Rose Bowl Preview: Michigan Defense vs. Alabama Offense, Prediction

Rose Bowl Preview: Michigan Defense vs. Alabama Offense, Prediction

January 1, 2024
Jalen Milroe (image via Alabama Athletics)

Michigan is #6 in rush defense (87.1 yards allowed/game) and yards allowed per carry (2.93). They have only allowed 7 rushing touchdowns all year (tied for #4), and 3 of those were “tush push” plays against Maryland. The team that had the most success against Michigan was Penn State, and that was with a quarterback who ran 10 times for 49 yards and 1 touchdown in Drew Allar. Allar isn’t that mobile of a quarterback, so he caught Michigan by surprise a little bit with some of his runs. Linebacker Junior Colson leads the team with 79 tackles, despite playing a chunk of the season with casts on his hands. In fact, three of his top four tackle totals have come in the past four weeks while injured. Michigan is #72 in tackles for loss (5.54 per game), led by OLB Jaylen Harrell with 8.0 and DE Braiden McGregor with 7.0. Alabama has a massive offensive line, with three starters listed at 352 pounds . . . or more. That includes standout junior right tackle J.C. Latham (6’5″, 360), who is expected by some to be the first tackle taken in the 2024 NFL Draft. But it also includes freshman left tackle Kadyn Proctor (6’7″, 360), who has struggled at times, though he has improved in the latter half of the season. That line has powered a team that ranks #46 nationally in rushing (172.69 yards/game) and #64 in yards per carry (4.33). Senior RB Jase McClellan (5’11”, 212) has 166 carries for 803 yards and 6 touchdowns to lead the way for the Crimson Tide, but he may not be available due to injury. His backup is senior Roydell Williams (5’10”, 214), who has 110 carries for 561 yards and 5 touchdowns. But the X factor is QB Jalen Milroe (6’2″, 220), who leads the team with 12 touchdowns and has run for 468 yards this year.
Advantage: Michigan, with the caveat that Milroe could be a huge X factor. He has two 100-yard rushing games, including 20 carries for 155 yards and 4 touchdowns against LSU. Michigan has yet to see a true dual-threat QB.

Michigan is #2 in pass defense (152.6 yards allowed/game), #4 in passing efficiency defense, and #5 with 5.8 yards allowed per attempt. They have allowed 7 touchdowns and nabbed 16 interceptions, led by nickel corner Mike Sainristil with 5 picks. Michigan is #38 in sacks per game (2.46), led by Harrell with 6.5 and fellow OLB Josaiah Stewart with 4.5. Star CB Will Johnson missed the Iowa game and half of the Ohio State game, but he’s supposedly healthy and ready to go for the Rose Bowl. He has 3 interceptions and 4 pass breakups this year. Alabama is #61 in passing (228.5 yards/game) but #5 in yards per attempt (9.8) and #8 in passing efficiency. Milroe is completing 65.5% of his throws for 2,718 yards, 10.4 yards per attempt, 23 touchdowns, and 6 interceptions. He has 10 touchdowns and 1 interception in his past four games, which contrasts with Michigan QB J.J. McCarthy’s 1 touchdown and 1 interception during the final stretch. The Crimson Tide have allowed 3.31 sacks per game, which is #118 in the nation. Senior WR Jermaine Burton (6’0″, 194) is a home run threat averaging 22.2 yards/catch (35 catches, 777 yards) and leading the team with 8 receiving touchdowns. Sophomore WR Isaiah Bond (5’11”, 182) is the #2 guy with 44 catches, 621 yards, and 4 touchdowns. Sophomore Amari Niblack (6’4″, 233) is a tight end by name, but his 19 catches for 321 yards (16.9 yards/catch) and 4 touchdowns show he’s a big play threat, and he moves more like a receiver.
Advantage: Michigan. Burton is the most dangerous threat, but if Will Johnson is healthy, he can hopefully help limit Burton’s number of touches. Again, the big factor here is what happens if Michigan’s pass rush can’t get to Milroe.


  • Alabama 27, Michigan 24. Maybe it’s just PTSD from the last couple times Michigan has played Alabama and then the Georgia game in 2021, but overall, I don’t see Michigan matching up with the speed Alabama has all around. That’s especially true at edge rusher, where I think Alabama is going to cause a lot of problems for McCarthy and the passing game. A lot of people are saying McCarthy is going to have to play his best game, and I don’t see how that happens with the pass protection problems Michigan has had.

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