How the Michigan football Defense Stacks up to Alabama's Offense

Looking ahead to the Wolverines against Alabama when Michigan football has its defense on the field.
Michigan v Penn State
Michigan v Penn State / Scott Taetsch/GettyImages

Last week, I wrote about how Michigan's offense stacked up with Alabama's defense. In short, I gave the advantage to Alabama. If Michigan football wants to have success on offense they're going to have to break their tendencies, and that's something they've been very stubborn about doing in years past.

In this article, I'm going to look at the flip side of the coin; Michigan's defense versus Alabama's offense, giving a brief overview of each and what I expect to see. Without further ado, let's dive right in.

For the Tide, their offense goes as quarterback Jalen Milroe goes. The Tide do not have a dominant running game or superstar receivers, but they do have a quarterback with game breaking potential. There are two things that Jalen Milroe does very well: run and throw the deep ball.

Running quarterbacks are very tough to stop. But something in Michigan's favor is that Milroe is not an elite passer. He's thrown for about 2,700 yards and 23 touchdowns on six interceptions. While those numbers are certainly not bad, they're definitely not world beating.

Anybody who has watched Alabama can tell you that the Crimson Tide don't win because of Milroe standing in the pocket and making pinpoint throws. They win because Milroe's legs are such a concern. Teams usually have to put a spy on Milroe, which means that there is one less man in coverage. Milroe is also phenomenal at extending plays, which allows his receivers to get open.

While Alabama doesn't have any superstar receivers, they're definitely not pushovers. Isaiah Bond and Jermaine Burton are the top receivers for the Crimson Tide, and they're both very good players. Bond has combined for over 150 yards the past two weeks, while Burton had over 100 yards against Auburn. Bond is the receiver who caught the miracle touchdown against Auburn on 4th & 31.

With Will Johnson and the secondary back at full health, I'm not too concerned about any one receiver going off for the Tide. Michigan's secondary should be able to hold them in check for the most part. We're definitely going to see Jalen Milroe throw a few deep balls, so it's crucial that the Wolverines are prepared for that. If played correctly, those could turn into interceptions.

Building off of that, Jesse Minter has the potential to be a huge X-Factor for Michigan football here. Milroe is not a tremendous passer; he's not great at reading defenses and prefers to run rather than pass. I expect that Jesse Minter is going to cook up a handful of exotic coverages, and that could result in Milroe turning the ball over.

Remember, after beating Ohio State Marvin Harrison Jr said that Michigan did things he had never seen before. Minter is phenomenal at drawing up unique coverages, and he could really turn the tide in Michigan's favor.

Michigan football and Alabama will be decided in the trenches

This matchup really comes down to the battle in the trenches. And this is where I give the advantage to Michigan. Michigan football is very similar to Texas when it comes to the defensive line; both teams have dominant interior linemen and solid EDGE rushers. Texas beat Alabama because they collapsed the pocket from the interior, leaving Milroe with no room to run.

Mason Graham, Kris Jenkins, and Kenneth Grant are going to have to make a similar impact as Texas' interior linemen made. They're going to have to wreck havoc all day long, and I believe that they can. Alabama's offensive line is good, but they've given up pressure all year long. Part of that is because Jalen Milroe holds onto the ball for a long time, but part of it is that they're not amazing.

Alabama has given up 43 sacks on the year, good enough for 115th in the country. Michigan, for comparion, has given up 18. And yes, the Wolverines have played against multiple first round EDGE rushers. The battle of the trenches typically determines the football game, and I expect it to be the same here. For Alabama to win, Jalen Milroe is going to have to be successful on the ground. That's going to be very difficult against this Michigan defensive line.

A secret weapon for the Wolverines

Another huge advantage that Michigan has that isn't being talked about enough is Alex Orji. Orji is possibly the most athletic player on Michigan's team, and is extremely similar to Jalen Milroe. I think there's a legitimate argument that he is the closest player, physically, to Jalen Milroe in the country.

Michigan's defense is going to have a month to practice against Orji and understand exactly what they have to do to stop the QB run. I think this gives Michigan an edge here.

The number one question in this matchup, however, is whether or not there is still a significant gap between the SEC and everyone else. It's entirely possible that Alabama steps onto the field and just out-physicals Michigan football. That's what has happened in the past when the SEC has played other conferences, and we really don't know for sure whether or not that will happen in the Rose Bowl. I feel confident in saying that the gap has closed, but we're not going to know for sure until the first drive of the game. If Michigan can hold their own, it's a tremendous sign for the Wolverines.

For Michigan, the goal should be to hold Alabama to 20 points or less. If they can do that, the Wolverines should be in a tremendous spot. If the Wolverines can win the turnover battle as well, they're going to be looking good.

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Jalen Milroe is an extremely dangerous player. He's a dangerous runner and can hurt you in many different ways. I'm sure that there are going to be times in the game when you want to pull your hair out because Jalen Milroe turned a broken play into a first down. But ultimately, I think Michigan has the tools to slow down Milroe. Advantage? Michigan. Go Blue!