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Rose Bowl: Preview, Prop Pick and Prediction


The only college football game with the gravity of Monday’s Rose Bowl matchup between Michigan and Alabama will kick off a week later in Houston, with either Michigan or Alabama the likely favorite over Texas or Washington in the College Football Playoff national championship game.

It might be the getting there that proves to be more difficult.

The Wolverines are a slim favorite against the Crimson Tide in this epic playoff pairing (apologies to Florida State) in Pasadena, Calif.

We have a few betting angles for consideration as New Year’s Day nears.

No. 1 Michigan Wolverines vs. No. 4 Alabama Crimson Tide

Date, time: Jan. 1, 5 p.m. ET.
Site: Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.
Line: Michigan -1.5; total 44.5 (FanDuel).

The Michigan program, coached by the narrative-friendly Jim Harbaugh, is among the elite iconic brands in college football history.

But does it approach the gravitas owned by the University of Alabama, especially during the incredible run of success under the direction of coach Nick Saban?

The Wolverines players, at least to some degree, will take a moment to watch Alabama before the game, perhaps fighting off the urge to be impressed.

If there is an edge with regard to intimidation, Tide quarterback Jalen Milroe believes it comes from Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

“A hundred percent,” Milroe said in advance of the Rose Bowl. “This ‘A’ means a lot to people. We take a lot of pride in wearing the ‘A.’

“(When) it comes to opponents, it’s a hard task to beat down Alabama. It’s a credit to Coach Saban, how well he coaches, the supporting cast he has with his coaching staff and his medical staff and everyone that’s all a part of it, his recruiting staff, as well.”

Milroe takes care of this offense but has the ability to lift his team, as evidenced by his 177.48 pass efficiency rating, fourth in the country and tops among the final four teams left standing.

There undoubtedly figure to be details that need attention or halftime adjustment, and Alabama has been elite in that area this season. The Tide allowed their nine SEC opponents to average only a shade more than eight points during the second half.

Credit the strength of this coaching staff and the players’ belief in that instruction.

The Wolverines hope to contend with the Tide’s speed, depth and skill. It wasn’t too much to succeed with the schemes for Ohio State, but Alabama is a different animal.

Milroe is not only mobile, he’s blessed with running back skills.

This facet of football was not a concern for Michigan against Ohio State, whose quarterback Kyle McCord carried once for minus-3 yards. Nor was it a problem in the Big Ten title game (Iowa’s Deacon Hill carried six times for minus-16 yards).

Milroe rolled for 155 rushing yards against LSU and 107 against Auburn.

Milroe takes care of the ball. That includes big games. He had two touchdowns and no interceptions in the SEC title game victory over Georgia, and isn’t likely to be asked to exit his comfort zone unless Alabama finds itself in a deep hole early in the game.

Michigan’s JJ McCarthy may feel a tap on his shoulder and a demand to elevate his game Monday. The Wolverines haven’t needed him to exceed expectations because running back Blake Corum and the ground attack have sufficiently stifled Big Ten competition.

The increased demands on McCarthy have the potential for chaos if Alabama can stuff the Michigan run game.

McCarthy isn’t as skilled at improvisation as Milroe.

If McCarthy succeeds in making the big plays largely by himself, we’ll see him in Houston. If he’s pressured into mistakes and Alabama seizes a win in the turnover battle, Milroe will be the QB in the winner’s circle.

There’s not much doubt regarding Harbaugh’s imagination and quirky genius but there’s really no doubting Alabama coach Nick Saban’s planning expertise – especially with a month to prepare.

No bowl victories in the past six tries for Michigan?

Saban contributed to Harbaugh’s winless mark, rolling the Wolverines 35-16 in the Jan. 1, 2020, Citrus Bowl.

It’s easier to coach a team with more NFL talent, and that season’s Saban team included receivers Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith, running back Najee Harris, quarterback Mac Jones and a fearsome defense including cornerback Patrick Surtain II and defensive lineman Raekwon Davis.

It’s more of the same for Saban, and the Alabama depth could swing the late-game storyline.

Despite the No. 1 ranking, Michigan is second in talent and depth, not to mention coaching. The halftime adjustment factor is real, so it opens up an opportunity for a plus-money parlay.

Parlay Alabama +1.5 third quarter spread with Alabama +3.5 for the full game (+112 at FanDuel).

–Field Level Media

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