ANN ARBOR, Mich. — In 5 days, nan segment will displacement to Southern California. For now, Michigan is practicing successful nan acquainted confines of Al Glick Field House, doing everything imaginable to get fresh for Alabama successful nan Rose Bowl.
Sometimes little is more, arsenic nan Wolverines learned from their past 2 trips to nan College Football Playoff. Here are 8 thoughts arsenic Michigan wraps up nan on-campus information of its vessel preparation.
Big Ten coaches connected Michigan vs. Bama: J.J. McCarthy needs 'game of his life'
1. Linebacker Junior Colson said to reporters pinch his near manus tucked into his overgarment pocket, but his bulky formed was difficult to conceal. If you ideate trying to tackle a 225-pound moving backmost while wearing a brace of oven mitts, you tin understand what Colson was dealing pinch precocious successful nan season.
When asked really he was emotion compared to this clip past year, Colson didn’t hesitate.
“I consciousness great,” Colson said. “You’re ever going to beryllium banged up a small bit. That’s football. You’re ne'er 100 percent unless it’s summertime. I consciousness great. I consciousness for illustration our full defense, our full squad feels awesome correct now heading into this game.”
Colson expects to person nan casts connected his hands for nan Rose Bowl but doesn’t spot it arsenic a awesome hindrance. Overall, he said he feels amended than he did heading into past year’s Fiesta Bowl, erstwhile he and different players connected Michigan’s defense were hanging connected by a thread.
Coach Jim Harbaugh has taken steps to support nan squad fresher precocious successful nan season, and that continued pinch a lighter schedule starring up to nan team’s departure. Instead of grinding done beingness practices each day, Michigan had shorter bursts of strength interspersed pinch walk-throughs and betterment days.
“Coach Harbaugh changed it a small bit,” moving backmost Blake Corum said. “We believe really hard, and we’ll person a walk-through. Still afloat speed, conscionable not hitting. Execution is still top-notch, still precise. Every item matters. Our bodies are emotion really good.”
2. Two of nan astir important players successful this game, J.J. McCarthy and Will Johnson, battled injuries precocious successful nan season. Michigan needs some arsenic adjacent to 100 percent arsenic possible, and things look to beryllium trending successful nan correct direction.
Johnson has played astatine a precocious level this twelvemonth contempt nagging injuries. He wounded his limb successful believe earlier nan Ohio State crippled but came up pinch a important interception earlier nan wounded flared up successful nan 2nd half. After missing nan Big Ten Championship Game, Johnson has travel backmost beardown aft a two-week break, protect coordinator Jesse Minter said.
“I deliberation he’s arsenic adjacent and arsenic fresh arsenic he tin be,” Minter said. “I’m ace excited to spot him spell retired location and screen those guys. Him being astatine his champion evidently makes america a amended defense.”
3. McCarthy didn’t spell into item astir nan limb wounded that hampered him precocious successful nan season, but it played a portion successful his diminished production.
“All I tin opportunity is I conscionable wasn’t astatine 100 percent,” he said.
Though he wasn’t astatine his best, nan scrutiny astir McCarthy’s late-season numbers was besides a spot overblown. There’s a nonstop relationship betwixt McCarthy throwing 1 touchdown walk successful his last 5 games and Corum scoring 11 connected nan ground. Michigan wanted to beryllium much balanced this twelvemonth — and was, for nan astir portion — but a beautiful container people isn’t nan goal, particularly against teams for illustration Penn State and Ohio State. It’s each astir getting nan shot successful nan extremity area by immoderate intends necessary.
McCarthy had a unsmooth crippled against Maryland, and Iowa did a bully occupation taking distant explosive plays successful nan Big Ten Championship Game, successful portion because Michigan struggled successful walk protection. Otherwise, nan dip successful McCarthy’s accumulation was mostly a usability of play calling.
In nan Big Ten Championship Game, J.J. McCarthy completed 73.3 percent of his walk attempts and was sacked 4 times. (Trevor Ruszkowski / USA Today)
4. Scouts and wide managers will person their eyes connected McCarthy successful nan Rose Bowl, looking for signs that he’s fresh to beryllium a franchise backmost successful nan NFL. It’s not a agelong to opportunity his capacity successful nan CFP could effect his draught banal and determination to enactment aliases go.
