Alabama vs Michigan: Citrus Bowl Preview
Alabama will take on Michigan in the VRBO Citrus Bowl today at 12 p.m. central time on ABC. It will be the finale of a disappointing season for both the Crimson Tide and the Wolverines. Both teams entered the season with national title aspirations but ended up settling for a non-“New Year’s Six” bowl game.
Alabama began the season ranked number two in the nation, and finished the year with a 10-2 record, second place in the SEC West and ranked 13th in the country. Michigan began the year ranked seventh in the nation and finished the year with a 9-3 record, third place in the Big 10 East and ranked 14th in the country. Both teams enter the game coming off a loss to its primary rival, Alabama lost 48-45 on the road to Auburn and Michigan lost 56-27 at home to Ohio State.
It will be the first time Alabama has played Michigan since they met in the opening game of the 2012 season in Cowboy Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The Crimson Tide won that game 41-14, Michigan at the time was coached by Brady Hoke. The last time these universities played in a bowl game was in the 2000 Orange Bowl, the Wolverines defeated Alabama 35-34 in overtime. Quarterback Tom Brady led the maize and blue back from two separate 14 point deficits in his final game as a collegiate athlete.
The Citrus Bowl will be a battle of strength verses strength as the Crimson Tide offense is third nationally in passing yards, averaging 343 per game and fifth nationally in pass protection, averaging only one sack given up per game. The Don Brown led Michigan defense ranked fifth this season in passing yards, conceding only 173 yards per game and finished 15th in the country in sacks, averaging three quarterback sacks per game. It will be the fourth start of the season for Alabama sophomore quarterback Mac Jones; will he be able to continue the Tide’s strong passing attack against one of the better passing defenses in the nation?
Michigan offensive coordinator Josh Gattis left Alabama after one season after coaching the Crimson Tide wide receivers and handling assistant offensive coordinator duties in 2018. Gattis chose to leave Alabama and take the offensive coordinator position in Ann Arbor despite rumors that he was offered the same promotion in Tuscaloosa. Gattis implemented a spread system for the Wolverines and saw the offense take a slight dip in production. In his first season as offensive coordinator Michigan finished 35th in the country this season, averaging 33 points per game, two points fewer than 2018. Gattis will look for a big game against his old boss to validate his decision to leave the Crimson Tide.
This game will be the first meeting between Nick Saban and Jim Harbaugh. Harbaugh has been a vocal critic of Saban’s since being hired in Ann Arbor in December of 2014. The coaches differed over the use of satellite recruiting camps in the past but handled the bowl prep amicably, choosing to focus on what the game means to each program instead of on one another. Harbaugh has a 1-3 bowl record at Michigan, having lost his last three in a row. Should Harbaugh win, it will mean four 10-win seasons in five years at Michigan, a win for Saban would mean nine consecutive 11-win seasons at Alabama.
The Citrus Bowl will be held at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida. The weather will be partly cloudy with temperatures in the mid to high 60s. The game will be televised on ABC. You can hear Eli Gold and John Parker Wilson call the game on the Crimson Tide Radio Network on Tide100.9fm, and on 95.3 fm The Bear.