Alabama vs. Michigan Prediction, Odds, Trends and Key Players for Rose Bowl

Rose Bowl betting preview, prediction and best bets for Michigan vs. Alabama in the College Football Playoffs semifinals.

Michigan Wolverines quarterback J.J. McCarthy (9) warms-up on the field Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023,
Michigan Wolverines quarterback J.J. McCarthy (9) warms-up on the field Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023, / Grace Hollars/IndyStar / USA TODAY
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The first of two College Football Playoff semifinals on New Year's Day is the Rose Bowl between No. 4 Alabama and No. 1 Michigan.

Alabama is into the College Football Playoff on the heels of beating Georgia in the SEC Championship Game, setting up a battle against the undefeated Wolverines, who have passed every test thus far including wins against elite competition like Penn State and Ohio State. Can it breakthrough in the team's third straight CFP appearance and win its first semifinal game?

We got you covered with our best bet and full preview for the Rose Bowl.

Alabama vs. Michigan Odds, Spread and Total

Michigan vs. Alabama Betting Trends

Alabama vs. Michigan How to Watch

  • Date: Monday, Jan. 1
  • Game Time: 5:00 PM EST
  • Venue: Rose Bowl
  • How to Watch (TV): ESPN
  • Alabama Record: 12-1
  • Michigan Record: 13-0

Alabama vs. Michigan Key Players to Watch

Alabama

Jalen Milroe: Milroe has turned into a star for the Crimson Tide. After being benched for a game after the team's loss at home to CFP entrant Texas, Milroe has been on a tear, completing 66% of his passes for 2,269 yards and 18 touchdowns and only four interceptions. He has also added nearly 400 yards on the ground with 10 touchdowns in those 10 games. Milroe has offset some concerns about a poor offensive line with his ability to extend plays and hit on big pass attempts, he is completing 53% of his passes that are further than 20 yards downfield with zero turnover worthy plays.

Michigan

J.J. McCarthy: McCarthy has been incredibly efficient this season when called upon, but that hasn't been very often. The Wolverines have been able to use its elite defense and Joe Moore Award contending offensive line to play bully ball for much of the game. Michigan passed the ball at a bottom 15 rate in the country, but is fifth in EPA/Play and second in passing success rate. However, will the Wolverines alter its game plan against one of the best defenses in the country in Alabama?

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Alabama vs. Michigan Prediction and Pick

This game will be trench warfare between two of the most physical teams in the country.

Michigan has been able to bully opponents through Big Ten play, leaning on its incredible and disciplined defense to suffocate opponents, but the group has struggled in the past two years in the CFP against one of the most explosive offenses in modern college football history (2022 TCU) and one of the best teams in recent memory (2021 Georgia). Where does Alabama fit in?

I'm not all too sure. The Crimson Tide, despite stunning Georgia, aren't the wagon that we have become accustomed to under Nick Saban. This is a team that was out-gunned at home by Texas, didn't have an identity on offense for the early part of the season, and was nearly upset at Auburn in the regular season finale.

The Crimson Tide have been uber-reliant on Milroe's aforementioned big play ability. The team is 35th in success rate, strong, but not National Championship caliber typically. The Crimson Tide pass protection has been brutal, 113th in sacks allowed and the run game has been middling at best outside of Milroe's self creation, 52nd in yards per carry.

The team will run into a brick wall that is the Michigan front seven. Michigan is top five in PFF's grading for every defensive metric, including rush defense, tackling, pass rush and coverage, ranking No. 1 in both coverage and tackling. The team doesn't make many mistakes and will likely force Milroe into obvious passing situations, where the defense can drop back and coverage and win with a four man front.

Alabama is 46th in pass block grading, per PFF, and if Milroe doesn't have time, the big passes may not be there for the likes of Isiah Bond or Jermaine Burton.

The last we saw Milroe, he hit some big plays that determined the game in the SEC Championship, but I don't believe that should be the expectation yet again, which is what will be needed against Michigan considering the team has plenty of experience against elite rush teams in the Big Ten.

Overall, Michigan is sixth in EPA/Rush and is allowing about three yards per carry, seventh in the country.

Further, the Wolverines don't break. The team is allowing less than one point per drive this season and is eight h in red zone touchdown percentage, forcing 21 turnovers in the regular season. Milroe has been careful with the ball of late, but Michigan's defense presents as stiff of a test.

To me, the question boils down to if Michigan opens up the passing game. I do not believe the offense will be able to hit explosive runs with Blake Corum and Donnovan Edwards. The team has been able to move the ball well on the ground, but grade out only 55th in yards per carry and outside the top 100 in explosive rush rate.

The O has been able to stay on schedule, setting up McCarthy to push the ball downfield and take advantage of opportunities, but what happens if third-and-five becomes third-and-nine and the team can't lean on its offensive line to set up possible fourth-and-short situations?

Michigan's offensive line has been great at mitigating big losses, fourth in tackles for loss allowed, and the team has been potent at extending drive,s converting nearly 50% of its third down conversions, but Alabama's defensive line is rugged, 34th in TFL's and 38th in yards per carry allowed. I believe that Michigan needs to open up the passing game in order to move the ball.

McCarthy has showcased good decision making and a strong arm, will it come through against the second ranked Alabama coverage unit and ninth ranked pass rush?

With the season ending injury to offensive lineman Zak Zinter in the Ohio State game, the Michigan offensive line is the thinnest its been all season, and like Michigan's defense to Alabama, the Crimson Tide defensive line may put this game on the quarterback's arm.

With that being said, I'm going to trust McCarthy to navigate the Crimson Tide defense and get the team's first CFP victory. The Michigan offense has been the more reliable unit all season long, and McCarthy has been as efficient as possible with the ball throwing.

McCarthy is averaging more than nine yards per pass attempt and has completed 74% of his passes from all over the field. McCarthy is completing 54% of his deep passes this season with a 13-2 big time throw to turnover worthy play ratio and is completing 83% of his passes inside of 10 yards.

I'm not overlooking that McCarthy reportedly had an ankle injury suffered against Penn State, and now has more time off than ever to get right.

While many have jumped on the Alabama bandwagon following the win against Georgia, I can't help but look at the whole body of work and take the better team to win at a cheap price.

Game odds refresh periodically and are subject to change.

Track Reed's bets here!