Citrus Bowl, Alabama vs. Michigan: Scouting the Wolverines
Alabama’s bowl history is unmatched and the Crimson Tide will face another college football blue blood in the postseason.
The 13th-ranked Crimson Tide take on the 14th-ranked Wolverines in the VRBO Citrus Bowl in Orlando. The game is scheduled for Jan. 1, 2020 at 1 p.m. ET at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, and will be telecast on ABC.
The Citrus Bowl will be the Crimson Tide’s record 71st bowl game, and their 41 victories (against 26 losses and 3 ties) is also a FBS record. Alabama began its active streak of bowl appearances in 2004, after serving a 2-year postseason ban as part of sweeping NCAA penalties. In the 19 games starting with the 2004 Music City Bowl, the Crimson Tide are 12-7 with 5 BCS/CFP national championships.
Michigan is no slouch when it comes to postseason appearances, either. The Wolverines have made 46 bowls, and are 21-25 in those games. A facet of Michigan’s bowl history that is better than Alabama’s is in head-to-head matchups. The Wolverines own a 2-1 record over the Crimson Tide in postseason history, beating Alabama 28-24 in the 1988 Hall of Fame Bowl and 35-34 in the 2000 Orange Bowl. Alabama’s lone bowl victory over Michigan was a 17-14 win in the 1997 Outback Bowl.
Alabama has played in 2 Citrus Bowls, defeating the Ohio State Buckeyes 24-17 on Jan. 2, 1995 and thumping the Michigan State Spartans 49-7 on Jan. 1, 2011 in what was known as the Capital One Bowl. Michigan is 4-1 in the Citrus Bowl, most recently downing the Florida Gators 41-7 in the Jan. 1, 2016 game.
Here are 5 things you need to know about Alabama’s opponent, the Michigan Wolverines.
How Michigan got here
Michigan went 9-3 in 2019, losing to then-No. 13 Wisconsin 35-14, then-No. 7 Penn State 28-21, and No. 1 Ohio State 56-27 en route to a 6-3 record in the Big Ten and a 3rd-place finish in the East.
The Wolverines did whip then-No. 8 Notre Dame 45-14 coming off the loss to the Nittany Lions and kick off a 4-game winning streak that was snapped by the Buckeyes.
Shea Patterson has an SEC pedigree, having played 2 seasons at Ole Miss before transferring to Ann Arbor. He passed for 2,600 yards and 22 touchdowns last season, and improved that mark this season — throwing for 2,828 yards and 22 more TDs. Patterson has also lowered his interception total from 7 in 2018 to 6 in 2019.
While Patterson has only gained 46 yards on 79 carries, he has found the end zone 5 times on the ground this season.
Patterson played Alabama as a sophomore at Ole Miss in 2017 — a game he would rather forget. He went 14-of-29 for 165 and 2 interceptions and was sacked 5 times, as the top-ranked Crimson Tide smacked the Rebels 66-3.
While Patterson makes the Wolverines go on offense, he isn’t alone in the production of yards and points. Running back Zach Charbonnet has gained 642 yards on 136 carries and scored 11 rushing touchdowns. Hasaan Haskins has added 561 rushing yards on 103 carries and 4 TDs.
Michigan rolls out 3 potent wide receivers, as Ronnie Bell (43 catches, 694 yards, 1 TD), Nico Collins (33 catches, 681 yards, 7 TDs) and Donovan Peoples-Jones (33 catches, 404 yards, 6 TDs) are threats to score at any time.
Michigan’s revamped offense, which has risen to 20th in offensive SP+ (it was 72nd a month into the season), averaged 8.9 yards per play, with an excellent 53 percent success rate, in the 1st half against a Buckeyes defense that came into the week ranked 1st in defensive SP+.
Michigan has had a stout unit under defensive coordinator Don Brown, with the majority of its draft picks since 2016 coming from the defense. But the inability to stop Ohio State from scoring over the past 2 seasons, not to mention inexplicable breakdowns against Wisconsin this year, are troubling.
Linebackers Khaleke Hudson and Jordan Glasgow have 84 solo tackles and 176 total stops between them, with Glasgow adding 5 sacks. Linebacker Josh Uche heads the Wolverines with 8.5 sacks, while defensive lineman Kwity Paye has 49 tackles and 6.5 sacks.
Defensive backs Ambry Thomas and Lavert Hill each have 3 interceptions, while defensive lineman Aidan Hutchinson has 6 pass breakups and defensive back Josh Mettelus has 5 pass breakups and 2 interceptions.
Uche has announced he will depart Ann Arbor early for the 2020 NFL Draft, but indicated he will play in Michigan’s bowl game. Uche is ranked No. 9 among the top outside linebacker prospects for next year’s NFL draft, according to ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr.
While the Wolverines looked brutal in its final regular-season game, Brown’s defense has allowed an average of 16 points per game against teams not named Ohio State and 59 points per game against the Buckeyes.
Winning the big game seems to be a struggle for Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines. Michigan fell to 0-5 against Ohio State with Harbaugh at the helm, and the program lost to Ohio State for the 15th time in 16 years.
“There’s a streak, it’s a bunch of individual games, and they’ve been able to continue it on for the last seven, eight years,” Wolverines linebacker Jordan Glasgow said. “We just weren’t able to execute. Execution plays the biggest role, and we weren’t able to do that.”
The Buckeyes also gashed the Wolverines for 577 total yards in their annual rivalry game.