PREVIEW: Game Notes for Alabama-Michigan

Alabama Crimson Tide
Alabama Crimson Tide
The University of Alabama released its preview notes for the Alabama-Michigan game. These notes highlight important storylines.

GAME 1 – Alabama vs. Michigan – Saturday, Sept. 1 – 7 p.m. – Arlington, Texas – Cowboys Stadium (86,798) – TV: ABC

THE GAME: The University of Alabama football team opens the 2012 season on Saturday, September 1, when it takes on the Michigan Wolverines at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The season-opening matchup will mark the fourth time the teams have met on the gridiron, with Michigan leading the all-time series, 2-1. The September meeting will, however, be the first time the two teams have met in the regular season, with all three previous matchups coming in postseason bowl games. The game will be televised nationally on ABC with kickoff set for 7 p.m. CT. Brent Musburger will serve as the play-by-play announcer, with Kirk Herbstreit at his side as the color analyst. The two will be joined by sideline reporter Heather Cox. Eli Gold and Phil Savage will handle the radio call on the Crimson Tide Sports Network, with Chris Stewart serving as sideline reporter.

HEAD COACH NICK SABAN: Alabama head coach Nick Saban (Kent State, 1973) begins his sixth season with the Crimson Tide. Named the school’s 27th head coach on Jan. 3, 2007, Saban has compiled a 50-12 record (55-12 before five vacated wins in 2007) at Alabama while leading the Tide to two SEC Western Division championships, one conference title and two national championships. Saban holds a career record of 141-54-1 (146-54-1) as a collegiate head coach, while also serving at Toledo, Michigan State and LSU. Saban won his first national championship as head coach of the LSU Tigers in 2003, guiding the Tigers to a 13-1 record that season. Overall, Saban has coached four conference championship teams (1990 Mid-American, 2001 SEC, 2003 SEC and 2009 SEC) and 13 of his 16 teams have played in postseason bowl games with the Tide appearing in a bowl game each year under Saban’s direction. Saban is also the only active coach to win three BCS National Championships and the first to accomplish the feat at two different schools.

PRESEASON RANKINGS: Alabama opens the 2012 season ranked second in the Associated Press and USA TODAY Coaches’ preseason polls, while Michigan comes in at No. 8 in both polls.

MICHIGAN: Michigan is coming off an 11-2 season and a BCS bowl victory in the Allstate Sugar Bowl, defeating Virginia Tech in overtime, 23-20. Under first-year head coach Brady Hoke, Michigan defeated rival Ohio State for the first time since 2003 last November. The Wolverines hold an all-time record of 23-6-1 versus SEC foes, with their last game coming in the 2010 Gator Bowl against Mississippi State, which resulted in a 52-14 loss. Michigan also holds a winning record against Alabama, 2-1, all in neutral site bowl games. All three meetings have been decided by four points or less, including the most recent 2000 Orange Bowl, a 35-34 overtime loss for the Tide.

SCHOLARSHIP SENIORS: Alabama enters the season tied for fourth in the nation with the fewest number of scholarship seniors as the Crimson Tide features nine heading into the 2012 campaign. The Crimson Tide was one of four teams in the No. 1 spot until long snapper Carson Tinker was awarded a scholarship by head coach Nick Saban on August 20.

PRESEASON ALL-AMERICANS: The Crimson Tide has had eight players earn a total of 15 preseason All-America accolades from various publications leading up to the start of the 2012 campaign. The list includes D.J. Fluker, Barrett Jones, Nico Johnson, Robert Lester, Dee Milliner, C.J. Mosley, Chance Warmack and Jesse Williams. Fluker was a first-team selection by Phil Steele and second team honoree from Sports Illustrated, while Jones was a first-team selection by Phil Steele, Athlon Sports, Sporting News and Sports Illustrated. Johnson was named to the third-team by Phil Steele, and Lester was a third-team selection by Phil Steele and a second-team pick Lindy’s. Milliner was tabbed as a third-team selection by Phil Steele, while Mosley received second-team honors from Phil Steele. Warmack picked up a first-team pick by Phil Steele and Sports Illustrated and a third-team selection by Athlon Sports. Williams rounded out the Tide’s eight selections with a second-team tab by Phil Steele.

