You couldn't ask for a better game in the Rose Bowl finale that will serve as the College Football Playoff semifinal with Big Ten Power Michigan taking on one of Alabama's most decorated programs.
The Wolverines defeated two separate suspensions for coach Jim Harbaugh and two investigations underway to navigate the Big Ten and arrive as a No. 1 seed. Alabama lost in Week 2 to Texas and had major offensive issues in September, but with Nick Saban doing perhaps his best coaching job, the Crimson Tide knocked off two-time defending national champion Georgia in the SEC championship game to secure a controversial place in the field.
This is shaping up to be a physical matchup that could be decided by which quarterback — Michigan's JJ McCarthy or Alabama's Jalen Milroe — makes the most plays. Our experts choose which team will advance to next week's title game.
Michigan wants to run the ball, stop the run and avoid mistakes. Alabama is not the team of old that used talented players on offense and a stingy defense to submit teams to surrender at halftime. But if the Tide can't protect Jalen Milroe (he's been sacked 38 times), it could be a long afternoon, as the Wolverines thrive on dominating less-than-competent offenses. Alabama's confidence is high after beating two-time defending champion Georgia and will carry that momentum into another title shot for Nick Saban. Alabama 26, Michigan 21.
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Although Michigan has probably been the best team in college football all season, my money is on Alabama's infrastructure and the best coach in college football history preparing his team. Nick Saban is 6-1 in College Football Playoff semifinals, with his only loss coming against eventual champion Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl following the 2014 season. Saban's most unexpected playoff team, I think the Tide make the most of this opportunity and go all the way. Alabama 28, Michigan 24
Alabama will be comfortable against Michigan's physical style. The approach that bulldozed the Big Ten might hit a wall against the Crimson Tide, although the Wolverines are too good and too well coached to suffer another lopsided semifinal loss. Expect this to be a four-quarter game that remains close even as the Tide holds Michigan at bay for another title game appearance for Nick Saban. But if Jalen Milroe breaks away, this could be a convincing win. Alabama 24, Michigan 13.
This is just a bad game for Michigan after being embarrassed in its semifinal games the last two seasons. The Wolverines want to bludgeon teams for four quarters, but Alabama is more than capable of holding their own against their running game. On the other side of the ball, Michigan hasn't faced a dynamic quarterback like Jalen Milroe. Then there's Nick Saban, who is the last coach you'd want to face with four weeks of preparation. Look for Milroe to do enough damage with his arm and feet to send the Crimson Tide back to the title game. Alabama 28, Michigan 19.
Picking against Alabama in the playoffs – especially in the semifinals – is generally a bad idea. Not always — Georgia got the job done in the title game a few years ago, and Clemson has done it twice before. But Michigan hasn't taken that step yet, so we'll follow the Tide to play for all the marbles again. Alabama 27, Michigan 17.
The more I think about the game, the more I think Michigan is going to have a hard time scoring. There is a difference in physical size in this game: Alabama, as always, looks like an NFL team and will control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. But will the Tide perform well enough? This has been this team's problem all season. They certainly showed what they're capable of against Georgia, and if they've improved over the last month like Nick Saban's teams usually do, I think Michigan is in trouble. Alabama 27, Michigan 16.