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College Football Playoff semifinal preview: Michigan vs. Alabama

The final 4-team College Football Playoff gets underway on Monday, January 1, with the Michigan Wolverines and Alabama Crimson Tide playing in the Rose Bowl.

It goes without saying that there’s a lot at stake in this game, so let’s get into some of the key players for both teams, plus a few storylines to look out for. 

WhatMichigan vs. Alabama
WhereRose Bowl Stadium, Pasadena, California 
When5:30 pm ET, Monday, January 1
How to watchESPN
OddsMichigan -2.0, Alabama +110

Read more: College Football Playoff dates, schedule, format, expansion, history and more

Key Players


  • Jalen Milroe (QB)
  • Roydell Williams (RB)
  • Isaiah Bond (WR)
  • Kool-Aid McKinstrey (CB)
  • Terrion Arnold (CB)
  • Malachai More (S)


  • J.J. McCarthy (QB)
  • Blake Corum (RB)
  • Colston Loveland (TE)
  • Junior Colson (LB)
  • Josh Wallace (DB)
  • Kris Jenkins (DL)

A tale of two seasons 

Both of these teams arrived at this point in very different fashions. The Wolverines were dominant all season long and rolled through their first eight opponents, most of which resulted in glorified exhibition games. 

The Wolverines struggled in November with the likes of Penn State, Maryland and Ohio State, which calls into question their ability to slow down an Alabama offense led by a quarterback in Jalen Milroe who is far better than any QB Michigan has faced this season. Still, Michigan found a way to win those games and end the regular season undefeated.

Speaking of Milroe, his rise from competing for the starting job over the summer to dark horse Heisman Trophy candidate and one of the best quarterbacks in college has been nothing short of meteoric. 

Milroe showed flashes of brilliance in the early going, but Alabama’s offense struggled mightily with consistency in September - he was even benched in Week 3 - and most of October.

However, since his breakout performance in a win over LSU, the Crimson Tide have looked like one of the best teams in the country and Milroe is playing with supreme confidence. 

Both teams took different routes to get here, but who will prevail?

Harbaugh’s playoff demons

It’s no secret that this has been an extremely tumultuous season for Jim Harbaugh, albeit most of which can be attributed to his own doing. 

The Wolverines have been called into question over a sign-stealing scandal that took the college football world by storm in the final month of the campaign. 

It remains to be seen if that’ll have an effect on Michigan’s game plan for the Rose Bowl, but the offense did see a noticeable drop-off in the final weeks of the regular season, although they did play strong opponents.

There’s also the matter of Harbaugh’s poor record in the postseason as the Michigan head coach. He struggled mightily in bowl games in his tenure and that carried over to the last two seasons, as the Wolverines have been thoroughly embarrassed by the likes of Georgia and TCU in each of their last two College Football Playoff semi-final appearances. 

We’ll see if that trend of underachieving continues against Nick Saban and company on New Year’s Day.

Read more: College Football Playoff Outright Odds

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