Alabama vs. Michigan: Rose Bowl Prediction & Odds (1/1/24)

On Monday (1/1/24), Alabama faces Michigan in the Rose Bowl. A spot in the national championship is on the line between these teams with Michigan currently short 1.5-point favorites. In this article, find the latest betting odds for the game and a full matchup preview. In addition, find our Alabama vs. Michigan best bets which are over 44.5 points and the Michigan Moneyline.

Alabama Crimson Tide Vs. Michigan Wolverines Prediction

In the final year before College Football Playoff expansion, we’re granted what might be the best playoff matchup we’ve ever had. Jim Harbaugh gets a second crack at Nick Saban after Alabama beat Michigan 35-16 in the 2020 Citrus Bowl, but needless to say, the stakes are far greater this time around.

Michigan is right where it’s supposed to be. They spent most of the season ranked second in the AP Poll behind only Georgia who, until the SEC Championship game, had won 29 straight games including two national championships. In Harbaugh’s efforts to get his alma mater to the top of the mountain, he’s built a powerhouse program ready for its big moment.

Meanwhile, this season has been one of Nick Saban’s best coaching jobs, leading Alabama back to the CFP after a rare home loss to Texas, a quarterback controversy, and two new coordinators. The Crimson Tide have won 11 straight games and are playing their best football of the season when it matters most.

In this game between blue blood programs, are you backing experience or destiny? The rebirth of a national power or the continuation of a dynasty? Let’s dive into the matchup and see where the advantages lie.

When Alabama has the Ball

The start to the season was incredibly rocky for Alabama after losing former Heisman-winning quarterback Bryce Young, and the new-look offense took a while to take shape under first-year coordinator Tommy Rees. At one point, Jalen Milroe was even benched after the team’s home loss to Texas.

However, Milroe and Rees gained more chemistry and confidence as the season went on, culminating in their SEC Championship upset over Georgia. Milroe was one of the best deep ball passers in the country this season, finishing with 24 big-time throws and no turnover-worthy plays on throws of 20+ yards. He was also an electrifying runner, finishing with 479 rushing yards on scrambles and 214 on designed runs.

Michigan’s task on defense is twofold – take away the deep ball and maintain pass rush integrity to limit the damage Milroe does with his legs. Doing both at the same time is a tall order, especially with Alabama’s once maligned offensive line hitting its stride. Freshman left tackle Kadyn Proctor allowed just one sack over his final four games according to PFF after allowing 10 over his first nine starts.

Michigan defensive coordinator Jesse Minter runs a 2-4-5 defense that majors in Cover 3. This defense rarely made mistakes with top two grades in tackling and coverage according to PFF, and they’ll need to remain buttoned up against the most dynamic quarterback they’ve faced all season in Milroe.

The key for Michigan will be forcing Milroe to beat them over the middle of the field. On throws 10-19 yards downfield, Milroe has one big-time throw to seven turnover-worthy plays, a stark contrast to his deep passing metrics. Wide receiver Isaiah Bond was electric in the SEC Championship with five catches for 79 yards, and he’s a key player to watch.

When Michigan has the Ball

J.J. McCarthy’s health is the biggest factor in this game. Michigan is certainly capable of relying on a heavy inside power run game, as they did for most of the season, and McCarthy attempted just eight passes in their big road win over Penn State. However, this offense is at its best when it can open up the downfield passing playbook, as we saw last year in their road win over Ohio State.

McCarthy displayed impressive progression as a drop back passer earlier this year before an ankle injury limited his productivity to close the season. However, with nearly a month off before this game, McCarthy should be fully healthy. His legs could become a huge factor in this game, as they were in the loss to TCU last year when McCarthy had five scrambles for 56 yards.

While McCarthy is healthy, Michigan’s offensive line isn’t. First Team All American offensive guard Zak Zinter suffered a season-ending injury against Ohio State, and the offensive line will require some reshuffling as a result. Offensive coordinator Sheronne Moore needs to be up to the task in that department, but Michigan should find success running into the teeth of an Alabama defensive line that ranked just 103rd in stuff rate this season.

The Crimson Tide’s secondary will be the best Michigan has seen all season as they rank first in coverage according to PFF. Cornerbacks Kool-Aid McKinstry and Terrion Arnold are among the highest graded players at their position in the country while five-star freshman safety Caleb Downs has been an instant impact player. Roman Wilson led the team with 11 touchdowns, but tight end Colston Loveland could the real X-factor in this game running routes from the slot.

When Michigan reaches the red zone, we can expect them to finish drives with touchdowns more often than not. Star running back Blake Corum led the FBS with 24 rushing touchdowns, and the Wolverines were top 20 in red zone touchdown rate. Meanwhile, Alabama had some issues with limiting teams in scoring position, allowing 3.9 points per trip past the 40-yard line and ranking 44th in red zone touchdown rate allowed.

