Alabama-Michigan a New Year's treat

By Jeff Fogle  ( 

If there is a game everyone is waiting for outside of the College Football Playoff, it’s the New Year’s Day matchup of Alabama and Michigan in the Citrus Bowl. 

Nick Saban vs. Jim Harbaugh. A favorite that probably would have qualified for the Final Four if its star quarterback hadn’t been injured. A highly publicized underdog hoping to atone for underachieving in major litmus tests the last few seasons. 

From a market perspective, Alabama received the bulk of betting action for days at a long-settled point spread of -7. Oddsmakers knew they’d ultimately have to accept one-sided exposure or invite a lot of Michigan money into the fray at 7.5 or higher. That’s dangerous because it probably turns the key number of 7 into a loss rather than a push for sportsbooks. 

Let’s see how key indicator stats paint the picture:

— Alabama (-7) vs. Michigan (1 p.m. Wednesday, ABC)

Alabama: No. 7 offense, No. 17 defense, No. 54 schedule, 16 turnover margin

Michigan: No. 68 offense, No. 7 defense, No. 12 schedule, 2 turnover margin

The Crimson Tide has the much better total yardage composite, but it came against a softer schedule (according to Jeff Sagarin’s rankings at USA Today). The late-season change in quarterbacks from Tua Tagovailoa to Mac Jones could hinder their clear edge in ball protection. In his loss at Auburn, Jones threw two interceptions that were returned for touchdowns. 

Alabama outgained Auburn 515-354 on 6.7 to 5.4 yards per play in that heartbreaking 48-45 road defeat. Auburn and Michigan rank similarly in various respected Power Ratings. The Citrus Bowl will be on a neutral field but in SEC country in Orlando, Fla., where Jones should be less likely to make huge mistakes.

Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson is a transfer from Ole Miss in the SEC. There he seemed overmatched against quality. The stat rankings suggest he could have trouble consistently leading the Wolverines down the field. 

Patterson and Michigan ended their regular season against Final Four entry Ohio State, which could provide a preview of what will happen against Alabama’s parade of blue-chip talent. The Wolverines were outgained 577-396 on 7.5 to 5.7 yards per play. They were just 2 of 13 on third-down tries and 0 of 2 on fourth-down tries. 

— The case for Alabama: Jones has had plenty of time to work out the kinks, which will allow the Crimson Tide to roll up a big yardage advantage and name the score. Michigan is more hype than quality under Harbaugh and will be embarrassed once again on both sides of the ball. 

— The case for Michigan: There’s a chance Alabama will come in flat, having failed to qualify for a playoff spot. If that happens and Jones stays mistake-prone, the Wolverines can spring an upset. 

Handicappers must focus on these questions. Will Alabama bring peak intensity? Can Jones play a relatively clean game in a bowl atmosphere? Is the point spread properly reflecting those complex dynamics?

back to news

FREE Email Sign-Up

Get the latest sports betting news & VSiN programming updates with this free daily email from VSiN, The Sports Betting Network.


View All
  • Zach_LaVine

    Tuley's Takes Today: Tuesday recaps, Circa Quarter prizes, Wednesday best bet (12/8)

    “You can’t win ‘em all.” If you were to watch games with me in the Tuley’s Takes home office or in one of the sportsbooks...
  • bama

    Early CFP Semifinals Sharp Report

    Today bettors have a loaded Wednesday slate to choose from including 13 NBA games, 4 NHL games and 50 College Basketball games. For an updated breakdown...
  • USATSI_17214623

    Peterson: Best bet for Wyoming vs. Arizona

    The Wyoming Cowboys have started out the season with eight straight wins, but face their toughest test yet when they go to Tucson on Wednesday to face...
  • makinennfl

    Analyzing NFL QBs for betting success

    I have always been a football handicapper who puts a ton of stock into the quality of quarterback play. In my opinion, there is no more important position...
  • makinencbb

    Ten midmajors to watch

    The college basketball season has been up and running for nearly a month, and it’s a good time to start plotting for the rest of the season based...
  • makinencfb

    Who's hot, not ahead of bowls?

    With college bowl season opening Dec. 17, here’s a look at which bowl-bound teams are hot and which are not, as well as teams that have had big...
  • burkesurvivor

    Tricky week in survivor pools

    There are only five weeks left in the NFL regular season, but for those still alive in survivor pools, the light at the end of the tunnel is merely a...
  • burkecbb

    Why pace matters in college hoops

    A lot of early-season questions have been answered in college basketball. But as conference play kicks into gear, adjustments will be needed. There...
  • tuley

    Tuley's Takes on NFL Week 14

    NFL Week 13 was another roller-coaster ride here in the Tuley’s Takes home office, but as has happened many weekends this season, teasers saved...
  • hill

    NFL capsules for Week 14

    Pittsburgh Steelers at Minnesota Vikings The Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5-1 SU, 5-7 ATS) will be looking for their second win in five days when they...
  • appelbaum

    Five NFL games on wise guys' radar

    It was a mixed bag for NFL Week 13 bettors as favorites went 8-6 SU and 8-6 ATS. Dogs remain profitable for the season at 107-85-1 ATS (56 percent). ...
  • macneil

    NHL teams slip-sliding away

    The Canucks and Flyers fired their coaches over the weekend, and the Canucks took it a step further, firing their general manager as well. It’s...

VSiN Logo Plus

Free Trial

Make a risk-free bet on VSiN!


  • Afternoon subscriber-only email with highlights and best bets from the day's programs
  • Point Spread Weekly, VSiN's digital magazine on sports betting
  • 24-7 Live video stream of VSiN programs plus replays
  • Any special sport-specified betting guides we do
  • All exclusive subscriber-only stories and data on
Sign Up Now
Google Play
App Store