Rose Bowl 2024: Factors That Will Decide Alabama vs. Michigan Playoff

The Alabama Crimson Tide actually averaged more ground yards this season, but the Michigan Wolverines have the more impressive running assault heading into the Rose Bowl.

Three players from Alabama set records for more than 100 carries and at least 450 yards of rushes. Its offensive component might make the difference between winning and losing on New Year’s Day in the College Football Playoff quarterfinal.

Running back Blake Corum of Michigan loves to control games, but the Crimson Tide have a better chance of winning if it is pulled out of its environment.

In order to reduce the amount of possessions, Michigan would like to run the ball 40 times. However, in order to win its first national semifinal in the playoff era, Michigan might need to execute some crucial passing plays.

Alabama’s Success on the Ground

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ATLANTA, GEORGIA - DECEMBER 2: Jalen Milroe #4 hands the ball off to Roydell Williams #5 of the Alabama Crimson Tide during a game between University of Georgia and University of Alabama at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on December 2, 2023 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Steve Limentani/ISI Photos/Getty Images)
Steve Limentani/ISI Photos/Getty Images

Alabama averages 172.7 rushing yards per game.

Although it might not seem like a large difference, the Crimson Tide outgained Michigan by 10.9 yards on the ground during the regular season, demonstrating that they can compete with Michigan at the large Ten team’s greatest asset.

In their victory over the Georgia Bulldogs in the SEC Championship Game, Alabama carried the ball 41 times for 114 yards.

Because of their dedication to the run, the Crimson Tide were able to hold the ball for three extra minutes compared to the previous top-ranked squad in the CFB Playoff rankings.

In order to exert control over the game and prevent Michigan from controlling play using the same tactic, Alabama must perform even better on the ground in the Rose Bowl.

Jase McClellan’s possible return on New Year’s Day might make stopping Alabama’s rushing attack more difficult.

McClellan’s injury sustained during the Iron Bowl victory over the Auburn Tigers is affecting his foot.

“He is improving. Most likely, it’s still too early to know. According to Chase Goodbread of the Tuscaloosa News, Alabama head coach Nick Saban stated, “He’s getting ready to do some dry-land running and some things, so he’ll progress through the rest of the week and we’ll see where he lands by the end of the week.”

The senior running back averages 4.8 yards per carry and has two 100-yard performances against opponents ranked in the top 25.

The sixth-best rushing defense in the FBS could be impacted by his possible return, Roydell Williams’ increased confidence following the Georgia game, and Jalen Milroe’s agility in the pocket.

Alabama may hold Michigan off the field and put on a strong offensive showing if its run game is executed properly.

J.J. McCarthy’s Experience

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INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - DECEMBER 02: J.J. McCarthy #9 of the Michigan Wolverines looks to pass in the game against the Iowa Hawkeyes during the Big Ten Championship at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 02, 2023 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)
Justin Casterline/Getty Images

J.J. McCarthy is arguably the most important player in the Rose Bowl.

On New Year’s Day, the Michigan quarterback will play in his third CFB Playoff semifinal.

Two years ago against Georgia, McCarthy relieved Cade McNamara and went 7 for 17 with 131 yards passing. In the loss to the TCU Horned Frogs the previous year, he passed for 343 yards and two touchdowns.

In the 51-45 loss, McCarthy was also picked off twice by the Horned Frogs. In his career, he has only had two multi-pick games. The other was a strange September game versus the Bowling Green Falcons that featured three interceptions.

Even though he might not be expected to pass the ball a lot, the second-year quarter must produce some big plays when called upon. He seldom makes mistakes.

McCarthy achieved that in Michigan’s victories over the Penn State Nittany Lions and Ohio State Buckeyes, two of the Top 25 Big Ten teams.

It is thought that he can help the high-scoring rushing assault once more and, this time, take benefit of his expertise against a formidable Alabama defense.

Kool-Aid McKinstry and Terrion Arnold, two cornerback prospects from Alabama, are headed to the NFL.

Michigan needs to get to its first CFB Playoff final, and McCarthy needs to win that matchup.

Should the errors recur, Alabama might score on a short field and exert control over the game akin to what happened in the SEC Championship Game.

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