Conclusion

From a total standpoint, I love the over in this game. We’re seeing a low total here in large part due to Michigan’s profile this season. They allowed just 9.5 points per game, the fewest in the country, while operating at the second-slowest pace. However, much of that came while nursing big leads against some incompetent offenses at the bottom of the Big Ten.

We’ve seen the Michigan offensive staff pick up the pace in their bigger games this season, and this certainly qualifies. We also get offensive upside from J.J. McCarthy’s improved health and ability to open up the downfield passing offense. Meanwhile, Jalen Milroe presents a ton of issues for a defense whose best opposing quarterbacks this season were Kyle McCord and Drew Allar.

I do believe Michigan comes away with the win here, as well, and I’ll take a cheap Moneyline price on the Wolverines. Alabama needed a ton of bounces to go their way to get to this point. Check out some of the late game variance that went their way in one-score contests this year:

  • 3-point win over Arkansas
  • 6-point win over Texas A&M where Jimbo Fisher’s horrendous late game management cost him his job
  • 3-point win over Auburn on an insanely improbable 4th-and-31 Hail Mary
  • 3-point win over Georgia in a game where some questionable calls went their way

Alabama played the tougher schedule by FPI, but Michigan passed with flying colors against Penn State and Ohio State, their two toughest opponents. Ultimately, I believe McCarthy’s experience in this environment is a huge difference maker as I expect Milroe to make a couple of key mistakes to help Michigan get over the hump.

This game has it all. Two exhilarating quarterbacks, two elite defenses, two of the best coaches in the sport. The margins are razor thin in this game, but I’m backing that the third time will be the charm for Michigan and Jim Harbaugh will get over the hump with his best team to date.

Alabama Vs. Michigan Prediction: Michigan ML, Over 44.5 Points

Alabama Vs. Michigan Best Odds

The odds have been fairly stagnant for this game with Michigan priced as 1.5 or 2-point favorites and an over/under of 45 points. The total opened as high as 46 before action drove it down, but once it dipped below the key number of 45, there was some buyback on the number. The current odds lead to an implied score of around 23-22 in favor of Michigan, highlighting the fine margins between these elite teams.

Alabama Vs. Michigan Key Matchups

There are so many fascinating matchups in this year’s Rose Bowl that will help determine the final outcome of the game. However, I only have so much space in this article, so I’ll focus on what I see as the two most important matchups in this game. Let’s dive in.

Michigan’s Offensive Line Vs. Alabama’s Defensive Line

Offensive coordinator Sheronne Moore, who had been serving as the team’s interim head coach, is a masterful offensive line coach, and Michigan needs his best effort to put together the right combination for this game with Zinter out. The pass protection has been inconsistent at times, especially in the games against Penn State and Ohio State.

Against Penn State, right tackle Karsen Barnhart surrendered three pressures on just 11 pass-blocking snaps, earning a 0.0 PFF pass-blocking grade. Against Ohio State, Barnhart performed much better, but left tackle LaDarius Henderson coughed up three pressures on 25 pass-blocking snaps with a 24.7 PFF pass-blocking grade.

Pass protection will be crucial in this game against an Alabama defense featuring two outstanding pass rushers, Dallas Turner and Chris Braswell. The duo combined for over 100 pressures and 17 sacks this season, and they have the ability to wreak havoc on Michigan’s offensive gameplan. McCarthy’s improved health will help neutralize the pass rush with his ability to make throws on the move and scramble.

Alabama’s Wide Receivers Vs. Michigan’s Cornerbacks

While Alabama’s offense started to find its rhythm over the second half of the season, it has benefitted from breakout performances at the wide receiver position. Jermaine Burton has game-breaking downfield receiving ability while Isaiah Bond has come through in huge moments, including the 4th-and-31 game-winning touchdown against Auburn.

Burton is averaging 22.2 yards per reception, the second-highest mark in the country, as the frequent recipient of Milroe’s potent deep balls. He has 52 targets with no drops this year. Bond, meanwhile, plays over 60% of his snaps from the slot and can burn cornerbacks inside with his speed and agility.

Luckily, Michigan has an answer for both. Sophomore Will Johnson has become one of the best corners in the country, and he’s battle tested after helping to slow down Marvin Harrison Jr., a likely top three pick in the upcoming NFL Draft. Meanwhile, Mike Sainristill, a former wide receiver, will be matched up with Bond in the slot in a fascinating duel.

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I've been a huge sports fan for as long as I can remember and I've always loved writing. In 2020, I joined the Lineups team, and I've been producing written and video content on football and basketball ever since. In May 2021, I graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in sport management. My goal is to tell enthralling stories and provide meaningful insight on the sports I write about while helping you cash some bets along the way.

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