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Final Citrus Bowl previews and predictions

The experts have spoken, and everything is coming up Crimson.

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NCAA Football: Citrus Bowl-Press Conference Detroit Free Press-USA TODAY NETWORK via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Happy New Year, everyone. The long wait is finally over, as the Tide will finally get the chance to wash that nasty Iron Bowl taste from their mouths. Michigan is in the unenviable position of next up on the schedule. Your previews:

Bowl games can be hard to predict, but this is especially true for the Citrus Bowl. It’s an intriguing match, to be sure, and it could be exciting if both teams show up ready to prove a point. While Mac Jones is no Tua, he was certainly capable in the Iron Bowl loss against Auburn and has now had extra time to develop chemistry with the Tide’s great wide receivers. That ends up being the difference. Pick: Alabama -7

While the Wolverines’ defensive line might be able to create pressure on Jones to adapt, the better question is whether or not they can match the offensive prowess of Alabama. Quarterback Shea Patterson will look to end his college career on a high note but history isn’t on his side. The last time Alabama won fewer than 12 games was 2013, the final year of the BCS. The Crimson Tide’s last 10-win season was 2010. I anticipate that remains the same after Wednesday.

Alabama 38, Michigan 24

With both teams largely at full strength, this game has potential to be one of the better matchups of the bowl season. If Patterson and Michigan’s receivers find a rhythm early, there should be opportunities to make plays against Alabama’s secondary. The Crimson Tide should find similar success against the Wolverines, especially after this unit struggled to contain Ohio State in late November. With Jones playing well at the end of the year, Harris and a deep group of playmakers on the outside in place, Alabama simply has too much talent and firepower and edges Michigan in Orlando.

Prediction: Alabama 38, Michigan 27

Michigan: Until the blowout loss to Ohio State, Michigan got better and better as the season progressed — especially on offense. If the Wolverines can put together another good offensive output against Alabama, that would create some positive vibes going into the offseason. A win would also snap a three-game bowl losing streak and get Michigan to 10 wins for the fourth time in five seasons under Harbaugh.

Alabama: Going 10-2 and missing out on the College Football Playoff is already considered a down season for Alabama — especially under Nick Saban. Only twice during Saban’s 13-year tenure in Tuscaloosa has the Crimson Tide lost more than two games in a season. It happened in 2007, Saban’s first season and in 2010 when the Tide went 10-3. Saban’s group will look to avoid that against Michigan.

Also, has all of their game coverage compiled into a nice little links post here for your perusal, if you like to see behind enemy lines.

I’m not sure I’ve seen anyone pick a Michigan upset, which is unusual for a game with a relatively tight point spread. It kind of makes you wonder what bettors know that we don’t, because it’s difficult to see a path to victory for the Wolverines. They have one outstanding corner in Lavert Hill, but they have had a tough time covering slot receivers with Dax Hill and Josh Metellus. They have been pretty solid against the run despite a somewhat undersized front four, but Alabama has roasted everyone on the slants.

Bowl games often come down to “who wants it more” to borrow an old sports cliche.

“When you throw pick-sixes at first-and-2 at the 2-yard line, it’s a 14-point swing and that’s hard to overcome,” Saban said during his radio show Monday evening, referring to Mac Jones’ interception against Auburn. “I think we could have done better. Even LSU, we lost the game by four points but we played the worst half of the season in the first half to dig a hole for ourselves that was very difficult to get out of.

“So now [LSU has] all the accolades and all the opportunities and we don’t.”

This one should be a case of both teams having something to prove, which will make for an exciting game. The Wolverines can put up some points, but not nearly enough this week. Call it Alabama 45, Michigan 24.

Of course, that is simply my opinion. Vote and give us yours in the comments.


What will be the result of the Citrus Bowl?

This poll is closed

  • 41%
    Harbaugh has an unhappy new year, Tide by 20+.
    (133 votes)
  • 47%
    Michigan shows up but Tide still covers easily, Tide by 10-19.
    (153 votes)
  • 8%
    Alabama wins a close one, Tide by 1-9.
    (27 votes)
  • 2%
    Harbaugh gets his signature win (FLAGGED)
    (9 votes)
322 votes total Vote Now

Last, Alabama fans wait with bated breath to see who will be returning next season.

The 2020 expectations for Alabama football can swing wildly based on which juniors come back to Tuscaloosa. If Tagovailoa is one of those — and the odds are probably against that due to the amount of money he stands to make — Alabama might start as the preseason No. 1 team.

With anticipation building and something clearly in the works, gauging by Alabama football’s tweet, these decisions have more build-up to them than the actual game Wednesday. That’s not likely to change, either. Alabama fans are expecting good news.

USA Today’s latest mock draft has Tua going 5th overall to lead a whopping eight first round selections for the Tide, but as Nick Saban so succinctly pointed out recently, the people writing mock draft predictions don’t necessarily represent the opinions of NFL front offices. It’s understandable if any of these guys turn pro, but it would be something to get a lot of them back.

That’s about it for today. Have a great day.

Roll Tide.