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Michigan stands in way of Alabama, Saban streak in semifinal Rose Bowl

PASADENA, Calif. – Alabama hasn’t gone three seasons without a college football national championship under head coach Nick Saban. To keep that streak intact, the Crimson Tide must win two more postseason games. First up is Michigan.

The two historical heavyweights collide New Year’s Day at the iconic Rose Bowl in one semifinal of the College Football Playoffs at 4 p.m. on ESPN.

Alabama (12-1), ranked fourth by the CFP Committee, is a 1.5-point underdog to No. 1 Michigan (13-0). While both programs have seen players enter the transfer portal there have been no players considered significant to this game. 

During a midweek press conference, Saban was asked about the last time the two teams met. That was in the 2020 Citrus Bowl following the 2019 season, a 35-16 win for the Crimson Tide.

“They were a team that was growing at that time. And they developed into a significantly different defense — a different coordinator, different scheme,” Saban said. “Really good players on defense, a lot of turnovers. And offensively, there’s some similarities to what they did in the past, but this is a pro-style offense — a lot of personnel groups, a lot of motions, a lot of formations.

“And great balance on offense with really great players. The quarterback does a great job, the running back’s really good. They’ve got great balance — they’ve got great receivers, got really good tight ends. There’s a lot of really good things about this team. I can understand why they’re undefeated.”

While Alabama seems to be the choice among media members – the Crimson Tide was the 5-of-6 pick by CBS Sports panelists – Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh forecasts a thrilling game.

“They could clear run us out of the stadium,” Harbaugh said. “And we’re good, too. We’ve got the ability to really do the same to them or the other possibility is it could be one heck of a football game. And I kind of think that’s the way it’s gonna go.”

In the other semifinal, No. 3 Texas (12-1), which dealt Alabama its only loss, will play Pac 12 champion No. 2 Washington (13-0) in the Sugar Bowl (Jan. 1, 8:45, ESPN). 

The championship game is in Houston (Monday, Jan. 8 at 7 p.m. on ESPN).

Michigan is 0-2 in the CFP, having lost the last two years as the No. 2 seed. Alabama is 9-4 in the playoffs and has won three championships in the previous nine years of the CFP. 

Alabama vs. Michigan (Alabama leads series 3-2*):

  • 2020 Citrus Bowl (Jan. 1, Orlando) — Alabama 35, Michigan 16
  • 2012 season opener, (Sept. 1, Dallas) — Alabama 41, Michigan 14
  • 2000 Orange Bowl (Jan. 1, Miami) — Michigan 35, Alabama 34 (OT)
  • 1997 Outback Bowl (Jan. 1, Tampa) — Alabama 17, Michigan 14
  • 1988 Hall of Fame Bowl (Jan. 2, Tampa) — Michigan 28, Alabama 24

* Nick Saban is 2-0 vs. Michigan at Alabama, and 4-3 overall including his stint at Michigan State. Jim Harbaugh is 0-1 vs. the Tide, having lost the 2020 Citrus Bowl.

 

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