Rose Bowl: Alabama vs. Michigan Expert Pick and Prediction – January 1, 2024
ROSE BOWL: ALABAMA VS. MICHIGAN EXPERT PICK AND PREDICTION – January 1, 2024 — Alabama isn’t supposed to be here. The Crimson Tide didn’t earn their way in; they got gifted their spot by Florida State losing Jordan Travis to injury. But they’re here now, and they’re dangerous as a result. That’s especially true for Michigan, as the Wolverines haven’t exactly faced much of a challenge this year.
Michigan basically blasted through a weak Big Ten and a weaker non-conference slate, then slogged through three games with Penn State, Maryland and Ohio State that were tougher than necessary. The Wolverines haven’t really looked that great for the past month, which begs the question as to whether they were all that good to begin with.
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Of course, the same question still persists with Alabama. The SEC was undeniably down this season, and the Tide kept surviving week after week because of their opponents shooting themselves in the foot. The league and its fans insist it was because of collective strength, but there’s a worry that hasn’t existed for several seasons. One of these teams will play for a national title, while the other might get exposed.
(12-1 SU, 9-4 ATS)
(13-0 SU, 7-5-1 ATS)
When: Monday, January 1 at 5 p.m. EST
Where: Rose Bowl, Pasadena, Calif.
Public Bets: 75% on Alabama
Public Money: 60% on Alabama
Odds courtesy of DraftKings, as of December 27th, 2023.
Alabama vs. Michigan In-Season Trends
Alabama closed the year on a hot streak, going 5-1 over its final six games of the year. The Tide also played to the over by a 7-1-1 clip down the stretch, with the lone exception being the SEC title game against Georgia. Even with the Tide and the SEC both relatively down by comparison, there was still enough of a gap between Alabama and its competition to make the Tide a major success for backers.
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Michigan proved far more iffy. The Wolverines covered the last two games against Ohio State and Iowa, but before that, they failed to cover against both Maryland and Purdue. Michigan went just 7-5-1 ATS on the season, and even that got some help from Iowa’s incompetent offense doing nothing in the Big Ten title game. For the year, Michigan was hit or miss, which only raised further questions as to how legit their schedule was.
Right now, the Rose Bowl is very thankful for its traditional spot at 5 p.m. on New Year’s Day. Were this a normal bowl game being played on a Saturday, there would actually be some weather to contend with. But by Monday, the mess will be out of Los Angeles, leaving 65 degree temperatures, little wind and a partly cloudy day that’s ideal for football.
Jalen Milroe didn’t look like a championship quarterback in anyone’s eyes to start the season, but he has made several strides since getting benched early in the year. His rise is one of the biggest reasons why Alabama has risen to the challenge in what might be Nick Saban’s best coaching job in Tuscaloosa. Michigan has barely allowed anything on defense, but Milroe gives Alabama a chance to change all of that.
Michigan usually asks JJ McCarthy to go out and not lose the game rather than having to win it. When it’s time to win the game, the Wolverines turn to Blake Corum and his rushing ability. Neither is likely a top strategy against Alabama, however; the Tide excel at stopping both the run and the pass.
Michigan is dealing with all of the pressure in this situation. The Wolverines got here with ease and without controversy. They’re supposed to win and make up for last year’s debacle against TCU, which sent them crashing out in another playoff semifinal.
By contrast, Alabama is playing with house money. The Tide literally have no pressure on them because they never should have been here in the first place. And that’s when Nick Saban is at his most dangerous. Based on talent, this team has no business being in this game. But it’s not based on talent alone; it’s based on coaching as well, and Alabama has an edge there.
As good as Jim Harbaugh is, he hasn’t proven he can win the biggest games in college. Saban can and has, and now he gets one more opportunity as an underdog. I doubt he’ll waste it.