions in three starts this season.
Alabama has dynamic players on both sides of the ball, but perhaps none better than juniors Najee Harris and Jerry Jeudy.
Harris was a versatile running back that scored in all but two games this season by either pass or rush. Harris totaled 18 touchdowns and 1,392 rushing and receiving yards combined.
Jeudy is a skillful speed wide receiver projected as a Top-5 NFL draft pick. The junior caught 71 passes for 959 yards and nine touchdowns.
#14 Michigan (9-3) had an up-and-down season, winning two of five ranked matchups this season.
The Wolverines defeated #8 Notre Dame 45-14 and #14 Iowa 10-3 and lost to #13 Wisconsin 35-14, #7 Penn State 28-21 and #1 Ohio State 56-27.
Senior quarterback Shea Patterson had a sound season, completing 57 percent of his passes for 2,828 yards, 22 touchdowns and six interceptions, while adding five rushing touchdowns.
Aside from Patterson, Michigan lacked a major playmaker. The next go-to Wolverine would be freshman running back Zach Charbonnet, who lead the team with 11 touchdowns and 642 rushing yards.
My pick is Alabama to cover the spread (-7) and the UNDER Total of 58 points.
All 10 of Alabama’s wins this season have come by at least 19 points, so covering the seven-point-spread shouldn’t be much of an issue in a win.
Although the Crimson Tide may have fallen short of expectations this season, they’re still one of the best and most loaded teams in the nation in terms of talent.
Meanwhile, Michigan is a team that has lacked an identity throughout the season, especially when it comes to personnel.
If one thing is for certain, both these teams have sound defenses - the Crimson Tide ranked 15th best in the nation allowing 18.8 ppg and the Wolverines rank 18th allowing 19.5 ppg.
Anticipate a low-scoring game with little action aside from the Crimson Tide talents of Jeudy, Harris and DeVonta Smith.
Alabama should roll past Michigan without breaking much of a sweat.
Final score prediction: Alabama Wins 28-13