The Crimson Tide’s first game is only a few weeks away, and I CAN’T WAIT FOR SOME FOOTBALL. There’s been a real dearth of actual football talk over the summer, of course, excepting the excellent content on RBR. So in anticipation of the opener against Michigan I was hoping y’all would wanna talk some FOOTBALL!
The mismatch in this game that stands out to me is the Michigan defensive line versus the Alabama offensive line. Alabama’s o-line has received a lot of preseason hype this year, and it’s likely deserved. Kouandjio, Steen, Jones, Warmack, and Fluker are all hulking beasts of men. The smallest is Steen at 6’ 3” and 303 lbs. The average size across the line is 6’4” and 314 lbs . If you put the entire o-line on a truck scale, it would weight out at 1571 lbs, which is three quarters of a ton, for those of you marking your scorecards at home. Their job all night will be to push around Michigan’s defensive front.
Michigan switched to a 4-3 base defense last year, with some success, holding their opponents to 1549 total yards rushing on the year, good enough for second in the Big Ten. But three of the four starters on that line are gone, leaving DE Craig Roh, 6’5” 269 lbs.
The replacements are nose Will Campbell, 6’5” 322l bs.; DT Jibreel Black, 6’2” 260 lbs.; and either DEs Frank Clark, 6’2” 228 lbs., or Brennen Beyer 6’3” 290lbs. In 2011, Roh had 21 solo and 11 assisted tackles. Black leads the newcomers with 18 tackles last year.
The physical advantages in this matchup are obvious. Fluker and Kouandjio both measure out at 6’6”, giving them the reach over Michigan’s shorter DE’s. They will also outweigh them all by at least 40 lbs. I expect we won’t hear much out of Michigan’s DE’s in this game, as they will be spending most of their time on their backs (hopefully gazing up at Fluker’s chubby teddy bear smile looming above them).
Michigan’s interior linemen have a bit more size, and Will Campbell, a senior, was once a five star recruit. He hasn’t done much to date, though, only logging 14 total tackles last year with two sacks. With Barrett Jones calling the blocking from center, and probable first round draft pick Chance Warmack at left guard, Alabama’s interior line should have no problem opening up the middle for our stable of running backs to stampede through.
Last year the Tide only allowed 17 sacks all season. In the title game against LSU, who had the best four man front you’re likely to see in college football, UA gave up 2 sacks. McCarron also had enough protection to complete 67% of his passes. If you think that Michigan’s d-line will pass rush bettter than LSU’s, well, you must be an Auburn fan.
An interesting game to go back and watch (its on youtube) is Michigan’s bowl game against VA Tech. Their starting nose tackle was hurt, so they rotate in several of the guys that we will see in September. They do use some shifting and stunts, but its nothing our o-line doesn’t see every day in practice. They often bring a linebacker down to play wide in a 5-technique. They were pretty effective shutting down Tech’s running game early on, but gave up plenty of big passing plays. In the second half Tech was able to run fairly well on them, Michigan only winning the game by a missed field goal in OT. Throughout the game, the d-line was not that impressive, giving Tech’s QB all day to throw the ball. They gave up multiple third and 10+ plays and generally struggled to get off the field.
It looks to me like Alabama’s offensive front will have no problems imposing their will on Michigan’s d-linemen. So our tailbacks will run free and McCarron will have plenty of time to throw those wonderful deep bombs we’ve been hearing rumors about. I expect a similar offensive game plan as the BCS game, lots of quick passes to the flats on first down, mixed with attacking their corners with go routes and the deep ball. The usual football cliche is that the game is won in the trenches. If trench warfare is the metaphor, then on the first Saturday in September, the Tide linemen will be the tanks.
So, what do you guys think? What matchup can you not wait to see?