TOUGH SLATE: Alabama’s 2012 schedule features four teams ranked in the preseason USA TODAY Coaches’ Poll Top 25, and four others opponents receiving votes. The Tide will open with No. 8 Michigan on Sept. 1 in Cowboys Stadium, and two weeks later Alabama will travel to No. 10 Arkansas to play the SEC foe on Sept. 15. The national championship rematch versus No. 1 LSU will take place on Nov. 3 in Baton Rouge, La., while in-state rival Auburn will travel to Tuscaloosa, Ala., Nov. 24 for the annual Iron Bowl matchup.

NFL DRAFT: The Crimson Tide saw eight former UA players selected in the 2012 NFL Draft, including first-round picks Trent Richardson (third overall to the Cleveland Browns), Mark Barron (seventh overall to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers), Dre Kirkpatrick (17th overall to the Cincinnati Bengals) and Dont’a Hightower (25th overall to the New England Patriots). Courtney Upshaw was next to go in the second round, and 35th overall pick, to the Baltimore Ravens. The Tide had two drafted in the fifth round with Josh Chapman going to the Indianapolis Colts as the 136th overall pick and DeQuan Menzie to the Kansas City Chiefs as the 146th overall pick. Rounding out the 2012 NFL draft for Alabama was Brad Smelley, who went in the seventh round as the 247th overall pick to the Cleveland Browns.

TIDE PLAYERS EARN EARLY ACCOLADES: Twelve Alabama players have been named to 15 different preseason awards watch lists heading into the 2012-13 season. The players have been recognized before the start of the 2012 season as potentially the top players at their position nationally. Jesse Williams leads the way for the Tide appearing on five of the 14 lists, while AJ McCarron, Barrett Jones and Nico Johnson were named to four of the lists. Robert Lester and C.J. Mosley appeared on three difference lists, and Eddie Lacy, D.J. Fluker and Chance Warmack on two. Rounding out the preseason watch nods were Michael Williams, Dee Milliner and Jeremy Shelley, making one list apiece. Nico Johnson, Robert Lester, C.J. Mosley and Jesse Williams are all on the watch list for the Chuck Bednarik Award (best defensive player) and are joined by Dee Milliner on the Bronko Nagurski Award (defensive player of the year) list. Lacy has been named to many of the overall player and running back award watch list that have been announced, including the Doak Walker Award (best running back) and the Maxwell Award (most outstanding player). AJ McCarron joins him on the Maxwell watch list, and was also selected to the Manning Award (top quarterback) and the O’Brien Award (nation’s best quarterback). McCarron and Barrett Jones were tabbed for the Walter Camp Award (player of the year), while Jones is also nominated for the Outland Award (best interior lineman) and the Rotary Lombardi Award (best lineman or linebacker).

ALABAMA LANDS 12 ON ALL-SEC TEAM: The Tide placed a total of 12 players on the media’s Preseason All-SEC team which was voted on at SEC Football Media Days by 222 media voters. Twelve selections ranks the Crimson Tide second in the SEC in selections behind LSU (13). The coaches’ preseason All-SEC team voted 11 Crimson Tide players onto the three teams, which was tied with LSU for the most players selected. Alabama’s Barrett Jones was selected to the preseason All-SEC team for the third season, this time at center.

NEUTRAL SITES: Alabama is 70-46-4 (.600) in neutral site games. The list includes all Alabama-Auburn games not played on campus, including Legion Field from 1948-88. This is the first time the Crimson Tide has played a neutral site regular season game since the 2009 season opener when it defeated Virginia Tech in the Georgia Dome, 34-24.

DOME SWEET DOME: Alabama is 12-5-1 (.694) all-time in domed stadiums, including a 3-0 mark since 2009, and 4-2 in Coach Saban’s tenure. The Crimson Tide had one appearance in a dome last season in the BCS National Championship game, beating LSU, 21-0. Alabama did not play any games in a dome in 2010, but played two during the 2009 season, both in Atlanta at the Georgia Dome with the season opener against Virginia Tech (34-24 win) and the SEC Championship versus Florida (32-13 win).

