In a meeting between two of college football’s most fascinating minds, Nick Saban and the No. 13 Alabama Crimson Tide (10-2) will take on Jim Harbaugh and the No. 14 Michigan Wolverines (9-3) in the Citrus Bowl on New Year’s Day.
The Tide are 7-point favorites in this one, but will they cover the spread? Here’s a preview of the game followed by trends and our prediction, where we’ll tell you how you should bet.
Jim Harbaugh has seen his Wolverines lose their last three bowl games, and they would love nothing more than to score an upset against the Tide here. The Wolverines have not beaten a ton of quality teams this season; they handled Notre Dame, but losses to Wisconsin, Penn State, Ohio State, and Iowa have left Michigan in need of a huge signature win this year. This could be that win.
Much will depend on quarterback Shea Patterson, who has 2,828 yards, 22 touchdowns, and six interceptions this season. Patterson ended the regular season with three consecutive 300+ yard games, and his performance will be a major factor in this game.
Michigan’s defense will be another huge factor. Only two teams have converted on more than 40% of their third-down attempts against this Michigan defense this year: Ohio State and Indiana. If they can keep the ridiculously talented Alabama wide receivers in check, they can win this game. Additional inspiration? A win here would also give Harbaugh his fourth 10-win season in five years as head coach.
After being in the college football playoffs every year for the last five years, Alabama failed to make the playoffs this year. They won two championships in that span, making the championship game in each of the last four years. They’ll have to settle for a bowl appearance this year.
Alabama has weathered a good deal of storms this year, from losing starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa late in the season to seeing star linebacker Dylan Moses go down with a knee injury before the season even began. Saban and company will be missing linebacker Terrell Lewis and safety Trevon Diggs, who both declared for the draft and won’t play here, but the Tide should have the rest of their starters.
“We’ve got a lot to prove in this game in terms of we’re a little bit disappointed in how we finished the season, so this is an opportunity that we have to try to play well against a good team,” Saban said about the upcoming matchup.
Game Info, Betting Trends, Analysis & Pick
*NOTE: all numbers and percentages that follow are courtesy of Odds Shark.
Time: January 1, 2020, 1p.m. ET
Location: Camping World Stadium, Orlando, Florida
Spread: Wolverines +7
Over/Under: 58 points
Odds Shark currently has the Crimson Tide winning the game by a projected score of 42-27, with Alabama covering the spread and the total score going over 58 points.
Some trends relating to both teams to consider:
- The Wolverines are 5-1 ATS in their last 6 games.
- The total has gone OVER in 10 of Michigan’s last 14 games.
- Michigan is 4-1 SU in their last 5 games.
- Michigan is 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games this season.
- Alabama is 17-3 SU in their last 20 games.
- The Crimson Tide are 10-2 SU in their last 12 games this season.
- Alabama is 6-1 ATS in their last 7 games against an opponent in the Big 10 conference.
- The total has gone OVER in 7 of Alabama’s last 8 games played in January.
Both teams are close when it comes to scoring defense. Michigan is giving up 19.5 points a game, while Alabama is surrendering 18.8. The Wolverines have been slightly better in total defense, allowing 292.8 yards per contest, while opposing offenses are averaging 318.6 yards against the Tide.
Quarterback Mac Jones has filled in capably for Tagovailoa, but he lacks the explosiveness of his predecessor. Jones has 1,176 yards, 11 touchdowns and three interceptions on the season. He leads the nation’s third-best passing attack, however, largely due to Alabama’s excellent receiving corps. Alabama is averaging 48.3 points a game, which is second in the nation.
This is where the Tide has the edge. Michigan is putting up 33 points a game, and the Wolverines simply aren’t as explosive. Michigan should make it interesting, at least for a while, with what should be a solid effort from their defense, but Alabama is simply too talented.
Besides, in its last 16 games, when entering the game as the underdog, Michigan is 0-16 SU. I think Alabama wins and covers, although just barely.
Final Prediction: Alabama 35, Michigan 27