“I’m approaching it conscionable for illustration I did Week 1,” McCarthy said. “Every azygous clip you put yourself retired there, it’s an opportunity to showcase (yourself) to scouts and NFL teams.”
McCarthy insisted he has made nary decisions astir his future. He said nan aforesaid point erstwhile Harbaugh broached nan taxable nan week earlier vessel practices.
“He really brought it up and asked if I wanted to talk astir it successful nan week off,” McCarthy said. “I told him I’m only focused connected Bama.”
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5. Michigan is nan No. 1 seed. Alabama is nan squad that underachieved early successful nan play and hardly made nan CFP. Yet erstwhile group talk astir this matchup, Corum said, it’s almost arsenic if nan roles are reversed.
“As soon arsenic they announced we’d beryllium playing Alabama, I felt for illustration they flipped it from nan jump,” Corum said. “It was fine. It’s each people’s opinions and what they think.”
Fans person grumbled astir a deficiency of respect, but players and coaches understand why Alabama gets nan use of nan doubt. Minter referred to nan CFP arsenic nan “Alabama Invitational,” noting that nan Crimson Tide are making their eighth quality successful 10 years. As The Athletic’s Stewart Mandel pointed out, SEC teams are 14-3 successful nan CFP against teams from different leagues. There’s nary anti-Michigan conspiracy here, conscionable an acknowledgment that nan Wolverines person nan load of proof.
“We haven’t won it,” violative coordinator Sherrone Moore said. “They have. We haven’t. We’ve sewage to hole our tails disconnected to get to that point.”
6. For Michigan’s defense, everything starts pinch containing backmost Jalen Milroe.
“I don’t deliberation we’ve seen a backmost for illustration this,” Minter said.
Players and coaches cited Maryland’s Taulia Tagovailoa arsenic nan closest comparison, but nan similarities only spell truthful far. Milroe is much vulnerable arsenic a runner and averages 10.4 yards per walk attempt, which is 2nd successful nan FBS. Michigan defenders recognize they person to enactment disciplined, but they’re not going to beryllium backmost connected their heels. They scheme to onslaught Milroe alternatively than fto him dictate nan game.
“A batch of guys conscionable guidelines location and hold for him to run,” linebacker Michael Barrett said. “That gets you beat, trying to conjecture wherever he’s going to go, conjecture what he’s going to do. It puts you a measurement down already. It’s really astir being successful onslaught mode alternatively of being connected nan defensive.”
7. Now successful his sixth twelvemonth of eligibility, Barrett often feels for illustration nan aged man successful nan room. He had different 1 of those elder moments erstwhile Harbaugh reminded him he was 1 of nan fewer players connected nan squad who saw nan section against Alabama successful nan Citrus Bowl 4 years ago.
“Coach Harbaugh brought that up successful a squad gathering and looked astatine maine like, ‘You were there, right?’” Barrett said. “I’m like, ‘Yeah.’ Everybody busted retired laughing.”
Michigan led 16-14 astatine halftime but mislaid 35-16. Both programs person changed since then, Michigan successful particular. The Wolverines person a caller protect scheme, a stronger personality connected discourtesy and nan assurance that comes pinch 3 consecutive Big Ten championships. Alabama is still uber-talented, but nan squad Michigan faced 4 years agone was a monster.
“They person a batch of similarities, but I consciousness for illustration it’s a different team,” Barrett said. “They had DeVonta Smith, Jaylen Waddle, Najee Harris. It’s difficult to bring those players backmost aliases person that expertise successful different year. They were stacked that year.”
8. Colson recalled getting a connection from Barrett pinch immoderate astonishing news: George Helow, their erstwhile position coach, had been hired by Alabama to assistance nan Crimson Tide pinch vessel prep.
“He’s sewage a job,” Colson said. “I’m happy for him. I’ll astir apt spell opportunity what’s up to him aft nan game.”
Helow didn’t onshore pinch different programme aft leaving Michigan’s unit to make room for Chris Partridge, who was fired successful November. Alabama presumably hired Helow because of his familiarity pinch Michigan’s defense, but Colson doubted it would create overmuch of an advantage.
“You can’t really person an advantage successful football,” Colson said. “It doesn’t matter if you cognize somebody’s full playbook. You’ve still sewage to extremity it.”
(Top photograph of Ja’Den McBurrows, center, and DJ Waller Jr., left, celebrating aft a turnover successful nan Big Ten Championship Game: Robert Goddin / USA Today)