TRUE FRESHMEN START SEASON OPENER: Alabama has had 13 true freshmen start season opening games since freshmen regained their eligibility from the NCAA in 1973. A pair of true freshmen started the season opener in 2007, 2008 and 2010. In 2010, specialists Cade Foster (place-kicker) and Cody Mandell (punter) notched their first career start against San Jose State in the opener. In 2007, Rolando McClain (LB) and Kareem Jackson (CB) started against Western Carolina while both Dont’a Hightower (LB) and Julio Jones (WR) got the nod against Clemson in 2008. The 2007 season marked the fifth time in school history UA has started two true freshmen in a season opener. Alabama has started at least one true freshman in the season opener in five of the last seven seasons as left tackle Andre Smith started his first game at Alabama in the 2006 season opener against Hawai’i.

ALABAMA RANKED 65 STRAIGHT WEEKS BY AP: Alabama has been ranked in the last 65 Associated Press polls, the longest streak in the nation. The streak began with the first poll of the 2008 season. Boise State holds the next longest streak with 61 straight mentions.

SABAN AMONG THE BEST: Head coach Nick Saban’s arrival in Tuscaloosa led to the Crimson Tide’s rapid rise up the national rankings. That success in such a short period of time impacted the Tide’s record book. Saban produced the largest win increase from year one to year two in school history as Alabama went from seven wins in 2007 to 12 wins in 2008. He is one of two coaches (with Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops) in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) to have coached 10 years and never suffered through a losing season. Saban achieved more firsts in 2009 with back-to-back 10-win seasons and his first undefeated campaign. He followed that up with another 10-win season in 2011. Saban ranks fifth in winning percentage (72.2 percent) among active coaches who have coached at least 10 years of FBS football. He is the only coach in college football history to win three BCS National Championships and the first to win a BCS National Championship at two different schools.

BEATING THE BEST: Alabama is 18-6 against the Associated Press Top 25 over the past four seasons and 10-4 against AP top 10 teams. The Crimson Tide was 4-1 vs. top 25 teams in 2011. Alabama went 5-3 against the AP Top 25 in 2010.

ALABAMA HAS SECOND MOST WINS SINCE 2008: Alabama has won 48 games dating back to the start of the 2008 season, the second most in the Football Bowl Subdivision. The Crimson Tide won 12 games in 2008, followed that with a perfect 14-0 record in 2009, a 10-3 mark in 2010 and a 12-1 record and a national championship in 2011. Alabama finished two wins back of Boise State, who had 50 wins. The Tide has the most victories of any team that plays in a BCS conference.

10-WIN SEASONS: Alabama reached the 10-win milestone for four consecutive seasons, finishing the 2011 campaign with a 12-1 record. The Tide now has 31 10-win seasons in 117 seasons, two back of Oklahoma (33) for the most 10-win seasons in college football. Alabama has had six 10-win season since the 2002 season (2002, 2005, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011). Tide head coach Nick Saban is the 11th coach in school history to lead his team to a 10-win season. In addition, Saban is the fifth coach in school history to have more than one 10-win season.

OVER THE LAST 14 GAMES VS. FBS OPPONENTS: Over the last 14 games against opponents from the Division I Football Bowl Subdivision, dating back to the 2011 Capital One Bowl against Michigan State, the Alabama defense has allowed only 45.2 rushing yards per game or 588 total rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns. The Crimson Tide has allowed 39 rushing yards or less in seven of those 13 games, including two games of negative rushing yards (Michigan State, -48 and Kent State, -9). Only Penn State (107) and LSU (148) have rushed for more than 100 yards. Conversely, Alabama has rushed for 2,791 yards (497 carries) and 38 touchdowns in those 13 games, averaging 214.7 yards per game and 5.62 yards per carry while scoring a touchdown on the ground every 13.0 rushes. Trent Richardson led the way over that span with 1,546 rushing yards and 20 rushing touchdowns on 261 carries for 5.9 yards per tote. Eddie Lacy has carried 94 times for 715 yards (in 12 games) and nine touchdowns while averaging 7.6 yards per carry.

