College football storms out of the box faster than Seabiscuit at Santa Anita when Michigan meets Alabama in the prized week one duel. JerryWorld in Dallas is the stage Saturday evening where two heavy weights attempt to set the BCS championship tone for 2012-13.
Expectations are high for the Wolverines’ coming into the season after an 11-win campaign in 2011-12. Brady Hoke has maize and blue faithful thinking National Championship, but that’s facetious thinking in my estimation. Michigan returns 13 starters from a team that caught all the breaks a season ago. They won every close game (those decided by 7 or less), while winning the turnover battle with a +7 differential. The schedule was cupcake city early on, where a young Michigan team was afforded the luxury of learning a new system on the fly. They started 5-0 (all home games), against teams that finished a combined 32-31 last season. Four of their toughest games against Notre Dame, Ohio State, Purdue and Nebraska were also played in the comfy confines of The Big House. This year, those four teams will be hosting Michigan while salivating at thought of revenge. Despite coming away victorious in the Sugar Bowl against Virginia Tech, it was quite an anomaly. Beamer’s boys out gained Michigan 2 to 1, holding the Wolverines’ to just 184 total yards. They were out rushed 3 to 1. V-Tech had 10 more first downs. To this day, every time I see the score of that game I think my mind is playing tricks on me. Michigan might be in the hunt for a Big Ten title, but they have no shot at a National Championship – don’t think they come close to matching last season’s eleven wins, either. I have them rated 19th in my initial power ratings, and one of the sharpest betting syndicates I speak with has them barely inside the top 25. Regression is imminent for Brady Hoke in his sophomore season at Ann Arbor.
REBUILD – to make extensive repairs to: reconstruct. RELOAD – to replace. Again: anew. Most have a strong distain for Nick Saban, but you must respect the job he’s done during his tenure in Tuscaloosa where the word REBUILD is frowned upon and to RELOAD is second nature. This season won’t be the exception despite losing eight starters to the NFL, including four first round picks. Tiger Stadium on November, 3rd appears to be the only speed bump that could knock the Crimson Tide train off track on its way to Sun Life Stadium January, 7th. Bama skeptics will focus on a team returning just 11 starters (only 5 on defense), but this is a team that won 8 games against SEC opponents by an average margin of 28.5 points last season. Even if there’s a slight regression this year, how low is the mean? A.J. McCarron inherits the leadership role after growing up before our very eyes during a 21-ZIP shellacking of LSU in the National Championship last January. The onus will be on McCarron, his four returning offensive lineman, and the running game to sustain drives and help a young Alabama defense get acclimated to Saban’s complex system. Alabama is favored in 11 of 12 contests this season, the lone exception being the aforementioned LSU game (1.5-point underdog currently). Most sharp bettors believe Arkansas is overrated – great skill position players, but light in the trenches yet again. Bama travels to Missouri and Tennessee in successive weeks but are aligned two-touchdown favorites over each. Auburn, the last game on the docket could present trouble for the Tide, but it’s played at Bryant Denny off a bye week (apologies Western Carolina) and Vegas has aligned Alabama early 19.5-point favorites. All indications point to this being a one-game season for the Tide.
Most are hyping Alabama-Michigan because they see #2 Vs #8 in the polls. In the betting world, this isn’t much of a game as Alabama is favored by 14. We saw what Bud Foster’s defense did with time to prepare for a one-dimensional Michigan offense – we should expect similar success for Saban’s defense in a comparable situation. Nick is one of the best at setting up a game plan with extended time, evident by his 8-1 ATS mark during his tenure at Bama’ in week 1 and bowl games. The strength of Alabama on offense is the weakness of Michigan on defense. Alabama should be able to dictate the trenches and wear on the Wolverines’ as the game progresses. Alabama opened -11 on August, 2nd and sharp money has been trickling in on the Tide’ ever since, moving the line a full 3 points despite more of the bets coming on Michigan. Nick Saban has always been a friend to the betting man, sporting a 38-26-1 record against the spread at Alabama. With 52.38% being your break even point, Saban’s 59+ cover percentage leaves his backers usually feeling satisfied. Nick’s success against the spread is truly amazing because Alabama is such a public team their lines are always inflated. His style is conducive to covering spreads because they can run for points while shortening the game and killing clock better than anyone. Saban isn’t built like most – he has a killer instinct. You’re fooling yourself if you don’t think he wants to repay Michigan for all the years he and his ego played second fiddle at Michigan State. I’ve yet to place a wager on this game, but it’s Alabama or nothing.