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Key Matchups to Watch in the Rose Bowl

Football is a game of matchups... What will be the deciding ones between Alabama and Michigan?

Alabama v Mississippi State Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images

With only 2 days to go until Alabama kicks off against the Michigan Wolverines in the Rose Bowl, opinions remain split on who most predict to win the game. Among the media personalities, Alabama has seemed to be the popular pick. The general public and Twitter/X opinions seem to lean towards Michigan. The stats people overwhelmingly pick Michigan unless strength of schedule is factored in, and then they trend back toward the Tide. And Vegas? Well Michigan is favored by 1.5 according to the DraftKings Sportsbook.

In other words.... Who really knows at this point?

What we do know, though, is that when teams of equal weight meet in football, entire games can be decided on a couple of plays due to matchup advantages or disadvantages.

Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.

Michigan’s best matchup:

The Wolverine front seven, particularly All-American defensive linemen Kris Jenkins and Mason Graham, should have a solid advantage over Alabama’s running backs. Jase McClellan has done some good things this year at breaking tackles, but he’s lacked the explosive juices and also spend the last month injured - we aren’t even totally sure he’ll be full speed by New Year’s. And fellow RB Roydell Williams has been a steady senior rusher, but lacks any standout traits that will allow him to win many 1v1s with the Michigan front seven.

If the Wolverines can make Alabama totally reliant on Jalen Milroe’s arm (and legs), it won’t outright win the game for them (Texas A&M found this out), but it does make things easier.

Alabama’s best matchup:

Alabama’s cornerbacks, Kool-Aid McKinstry, Terrion Arnold, and Malachi Moore are by far and away the best cornerbacks that Michigan’s wide receivers have seen all year. Much of the Wolverines’ passing offense has been built on high percentage passing concepts and lots of yards after catch, and that’s something Alabama’s secondary has feasted on.

McKinstry is possibly the best in the country at locking down one sideline with pure coverage ability, while Arnold and Moore are two of the best tackling corners and screen destroyers around. Michigan will not be able to rely on the short passing game in this one.

Strength on Strength Wildcard:

Michigan’s identity the last two years has been built around running back Blake Corum. While he’s been a little less explosive in 2023, he’s been no less of a workhorse. On the other hand, Alabama spent most of 2019-2022 with underwhelming nose tackle play, but has seemed to fix that with the surprise emergence of Tim Keenan this year, along with flanking him with a trimmed-down Jaheim Oatis. Those two add a whole lot of beef up front and will present a major obstacle for Corum. Who wins this matchup may very well determine the fate of Michigan’s offense, and ultimately the winner of the entire game.