The theory behind this feature is you take an Alabama guy and throw them in the ring (a chatroom) with a Michigan guy, mix with three parts excitement and throw in a dash of bravado and see what happens. This week features BeyondUSports own Randal Etheredge who is a current student at Alabama – and myself, trying on my wolverine gear and arguing on behalf of the Maize and Blue.
I’ll be hosting “Pit Fight’s” once a week, and if you are interested in representing your school please contact me @Einsane on twitter or at [email protected]
Ian – Michigan
Randal – Alabama
Ian: Onward – let’s try it out and have a stream of consciousness.
Randal: What are Michigan’s strong points?
Ian: I thought I’d let you start, yielding to the representative from the defending national champions, but alright.
Randal: The first obstacle in huge, only 12 returning starters. However, we have 5 defensive All-Americans (coaches poll).
Ian: You asked about Michigan’s defense and the strength, and that could be the no. 1 question for Saturday night’s game. Michigan lost 3 of 4 starters along the defensive line. Which doesn’t bode well on paper against Alabama.
Michigan should be good through the secondary, but in the SEC, as you know, it all starts along the offensive and defensive lines. The Michigan D-line will be a relative unknown, but Brady Hoke should have the replacements coached up enough to force Bama to try the air and that secondary.
Randal: Well Michigan’s defensive line is outweighed by 35 pounds per position. The battle will be won in the trenches.
Randal: If Alabama can control the line of scrimmage and establish a running game, (Denard) Robinson will have a weight on his shoulders like no other
Ian: Ah, so we get down to it. Michigan isn’t going to stalemate anybody on defense, nevertheless Alabama. But after sending all those players to the NFL is Bama ready to defense Denard Robinson? Robinson will be a senior, and after watching two incredible years from him it’s hard to imagine anything but a Heisman type campaign. What better than add a couple Crimson Tide highlights to that reel?
Randal: Well it’s no comparison to say, but we held Jefferson (LSU) in the backfield for the entire game in New Orleans. I know the athleticism isn’t equal, however they play a similar game
Ian: Jordan Jefferson to Denard Robinson is a Minivan (that can’t throw) to a Indy car (that can). Part of stopping Michigan and Robinson is remaining disciplined enough not to bite on his play action or run fakes, and remaining in the passing lanes. Linebackers and safeties especially can get sucked up and give Michigan easy passing lanes on seems and slants. Just how experienced are the players filling in for Bama?
Randal: Well Nico Johnson and CJ Mosley (LB’s) are preseason All Americans. They can handle the sideline-to-sideline speed of Robinson. The only concern I see is the down field coverage, primarily in a cover II formation. Vinnie Sunseri Is making his first start at safety, replacing Barron. He has the speed, but his coverage capabilities have yet to be determined. I think anyone can agree, if you play Alabama anytime in the season, it’s best to face them early.
Ian: Yeah, I agree with that for sure. With the way Saban has been bringing in premier prospects lately it’s greatly to Michigan’s benefit to play them green. What does Bama bring back by way of pass rushers? Especially along the defensive front, you don’t want to blitz Robinson too often and take away potential tacklers when he breaks contain. I’ll add that Robinson might be Michigan’s only running threat Saturday night. I don’t expect Fitz Toussaint to play.
Randal: Losing Hightower and Upshaw was certainly a blow to the kidneys. Thankfully, we’ve got two. Jesse Williams (nose guard) was tested at bench pressing 600 pounds over the summer. During this year’s spring game, he spent a lot of time in the backfield. Think of Mount Kody, but with athleticism. Also on the defensive line we have returning starter/senior Damion Square. He has expirience rushing the passer, and has been equated to Marcell Darius. Saban’s defenses since 2007 have given up 10 points or less in 33 games. Seven points or less in the first half. I think we can agree that spreading the field is how they will establich an offense, not by crowding the line
Ian: Well if you’ve got Mt. Cody lining up next to Darius than Saban should be investigated for a cloning and training program similar to the montage of Ivan Drago in Rocky IV.
Randal: Essentially the same grouping
Ian: As good as Alabama’s defense will be this year, I think Michigan is catching them at the right time and I don’t see the Wolverines scoring less than 24 points. The Michigan offensive line should be pretty good as well, especially at Tackle.
Randal: But one only returning starter, correct?
Ian: Not entirely correct, two other players with experience come back. They weren’t named starters last season, but as far as returning players are concerned I’d count three. Besides for match-ups, what does this game mean to Alabama?
Ian: The SEC has turned into a big southern bully pushing everyone else around and then chanting about it. Don’t think Michigan won’t be inspired to spoil that notion. This game means a lot more to the Big Ten and Michigan.
Randal: This sets the stage for a huge statement; that losing so many first round NFL draft picks and replacing them can be done. But yes, this game means so much for the Big 10, there is no getting around that
Ian: Saban is the best coach in the country.But. Oh yeah, there is a but. With their recent success it makes coaching exponentially harder. The guys filling in for graduated studs need to be convinced they can lose.
the guys without experience will play with the notion that once you put an Alabama jersey on that the opponent rolls over and you march out with a dominating win. That is something Saban has to coach out of them.
If anybody can do it, its him, but that is a very underrated aspect of coaching a perennial juggernaut.
Randal: Well last year, Alabama was the hunter. No one had them beyond the SEC West
Randal: This year is different. They are playing with a target on their back, as any returning national champion would. The defining factor is if the inexperienced players can shake off that uneasy stability. That’s where Saban’s coaching prowess shines.
Not by recruiting, but preparing
Ian: That’s a good point. Saban keeps an edge through competition. Well, getting down to it, what is your score prediction?
Randal: I honestly have not put any thought to it, believe it or not. But seeing the offense for Alabama in spring practice, I have Alabama 27-13
Ian: Alright, well after arguing on behalf of Michigan I can’t tell a lie, nor can I diminish whatever credibility I’d wish to build. I have Alabama 34-24
Randal: I tell you this much, if Michigan can put that many points on the board, Alabama is in for a long day
Ian: Ha, SEC logic is great, 24 points is “that many points on the board”. Man are you spoiled with terrific defense
Randal: Even the best, often witness the worst