DISCIPLINE SHOWS: Alabama’s disciplined approach to football is evident in its ability to play a clean football game. The Crimson Tide finished the 2011-12 season ranked third nationally in fewest penalties per game, being flagged an average of 3.77 times per game. The Tide also ranked second in fewest penalty yards, averaging 31.46 per contest. UA led the SEC in fewest penalties per game and in penalty yards per game.

A BALANCED ATTACK: Alabama returned to the nation’s elite in 2008 with a punishing ground attack that wore down defenses and took shots down the field. In 2009, the Tide brought more balance to the table on offense. In 2010 Alabama again had excellent balance as the Crimson Tide accounted for a school-record 5,773 yards of total offense (22nd nationally at 444.08 ypg), including 3,395 yards (58.8 percent) in the air and 2,378 (41.2 percent) on the ground. The Tide threw 362 total passes (43.7 percent) – completing 253 (69.9 percent) – while running the ball 467 times (56.3 percent). In 2011, Alabama’s offense once again showed itself as being one of the most balanced teams in the nation, by totaling 2,797 yards (215.2 yards per game) in the air, and 2,788 yards (214.5 yards per game) on the ground, totaling 5,585 yards in total last season.

10 POINTS OR LESS: Under head coach Nick Saban, the Crimson Tide has held opponents to 10 points or less 33 times since the start of the 2007 season, including nine times in 13 games in 2011. In 2010, Alabama held opponents to 10 points or less eight times and limited opponents to that mark seven times in 2008 and 2009. In 2007, the Tide posted two games in which it held opponents to that mark.

HOLDING OPPONENTS UNDER 300: Alabama limited the LSU offense to 92 yards of total offense in the BCS National Championship Game. In head coach Nick Saban’s 67-game tenure at Alabama, the Crimson Tide has limited the opposition to less than 300 yards of total offense 40 times, or 59.7 percent of the time.

HOLDING OPPONENTS UNDER 200: During head coach Nick Saban’s last 53 games at the Capstone, the Crimson Tide defense has held the opposing offense to less than 200 yards of total offense 21 times. Alabama accomplished the feat eight times in 2011, limiting Kent State to 90 total yards, North Texas to 169 total yards, Vanderbilt to 190 total yards, Mississippi to 141 yards, Tennessee to 155 yards, Mississippi State to 131 yards, Auburn to 140 yards and LSU to 92 yards. The 90 yards against Kent State and the 92 yards vs. LSU in the championship game also marked the second and third times a Saban defense has limited its opponent to less than 100 yards of total offense. Alabama’s best came in 2009 when they held Chattanooga to 84 yards of total offense. The Tide held opponents under 200 yards three times in 2010, four times in 2009 and six times in 2008.

GROUND DEFENSE: Limiting opposing running backs to less than 100 yards is nothing new for the Crimson Tide. Alabama has surrendered only 10 individual 100-yard rushing games dating back to the 2005 season (90 games), a mark that leads the nation. Since head coach Nick Saban arrived in 2007 (67 games), Alabama has allowed five players to rush for 100 yards in a game: Georgia Southern’s Dominique Swope (153 yards), Tennessee’s Tauren Poole (117 yards), Mississippi’s BenJarvus Green-Ellis (131 yards), Houston’s Anthony Alridge (100 yards) and Arkansas’ Darren McFadden (195 yards).

SLEDDING ON THE GROUND: Alabama leads the nation in giving up the fewest rushing touchdowns since the start of the 2005 season, surrendering only 50. Since head coach Nick Saban arrived in 2007, the Crimson Tide has allowed 32 rushing touchdowns while Ohio State has allowed 40. In 2010, Alabama surrendered only six rushing touchdowns in 13 games and gave up three in 2011 – one at Penn State, one at Mississippi and one against Georgia Southern.

