Monday, August 27, 2012

Alabama/Michigan: Wolverines hungry for upset

The Michigan Wolverines have every reason to be excited about the 2012 football season. In 2011, under new coach Brady Hoke, the Wolverines went 11-2 and defeated Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl. The contest marked Michigan’s first BCS bowl appearance in five seasons.

Michigan head coach Brady Hoke

To say the Wolverines are carrying momentum into the 2012 campaign, is an understatement. Michigan is favored, by many, to capture the Big Ten Legends division and currently sit at No. 8 in the preseason national rankings.

Led by nationally acclaimed quarterback Denard Robinson, the “Maize and Blue” are aiming for the Rose Bowl…and possibly more.

Enter the Alabama Crimson Tide…

For all the praise that Michigan has garnered during the offseason, most “experts” feel the Wolverines have very little chance against the defending national champs.

While the primetime showcase in Arlington, Texas known as the “Cowboys Classic” will draw national attention, and provide a “litmus test” for both programs, ‘Bama is the considerable favorite.

Robinson…the Michigan treasure

Denard Robinson is as vital to the Michigan offense in 2012, as Cam Newton was to, and for, Auburn in 2010. The “earth” in respect to the UM offense, revolves around the play of the talented quarterback.

Last season Robinson led the Wolverines in rushing and garnered over 3,300 yards in respect to rushing and passing. The "Heisman hopeful" accounted for 36 touchdowns in 2011, with 20 of those scores coming via the air.

Although passing is not Robinson’s forte (15 interceptions last season) the simple knowledge of having to respect his “ground game” can allow the passing game to be successful. The “perfect pass” doesn’t have to be in order when a defensive coverage is “busted” due to the threat of Robinson’s tendency to run.

Tailback turmoil

In respect to the actual running back position, the “jury was out”…until this morning.

Fitz Toussaint, the 1,000 yard rusher from 2011, was suspended indefinitely following a DUI arrest earlier this summer, however, the UM depth chart, released just hours ago, has Toussaint listed as the starter for the contest against Alabama.

If Toussaint had been absent, Thomas Rawls would have been awarded the starting role for the season opener.

Denard Robinson and Fitz Toussaint

Pitch and catch

At the wide receiver position, the Wolverines must replace Junior Hemingway and Kevin Koger who combined for a total of 57 receptions last season.

Jeremy Gallon and Roy Roundtree are considered to be the staples at the receiver position for 2012, with Jerald Robinson and Drew Dileo as the “second-tier” stars. Although Roundtree had minor knee surgery in early August, he is expected to be ready for the contest against the Crimson Tide.

Offensive front

The Michigan offensive line for the 2012 season will be in the same boat as the wide receivers in many ways. Just as the receiving unit lost some key performers from 2011, so did the offensive line.

The Wolverines will have to replace center David Molk, a team leader, and tackle Mark Huyge. Michigan is still very strong up front with several returning starters, but the loss of David Molk would hurt any major program. How the Wolverines handle the Alabama defensive front, and nose guard Jesse Williams, should be quite interesting.

Hail to the defense

The 2011 edition of the Michigan defense was solid, and it showed. The Wolverines ranked sixth in scoring defense and 16th in redzone defense and it reflected in the overall complexion of the season. In respect to 2012, Michigan returns seven starters on the defensive side of the ball as they look to continue the trend of improvement.

Defensive end Craig Roh and tackle Will Campbell are the “stars” of the Michigan defensive front, and the linebackers, led by Jake Ryan, have the chance to be one of the best units in the nation. The Michigan secondary, with the likes of Blake Countess and J.T. Floyd also form a very strong unit.

In regards to the contest with Alabama, the Michigan defense will receive a punishing workout. With AJ McCarron’s passing ability, coupled with an Alabama backfield of at least three explosive players, the Wolverines will get all they want…and more.

Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon

The final verdict

The Michigan Wolverines are a quality football team, and barring something unforeseen, UM should finish the season in the top 15. However, being one of the elite teams in the Big Ten and a top 15 program, doesn’t mean the Wolverines will have the firepower to defeat Alabama.

‘Bama is anywhere from an 11 to 13 point favorite against UM, and rightfully so. Brady Hoke is a talented coach, and Michigan is a talented team, but Alabama resides on a different level.

The Alabama defense is not only tough, but fast. Arguably the most difficult task Denard Robinson will face in the season opener will be reading the speed of the Crimson Tide defense.

In a nutshell, Alabama is the better team. For a point of reference, think Alabama/Virginia Tech from 2009…this contest should be much the same.

Alabama 31
Michigan 17

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