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Zach Pekale | NCAA.com | January 1, 2020

Alabama vs. Michigan: Citrus Bowl time, TV channel, preview, prediction

Clemson defeats Ohio State, 29-23, in the College Football Playoff

Alabama (10-2) and Michigan (9-3) will meet in the 2020 Citrus Bowl on Wednesday, Jan. 1. Find the game time, TV channel, preview and prediction information here.

MORE: Complete bowl schedule, TV listings | Citrus Bowl live stats

Alabama-Michigan: Citrus Bowl time, TV channel

Alabama and Michigan play at 1 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Jan.1, from Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida. The game is on ABC. Click or tap here for live stats.

Alabama-Michigan: Citrus Bowl prediction, preview

For the first time since its inception in 2014, the College Football Playoff kicked off without Alabama. For most teams, double-digit wins would be considered a successful year. Then again, the Crimson Tide aren't most teams. A 10-2 regular season put coach Nick Saban's team in the Citrus Bowl, a game the program last appeared at in 2010 when it was formerly known as the Capital One Bowl.

Don't let a non-CFP appearance fool you. Alabama won 10 games by an average of 36.1 points. Its two losses — to LSU and Auburn — were by a combined eight points. 

Michigan, on the other hand, makes its sixth showing at the Citrus Bowl with a 4-1 record in its previous five appearances. The Wolverines went 9-3, notably winning at home over top-15 opponents Iowa and Notre Dame. But, coach Jim Harbaugh's team was unable to match up against Wisconsin, Penn State and at home against Ohio State, keeping the Wolverines out of the Big Ten Championship.

Instead, Michigan returns to the site of Harbaugh's first bowl win as head coach of the Wolverines with a shot at double-digit wins for a fourth time in five seasons.

Wednesday will be the fifth meeting between Michigan and Alabama. The Tide won the recent game, a neutral site contest in 2012. The Wolverines' latest win came in 2000 at the Orange Bowl, the last postseason meeting between the two. Here's what you need to know before the programs go head to head in Orlando.

 MORE: Tracking each conference through bowl season

Alabama, known as a stifling defensive team throughout Saban's tenure, underwent a bit of an identity change this season. Offensively, the Crimson Tide ranked sixth in yards per game and third in yards per play. Their 71 touchdowns were the fifth-highest total in the nation, trailing only the four Playoff teams.

But the biggest adjustment Alabama has to account for is under center. Mac Jones will make his fourth career start on Wednesday after a season-ending injury to Tua Tagovailoa on Nov. 16. Jones has been serviceable in relief, throwing 10 touchdowns to two interception with two wins in his first three starts.

The Tide still held their own defensively, giving up just over 18 points per game. However, the team showed vulnerability on that side of the ball in both losses, first giving up 46 points to LSU before Auburn surpassed that with 48 in the Iron Bowl.

Michigan's been a bit harder to read. The team has shown an ability to win through its defense as it did against Iowa or by piling on the points with seven showings of 35-plus this year. However, most of its success generates from the defense. The Wolverines finished the regular season ranked fifth in pass defense and sixth in total defense among FBS teams. Those rankings become more impressive when factoring in the personnel turnover from 2018 to 2019.

The run defense still ranked in the top 25, but faltered In losses to Ohio State and Wisconsin as Michigan gave up over 200 yards each to J.K Dobbins and Jonathan Taylor. While Alabama's Najee Harris has had his three best rushing performances this season against ranked teams, the bigger concern for the Wolverines is going to be containing the Crimson Tide's wide receiver quartet of Jerry Jeudy, DeVonta Smith, Jaylen Waddle and Henry Ruggs III, who all average over 13 yards per catch.

Alabama-Michigan: Stats, how they compare

ALABAMA STAT/LEADER MICHIGAN
10-2 (6-2 SEC) Record (Conference) 9-3 (6-3 Big Ten)
48.3 Points per game 33
18.8 Points allowed 19.5
513.3 Yards per game 402.1
343.5 Passing ypg 252.3
169.8 Rushing ypg 149.8
318.5 Yards allowed per game 292.8
183.4 Passing yards allowed 173.8
135.1 Rushing yards allowed 119.1
Mac Jones *
1176 yards (11 TD, 3 INT)
Passing yards Shea Patterson
2828 yards (22 TD, 6 INT) 
Najee Harris 
1,088 yards (5.9 per att.), 11 TDs
Rushing yards Zach Charbonnet
642 yards  (4.7 per att.), 11 TDs
DeVonta Smith
1,200 yards, 13 TD
Receiving yards Ronnie Bell
705 yards, 1 TD
Afernee Jennings
73 tackles, 12 tfl, 7.5 sacks, 8 QBH
Defensive leader Jordan Glasgow
79 tackles, 6 tfl, 5 sacks

* – Tua Tagovailoa leads Alabama in passing yards, but is out for the season. 

Alabama-Michigan: Prediction

While the Wolverines' defensive line might be able to create pressure on Jones to adapt, the better question is whether or not they can match the offensive prowess of Alabama. Quarterback Shea Patterson will look to end his college career on a high note but history isn't on his side. The last time Alabama won fewer than 12 games was 2013, the final year of the BCS. The Crimson Tide's last 10-win season was 2010. I anticipate that remains the same after Wednesday.

Alabama 38, Michigan 24

MORE: National Championship history

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