BARRETT JONES DOES IT ALL ON THE OFFENSIVE LINE: Senior All-American Barrett Jones started at right guard in 2009 and 2010, but added a few responsibilities to his résumé in the 2011 season. He started 11 games at left tackle and also saw snaps at left guard, right tackle and center. The winner of the Outland Trophy, Jones has started 36 games at the Capstone. This fall, Jones will once again return to the center position and is already listed among the top centers in the nation. In addition to being named the Outland Trophy winner, Jones also received the ARA Sportsmanship Award and the Wuerffel Trophy for his commitment to the community and academics.

O-LINE EXPERIENCE A KEY: As the 2012 season starts, the Alabama offensive line enters as one of the most recognized and skilled groups in the country. Preseason magazines including Athlon Sports and Phil Steele rank Alabama’s offensive line as the number one unit in the country. Combined, the line represents 95 starts, with senior center Barrett Jones representing 36 starts. Chance Warmack has made 26 starts at left guard, while D.J. Fluker has started 22 games. Junior Anthony Steen has made 11 starts at right guard, with the new addition being Cyrus Kouandjio who saw action last year in eight games before a season-ending ACL injury.

100-YARD RUSHERS AND RECEIVERS: Thirty-seven times in 34 different games Alabama has had rushers exceed 100 yards, and the Tide has had 15 100-yard receivers in 15 games since head coach Nick Saban arrived in Tuscaloosa. Former running back Mark Ingram recorded 12 100-yard rushing games during his career, while Trent Richardson reached 13 100-yard rushing efforts. Current backs Eddie Lacy and Jalston Fowler have tallied two 100-yard games and one 100-yard game, respectively. Under Saban, Alabama has gone 33-1 in those 34 games that produced a 100-yard rusher. The Tennessee game on Oct. 23, 2010, marked the sixth time under Saban that Alabama has had a 100-yard rusher and receiver in the same game.

41 NATIONAL TV GAMES IN LAST 53 GAMES: Alabama’s contest against LSU in the BCS National Championship Game on Jan. 9, 2012, marked the 41st nationally-televised game since the start of the 2008 season for the Crimson Tide. This season Alabama has played on CBS four times, while having one game on ABC, two games on ESPN and ESPN2 with one game on ESPNU. In 2010, Alabama had five games on CBS, three games on ESPN, two games on ESPN2, one on ABC and one on ESPNU. In 2009, UA played two games on ABC, including the BCS National Championship Game, and six games on CBS while ESPN broadcasted two more Crimson Tide games. In 2008, Alabama had 10 of its 14 games broadcasted nationally, including five games on CBS, three games on ESPN, one on ABC and one on FOX.

TIDE 49-3 UNDER SABAN WHEN LEADING AT THE HALF: The Crimson Tide is 49-3 when leading at halftime under head coach Nick Saban. Alabama had a 28-game winning streak snapped in 2010 against LSU. The first two losses came against LSU with the last loss to Auburn in 2010. In 2007, UA held a 20-17 halftime lead before losing, 41-34, on Nov. 3, 2007, at Bryant-Denny Stadium. In 2010, UA led 10-3 at the half before the Tigers rallied for a 24-20 win at Tiger Stadium. The Tide lost 28-27 to Auburn to close out the 2010 season after leading 24-7 at the half. The Crimson Tide is 3-5 under Saban when trailing at halftime and 3-3 when tied at halftime. The three wins when trailing at the half came in a 34-24 win over No. 7 Virginia Tech on Sept. 5, 2009, in Atlanta; a 24-15 victory over No. 9 LSU on Nov. 7, 2009; and a 24-20 win at Arkansas on Sept. 25, 2010. Alabama’s three wins when tied at halftime came at LSU on Nov. 8, 2008, (a 27-21 victory), at Auburn with a 26-21 win on Nov. 27, 2009 and against Tennessee on Oct. 22, 2011 (37-6 victory).

ALABAMA’S TV RECORD: Alabama has compiled a 191-126-4 (.601) all-time record in 321 televised games. This does not include pay-per-view, tape-delayed or closed circuit telecasts.

