Rose Bowl Preview: Can Harbaugh Win the Big One?

Alabama quarterback Jalen Milroe (4) leads team onto the field against Middle Tennessee at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, AL on Saturday, Sep 2, 2023.

It’s almost here, the moment we have been waiting nearly a month for: Alabama and Michigan facing off in Pasadena for a Rose Bowl title and a spot in the national championship game.

Two of the biggest brands in the sport in one of the most iconic locations in the world is a TV executive’s dream matchup for what promises to be an epic clash on New Year’s Day.

When trying to figure out how this one is going to play out, the best place to start seems to be with the two quarterbacks.

While J.J. McCarthy has proven to be a playmaker, Michigan seems to have taken the ball out of his hands some down the stretch. He has not thrown for more than 150 yards in a game since early November.

The Wolverines’ bread and butter is running the ball, and their ability to do just that will go a long way toward determining who comes out on top.

After being gashed for 244 yards on the ground against Auburn, the Crimson Tide gave up just 78 yards rushing to Georgia in the SEC Championship and forced the Dawgs to throw the ball, a formula Ba,a will try to repeat against Michigan.

For Alabama, turnovers were an Achilles heel early in the season but the offense has tightened things down the stretch. Since the second half of the game against Tennessee, the Tide offense has turned the ball over just once.

Michigan’s defense, among the best in the nation, is going to try to change that.

Against Ohio State, an early Kyle McCord interception led to a Michigan touchdown that would end up being the difference in the game.

To put it simply, Alabama must avoid the big mistake and be able to protect the football.

Another thing to watch is the offensive line battle. For how poor it looked early in the season, the Crimson Tide offensive line has improved tremendously and was able to dominate Georgia at the point of attack.

Which offensive line shows up more against elite defensive fronts for both teams may very well determine the outcome of the game. Michigan’s unit has been consistent all season long, while Alabama’s seems to have found its stride late in the year.

While it doesn’t really have an impact on this game, something of note is Jim Harbaugh is 0-2 in College Football Playoff games and 1-6 in bowl games during his time at Michigan. For this reason, more pressure is on Michigan than on Alabama.

With just three days until kickoff, it won’t be long until our questions are answered. No matter the result, it will be fascinating to see how things play out Monday afternoon.