If you would have told us in August that Michigan would be playing Alabama at some point this season, most of us would have assumed that the Wolverines finally got a win over Ohio State and advanced to the College Football Playoff. After all, Bama was a heavy favorite to get back to the Playoff for the sixth-straight year, so they had to be there, right?
As we now know, Alabama dropped games to LSU and Auburn, while Michigan lost to Wisconsin, Penn State, and Ohio State.
On Sunday, the 2019-2020 bowl games were revealed and Michigan and Alabama will square off in the Citrus Bowl on Jan. 1.
After finding out about the matchup against the Crimson Tide, Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh commented on the game and his relationship with Nick Saban.
From Detroit Free Press:
On if there are any similarities with Michigan’s last trip to the Citrus Bowl in 2016, a 41-7 win over Florida:
“Well, like I said, we played in the Citrus Bowl back in 2015, that season, against a very good Florida team. And the Alabama team is a great team. I have the utmost respect for them. They’ve set the bar for college football over the last many years, a model of success, and credit to Nick Saban and his coaches. High-powered offense, a great defense and I’ve already started to look at them. … Their two offensive tackles look to be guys that could be top-20 picks in the draft. A lot of good receivers. This could be the best group of receivers seen maybe ever. Probably three fist-round picks in that group. Two really talented running backs. Very impressed with Mac Jones. The other thing, the special teams is dynamic. Punt return, kick return, those two especially. We’ll need to have a great plan for all three phases of the game. Excited for the opportunity.”
On if there’s any benefit to facing a team that’s not used to not being in the playoff:
“As I said, this is the model of success. 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, all playoff. The team, as you look at it, is a great defensive unit. They have really, really outstanding players and great freshman group, too. The freshman linebackers and the defensive line, experienced secondary. … A very, very elite team, and as I said, credit to Nick Saban and the coaching staff. Our preparation will have to at its highest level. Good to know who you’re going to play and get started on preparing for the bowl game. Will be a big-time matchup. We’re very much looking forward to it.”
On Alabama running back Najee Harris:
“He’s been really, really effective. Big, powerful back. With outstanding balance. I’ve always admired his feet, his balance and his vision. The physicality with which he runs.”
On relationship with Nick Saban:
“Good. Professional. Been very cordial every time I’ve been around him. Which has been a few of the Heisman ceremonies and basketball games a pretty long time ago. … Admire the career and job that he’s done.”
On message and expectation for players who have decisions to make about future draft stock:
“Those are individual conversations. Finish what you started has always been kind of the general rule that I personally thought of it as.”