SEASON OPENERS: Alabama has compiled a 93-21-3 (.808) all-time record in season openers, and is in the midst of a 10-game winning streak. Dating back to the 1977 season, Alabama is 30-4 in its last 34 season openers and the Tide has posted an 18-2 opening day record since 1991. The 2012 season marks the 13th consecutive year the Tide has opened the season with a non-conference opponent.

SEASON OPENERS BY HEAD COACH: Coach Nick Saban currently stands at 5-0 in season openers at the Capstone. Coach Frank Thomas (1931-46) is the school’s most successful coach on opening day, compiling a 13-0-2 record in his 15 season openers with the Crimson Tide. Legendary coach Paul W. “Bear” Bryant (1958-82) is the school’s winningest coach, logging 18 opening day wins in his 25-year career. Bryant’s record in Alabama season openers was 18-6-1 (.740), including a six-game winning streak to close out his career.

SEASON OPENERS BY OPPONENT: The Crimson Tide will open with Michigan for the first time in school history. UA has opened the season with 58 different opening day opponents with the Crimson Tide’s most common opening day opponent being Howard (now Samford). Alabama has also played five current SEC teams on opening day, compiling a 14-8-1 (.630) record against Mississippi, Georgia, Vanderbilt, Florida and LSU. The Tide has not opened the season with an SEC opponent since a 28-17 win at Vanderbilt in 1999.

SEASON OPENERS BY SITE: Alabama has played its season opener in 18 different cities in its football history, and will be playing in its 19th different city this season with the opener being in Dallas. The most common venue for an Alabama season opener is on the UA campus in Tuscaloosa, where the Tide has opened the season 52 times and compiled a 49-2-1 record. The Tide is 19-1-1 in season openers at Bryant-Denny Stadium (circa 1929). UA opened the 2008 and 2009 seasons at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, with wins over Clemson (34-10) and Virginia Tech (34-24). The Tide has also opened the season 29 times in Birmingham and has posted a 24-4-1 record in those games.

ALABAMA VS. BIG TEN: Alabama has compiled a 19-11 (.633) record against the current Big Ten field. In addition to Michigan, the Crimson Tide has faced Illinois (1-0), Nebraska (3-2), Michigan State (1-0), Minnesota (0-1), Ohio State (3-0), Penn State (10-5) and Wisconsin (0-1). Alabama has outscored its Big Ten opponents 613-462 in the 30 games played.

SABAN VS. BIG TEN: While Alabama has a surprising brief history against the Big Ten, head coach Nick Saban knows the conference quite well having played 47 games against Big Ten opponents, nearly all of those coming during his five year tenure at Michigan State. Saban has compiled a 27-19-1 (.585) record against Big Ten opponents. Since leaving Michigan State Saban has faced Big Ten opponents a total of five times (twice at LSU, and three times at Alabama), defeating Illinois 47-34 in the 2002 Sugar Bowl and losing to Iowa 30-25 in the 2005 Capital One Bowl, Saban’s last game with the Tigers. Over the past two years, Saban’s teams have swept a home-and-home series with Penn State University, at home in 2010 (24-3) and in State College, Penn. (27-11) and beat Michigan State, 49-7, in the Capital One Bowl on Jan. 1, 2011.

OPENING DAY SCORING SPREE: Alabama has scored 398 points in its last 10 season openers, an average of 39.8 points per game in wins over Middle Tennessee (39-34), South Florida (40-17), Utah State (48-17), Middle Tennessee (26-7), Hawai’i (25-17), Western Carolina (52-6), Clemson (34-10), Virginia Tech (34-24), San Jose State (48-3) and Kent State (48-7). Alabama’s 52-6 win over Western Carolina in 2007 featured the most points scored by the Tide in a season opener since a 66-0 win over California at Legion Field to open the 1973 season. The Tide scored 40 points in back-to-back openers in 2003 and 2004, marking the first time since 1941-42 the Crimson Tide had hung 40 points on the board on opening night. Alabama has scored 40 or more points in its season opener 28 times, but only 10 times since World War II. The record for most points in a season opener came in an 89-0 win over Delta State in 1951.


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