Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Playing On House Money?

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

Prior to the start of the 2020 Vrbo Citrus Bowl, tickets for the secondary market were going for $150-$200 for the New Years Day contest.

That was no surprise when you consider the match-up was the Michigan Wolverines (9-3) against the Alabama Crimson Tide (10-2).

This number didn't surprise Florida Citrus Sports PR Guy Sam Gardner since the Bowl's objective is to get "two good helmets" which they indeed accomplish here with these storied programs. Going into the game, the series was tied 2-2.

The attendance for the game was 59,746 which was the largest since the 2016 game that saw Michigan maul the Florida Gators 41-7.

Michigan entered the game as 10 point underdogs so virtually many analysts predicted that Alabama would win.

Many of the people I spoke to were rooting for Michigan because of their dislike for Alabama Coach Nick Saban.

If you're a Miami Dolphins fan, Saban had an abrupt departure.

Since the Florida Gators own the Sunshine State, Alabama and Saban detest the Crimson Tide.

The game started with Michigan's Giles Jackson running the opening kick-off 50 yards, but the Wolverines were unable to take advantage of the excellent field position.

Alabama wasted no time on their opening possession as Tide QB Mac Jones connected to Jerry Jeudy for an 85-yard TD. The drive took all of 11 seconds giving Alabama a 7-0 lead with 13:47 left in the first quarter. Jeudy is from Deerfield Beach, FL.

But Michigan wouldn't get rattled as QB Shea Patterson showed great mobility in the pocket to extend plays in the passing game and got some timely runs.

The Wolverines scored 13 unanswered points to take a 13-7 lead deep into the second quarter.

Alabama would mount a scoring drive that was aided by a Michigan pass interference and a roughing the passer call that was capped by an eight plays 75 yard drive that took 3:44 capped by a nine-yard run by Najee Harris. It occurred at 3:32 left in the quarter.

The Wolverines took the lead at halftime thanks to Quinn Nordin's who kicked the longest field goal in Citrus Bowl history at 57 yards. It tied the longest FG in Michigan history. Michigan took a 16-14 lead.

Alabama won the toss to start the contest and this decision led to scoring on the opening drive in the third quarter. Davis hit DeVonta Smith for a 42-yard score. The extra point was good and Alabama regained the lead to 21-16.

The Crimson Tide scored again with 10:01 left in the fourth quarter. A Jones 58-yard pass from Davis to Jeudy led to a score. Davis threw a 20-yard touchdown that extended the lead to 28-16 to Miller Forristall.

At that point, Jeudy had six catches for 204 yards and one touchdown. Those would be his final totals and he was voted the game's MVP.

The Wolverines would not keep the game below double figures. Patterson would toss an interception late in the fourth quarter.

This led to yet another Alabama touchdown as the Crimson Tide relied on the legs of Harris who carried the ball 11 times. He scored a two-yard touchdown that extended the lead with the extra point giving Alabama a 35-16 triumph.

Alabama outscored Michigan 21-0 in the second half.

Alabama leads the all-time series 3-2.

If you're looking for a pair of good NFL prospects then Jeudy and Harris could be playing on Sunday.

Jeudy declared for the NFL Draft and just signed super agent Leigh Steinberg Tuesday, to represent him.

Harris finished the game with 24 carries for 140 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

There were lots of questions after the game as to whether or not Alabama ran up the score as Saban looked to get revenge on Harbaugh for luring his assistant Josh Gattis to Ann Arbor.

But in the end, there were only three statistics that mattered in this game.

Alabama out gained Michigan in total yards 480-395.

Michigan found the yellow flag as an enemy by committing seven penalties for 61 yards while Alabama had five for 25 yards.

The time of possession battle favored Michigan as the Wolverines led 34:47-25:13 which truly indicated that the final score was closer than the actual end result.

Harbaugh mentioned this at his post-game press conference.

"It was a very competitive game through the half, into the fourth quarter, until, really, until about six minutes left in the game. Their ability to create the big play was critical in the game, and their ability to keep us out of the end zone and through drives. We had long drives and settled for field goals."

Harbaugh was asked about the future of the program heading into next year.

"I feel good about that. I feel good about some of the young players that got experiences this season and, you know, them getting their opportunity, going to work on that. I mean, as Jordan (Glasgow) said this season just ended 10 minutes ago, so-- but I know I'm going to be excited about it."

Harbaugh can feel good about the fact that one of Michigan's key victories occurred against Notre Dame, the Wolverines were able to defeat Michigan State.

But for the Coach that earns more money at his Alma-Mater than most NFL coaches, his next challenges ahead are on the recruiting trail. He has to find the successor for Shea Patterson at quarterback.

Harbaugh and that QB will be tasked with beating Ohio State in Columbus at the end of the 2020 Season.

In the end, the team wasn't expected to defeat Alabama and he should view this game as though his squad was indeed, "Playing On House Money."

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottbm33@gmail.com.
He's the Owner of The South Florida Tribune and it's Broadcasting Network.

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