It was a prolific matchup in the 2020 Citrus Bowl between the #13 Alabama Crimson Tide and #14 Michigan Wolverines. Both the Crimson Tide and the Wolverines came into this matchup looking for a rebound for the 2020 offseason. It was a surprise to see the Wolverines dominate the Crimson Tide on the offensive side of the ball but to only come with 16 points in the first half. Although the Wolverines had a gameplan to suppress the Crimson Tide, the execution was not there. The Crimson Tide found efficiency in the second half. Overall, the Tide won the grudge match with a 35-16 2020 Citrus Bowl win in the battle between Nick Saban and Jim Harbaugh.
Wolverines finds an edge early but couldn’t execute offensively
Throughout the entire first half, the Wolverines were creating long drives on the Tide’s young defense. The Wolverines were overwhelming the Tide’s defense in the run game, especially on outside runs. In the passing game, the Wolverines, led by senior quarterback Shea Patterson, were finding weaknesses through trick plays and pounding the ball up the middle. The Wolverines accounted for 286 total yards with 135 of them coming from the rushing game in the first half. Michigan’s stout offensive line was overwhelming the young, depleted defensive line of Alabama. Though the Wolverines had some drives being put together in the first half, they only had one touchdown. After the touchdown in the first quarter, the Wolverines had three consecutive field goals to end the first half.
In the second half, the Wolverines came out with a completely different mentality. There were more passing plays, most in play-action and deep routes. In the first half, Patterson threw for 151 yards and a touchdown on nine completions (out of 18 attempts). Throughout the second half, Tide outside linebacker Anfernee Jennings and inside linebacker Shane Lee were putting continuous pressure on Patterson. This would force some overthrown passes to his deep man receivers that covered by cornerback Josh Jobe. He was in relief for Trevon Diggs. In the first half, the Wolverines rushed the ball 27 times. In the second half, however, the Wolverines rushed the ball 16 times for only 27 yards (all third quarter). The Tide’s defense overcompensated for their inefficient defense line with more blitzes from the linebackers and safeties. This made running the ball difficult for Michigan and put pressure on Patterson.
Mac Jones and the Tide’s receivers deliver
There were many expectations for Jones coming into this matchup against an efficient Wolverines’ defense. Jones came into this game with the memories of the Auburn loss behind him. He didn’t need to be Tua Tagovailoa, but he needed to be just as explosive and efficient in his decisions. From start to finish, Jones showed that he can lead a high-power Tide offense against a dangerous Wolverine defense. Jones experienced multiple moments where he was under pressure but still delivered great passes to his intended receivers. In the first half, Jones threw for 145 yards and a touchdown on eight completions (out of 13 attempts). He also accounted for a quarterback rating of 180.6. The first play from scrimmage for Alabama’s offense, Jones threw a deep pass to Jerry Jeudy for an 85-yard touchdown.
The Tide needed an answer to counter Michigan’s 16-14 lead at halftime. In the first drive of the second half, Jones was able to connect with Devonta Smith for a 42-yard score. The Tide never let go of the lead even after Jones lead some tough drives to only finish them with a punt. In the fourth quarter, Jones connected with tight end Miller Forristall for a 20-yard score. Jones finished the game passing for 327 yards and three touchdowns on 16 completions (out of 25 attempts). He also finished the game with a quarterback rating of 213.5. Jones was never sacked by the Wolverines defense but took multiple hits. He didn’t faze him as he continued to make efficient throws until the game was over in favor of Alabama.
Top performers of the game
Jones was a crucial part of Alabama’s offense, but it was Jeudy that was named the MVP of the game. Jeudy accounted for six receptions for 204 yards and a touchdown. He was key from the beginning of the Tide’s first play from scrimmage. Tide running back Najee Harris accounted for 136 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries. Harris was one of the Tide’s most productive offensive players despite poor edge blocking by the offensive line. His last play of the game was a two-yard touchdown run that seemed to be the perfect send-off if he were to depart early for the 2020 NFL Draft. Several Wolverine defenders heavily suppressed the Tide’s rushing game by penetrating the backfield often. Defensive lineman Aidan Hutchinson accounted for five total tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, and a quarterback hit. Linebacker Jordan Glasnow accounted for 10 total tackles.
The Wolverines’ rushing game was efficient early on. Freshman running back Zach Charbonnet rushed for 73 yards on 10 carries in the first half. He was suppressed to three carries for 11 yards in the second half as the Wolverines focused the passing game more. Overall, the Tides’ defense accounted for three sacks, six tackles for loss, four quarterback hits, five pass deflections, and two interceptions from Patterson (both in the last two drives for Michigan). Jennings accounted for 10 tackles, half of a sack, and was a constant force in the pass rush. Safety Xavier McKinney was efficient in defending the rush and passing game. McKinney accounted for 10 total tackles, one sack, one tackle for loss, and a quarterback hit. Jobe did a fantastic job filling in Diggs, who skipped the Citrus Bowl to focus on the 2020 NFL Draft.