Citrus Bowl: #14 Michigan Wolverines vs. #13 Alabama Crimson Tide

VRBO Citrus Bowl
#14 Michigan Wolverines (9-3) vs. #13 Alabama Crimson Tide (10-2)
New Years Day - 1:00 PM ET - Camping World Stadium, Orlando, FL
Betting Line: Alabama -7, Total 59

It was a disappointing season for #14 Michigan and #13 Alabama. For Alabama, this will be their first time missing the College Football Playoff sine the tournament was innaugurated in 2014. Alabama is the team with the most CFP wins (6) and appearances (5) along with Clemson.

Michigan is coming off yet another year where they've failed to capture the Big Ten title or beat Ohio State.

So, who's the best bet this New Years Day? Keep reading to find out!

The Numbers

Alabama holds the clear advantage on offense over Michigan. The Crimson Tide averages more passing yards (343.5 vs. 252.3), rushing yards (169.8 vs. 149.8), total yards (513.3 vs. 402.1), and points per game (48.3 vs. 33.0) than the Wolverines.

The also allow fewer points per game (18.8 vs. 19.5) than Michigan despite allowing more passing (183.4 vs. 173.8), rushing (135.1 vs. 119.1), and total yards (318.5 vs. 292.8).

Both teams employ a run first-offense though Bama's is more evenly split with 406 rushing attempts to 381 passing attempts to Michigan's 452 rushing to 373 passing attempts.

The Resume

Michigan is 2-3 against ranked opposition this season. They beat #14 Iowa and #8 Notre Dame at home, but lost at #13 Wisconsin, at #7 Penn State, and at home to #1 Ohio State. The 56-27 loss suffered at the hands of Ohio State to send them to 9-3 was particularly devastating.

The Wolverines' other home wins consisted of: MTSU, Army, Rutgers, and Michigan State. Their road wins were versus: Illinois, Maryland, and Indiana.

Alabama went 8-0 against Duke, New Mexico State, South Carolina, Southern Mississippi, Ole Miss, #24 Texas A&M, Tennessee, and Arkansas before losing 46-41 to LSU in early November. They followed that up with a win at Mississippi State and then at home versus Western Carolina. Bama capped off their season with a disappointing loss at #15 Auburn 48-45.

The biggest loss Bama suffered this season was that of QB Tua Tagovailoa. Tua left the Tennessee game with an injury and missed the Arkansas game before returning to pass for over 400 yards against LSU. He was sent crashing to the ground at Mississippi State and suffered a hip injury that ended the Heisman candidate's season early.

The Players

Sophomore Mac Jones stepped in for the injured Tagovailoa. In three starts for the Crimson Tide, Jones passed for 845 yards, 10 touchdowns, and two interceptions. He was sacked just once. Jones compleed over 80% of his passes in both the Arkansas game and the Western Carolina game.

Najee Harris was the heart of the Bama rushing game. He was the only player to carry the ball 100 times. Harris rushed for 1,088 yards and 11 touchdowns on 5.9 yards per carry.

Devonta Smith and Jerry Jeudy were the stars on the receiving corps. Smith caught for 1,200 yards and 13 touchdowns. Jeudy caught for 959 yards and nine touchdowns.

Nick Saban's offense definitely spread the ball in the passing game. Henrry Ruggs III caught for seven touchdowns, Jaylen Waddle caught for six touchdowns, and Najee Harris, caught for seven touchdowns. Miller Forristall and Major Tennison contributed with three and one touchdown reception respectively.

Michigan's Shea Patterson had a disappointing season at Michigan. He completed just 57.3% of his passes. He racked up 2,828 passing yards and 22 touchdowns to his six interceptions along with five touchdowns on just 46 yards rushing.

Zach Charbonnet and Hassan Haskins carried the load for the Wolverines. Charbonnet rushed for 642 yards and 11 touchdowns. Haskins tallied 561 and four. They were the only two players outside of Patteron to carry the ball over 50 times for Michigan.

The Verdict

This one's a no-brainer for me. Nick Saban will look to get something back here after an underwhelming season. Bama is more talented on both sides of the ball and on the sideline. Xavier McKinney, who racked up 85 tackles, three interceptions, four forced fumbles, and a recovery can change the course of a game with one play. He's a player to watch out for.

Nick Saban's program should more than cover the spread and add to Jim Harbaugh's list of headaches.