Detroit News predictions: Michigan vs. Alabama

The Detroit News

Angelique S. Chengelis, Matt Charboneau, John Niyo and Bob Wojnowski of The Detroit News offer their predictions on the outcome of Wednesday’s Citrus Bowl game between Michigan and Alabama at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Fla. (1 p.m., ABC/950).

Najee Harris

►Angelique S. Chengelis: Michigan really wants this 10th win, especially against a team like Alabama. A win in the Citrus Bowl would deaden the sting from the loss to Ohio State, and it certainly would feel like a signature victory against a team that usually is in the national playoff. The Wolverines haven’t won a bowl game since Jim Harbaugh’s first season and they need a program-boosting end to that trend. Can they do it? Well, Alabama’s relying on its backup quarterback, Mac Jones, and in his two starts to end the season, he played well. This game might be about the defenses. Can Michigan slow Alabama’s talented and deep group or receivers? Can the Wolverines stop running back Najee Harris and disrupt Jones? Then there’s the Crimson Tide defense, which struggled with injuries this season and now a couple starters are sitting out the bowl. Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson finished the season with three straight 300-yard passing games, but he’s going to need his receivers to do what they didn’t in the second half against Ohio State – hang onto the ball.  Alabama 31, Michigan 28

►Matt Charboneau: The Crimson Tide find themselves out of the playoffs for the first time and some are wondering if the motivation will be there when they take on the Wolverines. If history matters, the Tide shouldn’t be taken lightly. The last time Alabama did not play in a playoff game or BCS Championship/BCS game happened to be the Citrus Bowl – then called the Capital One Bowl – against Michigan State after the 2010 season. Alabama crushed the Spartans that day, and while a similar fate might not await the Wolverines, expect the Tide to prove they won’t be looking past the Wolverines simply because they’re not in the game they expected to be playing. Alabama 35, Michigan 20

►John Niyo: Field goals won't cut it, and turnovers can't happen. But if Michigan's offense plays the way it did for long stretches in the final half of its season, there's a chance this bowl game is entertaining. Maybe even competitive, if the Alabama's not fully motivated and Don Brown's defense manages to force some turnovers the way Auburn did a month ago. But that's a lot of “ifs” for a program that still has too many of them to beat elite teams. Alabama 38, Michigan 28

►Bob Wojnowski: It's not a classically loaded Alabama defense, and it's a slightly geared-down Alabama offense without Tua Tagovailoa, but this is far from a barren, bored team facing Michigan. Only two key defensive players opted to sit out for the Crimson Tide, which still has a spectacular receiving corps, led by Jerry Jeudy, and a punishing runner in Najee Harris. Michigan's best hope is for Shea Patterson to pop some big pass plays, because the Wolverines won't win the battle of the trenches. Alabama's offensive line is overwhelming. Both of Michigan's lines will be outmanned, but if getting another 10-win season under Jim Harbaugh and altering the big-game narrative matters to them, they'll stay in it. Alabama 38, Michigan 28