Cowboys Classic: Alabama vs. Michigan

Last season’s Cowboys Classic pitted two top five teams against each other that both ended up reaching BCS Bowls at the end of the season in LSU and Oregon. This year’s game, held at neutral site, Cowboy Stadium, will once again display two of the nation’s premier football programs in what will undoubtedly be the game of the week in college football. The matchup: the Alabama Crimson Tide, the defending national champions, against the newly revitalized Michigan Wolverines, who are coming off an eleven win season and are preseason ranked in the top ten for the first time in five years (#8). There is sure to be a highly-intense, one-of-a-kind game that will have everyone talking and wanting to get action from its juicy line this weekend.

The Tide come into the 2012 season opener ranked #2 in the country and although they lost many of their starters on both sides of the ball to graduation and the NFL draft, they are sure to be reloaded with some of the finest talent the nation has to offer.

The big and powerful offensive line of Alabama often dominates opponents

The disciplined and methodical Alabama offense will as always be anchored by its veteran offensive line. Even with Eddie Lacey getting his first start at tailback, replacing first round NFL pick Trent Richardson, the Tide should be just fine running the football. A. J. McCarron will be back under center for Bama, as he comes off a season from a year ago that included over 2,500 passing yards and 16 TDs to only 5 INTS. As always, Alabama will look to wear down the defense and impose their will to run the football on Michigan, who was a team that struggled defensively at times last year.

Like Alabama, Michigan’s strength is running the ball, but not in the traditional hand-it-to-the-tailback way that the Tide uses. Michigan’s quarterback, Denard Robinson, is an explosive slasher with the ability to get outside and make big plays with his feet. Incredibly, Robinson put up running back-like numbers last year with over 1,000 yards rushing and 16 touchdowns on the ground. However, Robinson is not just a runner. He is a true duel threat, as he also passed for over 2,000 yards and threw 15 TD strikes as well. He is the type of player that can change the game for Michigan and give them a chance with his big-play- making ability.

Robinson is Michigan's best weapon

Usually Robinson has some more help in the running game, but Michigan’s starting tailback from last season, Fitzgerald Toussaint is suspended for the opener against Alabama, so the game may be even more on the shoulders of Robinson.

Michigan is a 13.5 point underdog against the mighty defending champions in this game. The big challenge for the Wolverines will be stopping the rushing attack of the Tide, which will bring one of the biggest and strongest offensive lines in the country. Alabama is used to dominating the time of possession by running the ball and continuing to move the chains on third down. If Michigan cannot contain the running game and force McCarron to throw the ball, it will be in big trouble. The play-making ability of Robinson will not be as much of a factor if Michigan doesn’t get a chance to possess the ball enough.

Unfortunately, these are the reasons that U of M is such a big dog in this game and are also the reasons why I have to favor Alabama to cover the spread. Alabama has the advantage in the trenches on both sides of the ball and even though Robinson may dazzle at times, it won’t be enough to carry the Wolverines to victory. Alabama is simply too deep and too talented at every position and in a 60 minute game, the Tide will be able to wear any team down and break their spirit.