The #14 Michigan Wolverines take on the #13 Alabama Crimson Tide in the VRBO Citrus Bowl. This marks the first year in the six-year history of the College Football Playoff that Alabama is not one of the top four teams competing. In fact, since 2012, the Crimson Tide have played just one bowl game that did not have championship implications. Alabama has played in an NCAA record 70 bowls, where they have compiled a 41-26-3 record. This game is Michigan’s 48th bowl appearance, and have gone 21-26 prior to this season. The Wolverines have lost their last three bowl appearances.
Opening Line: Alabama -7 (at Fanduel)
Current Line: Alabama -7
Location: Camping World Stadium, Orlando, FL
Start Time: 1:00 PM ET- January 1st, 2020
Last Meeting: September 1st, 2012- Alabama def. Michigan 41-14
This game features two teams who had playoff aspirations before the season started, and who ultimately fell short of their goal. Alabama started the year ranked #2 in the AP poll. They lost their two biggest games of the year (46-41 vs. LSU, 48-45 at Auburn). As a result, they were left out of the playoffs for the first time ever. On the other side, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh’s seasons seem to be defined by if he can beat Ohio State. That is something he has never done since taking over in 2015. The Wolverines played a tougher schedule than the Crimson Tide and have two top 25 wins on their resume (10-3 vs #14 Iowa, 45-14 vs #8 Notre Dame). However, they were defeated in their other big games by Wisconsin, Penn State, and Ohio State and never seriously challenged for a playoff berth.
Alabama may have had a shot to beat Auburn in the season finale, and earn their way back into the playoff picture. However, they could not overcome an injury to starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Tagovailoa suffered a season-ending hip injury against Mississippi State they kept him out of the final two regular-season games. He was replaced by sophomore quarterback Mac Jones who has thrown for 1,176 yards and has an 11:3 touchdown to interception ratio in five games worth of action.
Outside of the injury to Tagovailoa, another big reason for Alabama missing out on the playoffs was their defense. This year’s defense was not your vaunted Nick Saban unit that was high atop every statistical category. They ranked 17th in the country in YPG allowed (318.5) but allowed 18.8 PPG and got torched in the biggest spots. To make matters worse, they will be without linebacker Terrell Lewis and cornerback Trevon Diggs who are sitting out the game to prepare for the NFL draft.
Michigan, meanwhile will have their full complement of players for this game and are looking to end the season on a high note against one of the sport’s storied universities. Michigan’s season had a bit of an ebb and flow to it. They avoided disaster against Army prevailing 24-21 before their loss to Wisconsin the following week. They entered the Ohio State game having won seven of eight games, including a valiant effort in a loss at Penn State and a blowout of Notre Dame. However, they lost their eighth straight to Ohio State in blowout fashion. They now take aim at another high-powered offense in Alabama’s who averages 48.3 PPG.
Michigan ranks sixth in the country in YPG allowed (292.8) and are fifth in the Big Ten allowing 19.5 PPG. They are one of four FBS teams (Clemson, Ohio State, and Georgia are the others) who held opponents under 300 yards in at least eight games. On offense, quarterback Shea Patterson will have to improve upon his 57.3 completion percentage in order to move the ball consistently against the Crimson Tide defense.