The Alabama Crimson Tide are once again in a familiar spot: Preparing for a College Football Playoff for a chance to play for a national championship. The Crimson Tide have a near-perfect track record in the semifinals, with a 6-1 record when a national championship is on the line. The only loss was in the first season of the CFP when Ohio State beat Alabama.

Alabama's sustained success in the CFP isn't anything new to the Tide faithful, with coach Saban winning three national championships before the CFP era.

Alabama's opponent, on the other hand, is relatively new when it comes to the playoffs. The Michigan Wolverines have made the playoffs each of the last three seasons, including 2023-2024, but have a 0-2 record in the semifinals.

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The Rose Bowl between Alabama and Michigan could not be a better stage for the final year of the four-team playoff method. The Rose Bowl, also known as the granddaddy of them all, is the oldest bowl game in college football, while Michigan and Alabama are two of the most historic programs in college football and the two winningest programs in the sport.

4:00 p.m. CT on New Year's Day is set to be a colossal stage that will draw the eyes of the entire football world as undefeated Michigan will take on 1-loss Alabama. What are the keys for the Crimson Tide to beat the Wolverines?

Jalen Milroe's Continued Development

There's a substantial argument that Crimson Tide QB Jalen Milroe is the most improved player in college football this season. From throwing multiple picks at home in the loss to Texas and being benched the next week against USF, to finishing sixth in the Heisman Trophy voting and leading Alabama to another SEC Championship. Milroe has taken leaps in his development throughout the season, and it was evident in the game against Georgia. While it wasn't his most impressive performance statistically, He still passed for 192 yards and two touchdowns against one of the best teams in the country. Milroe made his reads and did not panic when the pocket collapsed, but ran the ball effectively. Michigan has one of the best defenses in the country, and Milroe maintaining his composure and continuing to develop will be vital to Alabama's chances.

Alabama's Run Game Returns to Prominence

Michigan's defense is, by most metrics, a top-five unit in the country. It's not like Alabama hasn't faced tough defenses, Georgia boasts a top-10 defense, but a defense like Michigan's will try to make Alabama one-dimensional and allow pass rushers to rush Milroe without worrying about the run game. This makes Alabama's ability to run the ball a key factor in this game. Alabama's running backs have only eclipsed 100 yards three times this season, the latest being Jase McClellan's 115-yard day against Tennessee. This makes Milroe's dual-threat ability even more important. Expect offensive coordinator Tommy Rees to dial up some creative rushing packages, including designed quarterback runs and getting Kendrick Law even more involved offensively. If Alabama can keep Michigan honest and make them respect the run game, it should open up the secondary for Alabama's playmakers out wide.

Front Seven Supremacy

As important as it is for Alabama's rushing offense to have a big day against Michigan, it's equally important for Alabama's rushing defense to have a big day against Michigan. The Wolverines boast a strong rushing attack led by one of the best backs in the country, Blake Corum. Corum is a 1,000-yard rusher on the season and leads the country with 24 rushing touchdowns. His backup, Donovan Edwards, is another strong rusher. With 900 yards a season ago, Edwards is more than capable of coming in to give Corum some rest. Alabama's from seven will need to be sharp at reading their cues and filling their gaps correctly to prevent the dynamic duo from creating explosive plays. If the defensive line allows the linebackers to play freely and make tackles, the Crimson Tide should be able to hold down the Wolverine rushing attack.

The time for speculation is almost over as New Year's Day approaches. Alabama has been in California since Tuesday preparing for their CFP Semifinal matchup. Alabama will face Michigan in the Rose Bowl at 4:00 p.m. CT on January 1, 2024.

2023 Rose Bowl Welcome Disney Land

The Crimson Tide kick off Rose Bowl festivities at "The Happiest Place On Earth."

Gallery Credit: Crimson Tide Photos/ UA Athletics

2023 SEC Championship Alabama vs. Georgia

Alabama defeated Georgia in dramatic fashion in the 2023 SEC Championship.

Gallery Credit: Crimson Tide Photos/ UA Athletics

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