The Alabama Crimson Tide looked finished after Week 2 of the 2023 college football regular season.
The Texas Longhorns came into Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and got Steve Sarkisian his signature win while snapping Alabama’s 21-game home winning streak.
The following week, Alabama’s offense was stuck in the mud against South Florida, earning a victory and the ire of the national media.
The conversation over the end of Nick Saban’s dominant run at Alabama kicked off as the Georgia Bulldogs were seen as the new Crimson Tide of the SEC.
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And then Saban proved why he’s considered the greatest college football coach of all time as Alabama ripped off 11 straight wins to reach the College Football Playoff.
Let’s take a look at a few Alabama players to watch as the Crimson Tide prepares for Michigan in the CFP.
Jalen Milroe, sophomore quarterback
The quarterback position was the main question mark for Saban heading into the 2023 season.
With the departure of Bryce Young to the NFL Draft, Alabama no longer had a sure thing at the most important position in sports.
Leading up to Week 1, Saban made it clear that not one of the three quarterbacks competing for the starting job had separated themselves. Milroe started the first two games before Tyler Buchner and Ty Simpson got the nod for Week 3.
And then Milroe went on a tear, putting himself in the Heisman conversation as he led Alabama to an SEC title and a CFP berth.
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Milroe has been brilliant since taking over the starting job in Week 4, throwing for 2,269 yards, 18 passing touchdowns, 10 rushing scores and just four interceptions. He makes the Alabama offense go with his ability to extend plays with his legs and his arm.
Against Auburn in the final week of the regular season, Milroe accounted for 366 of Alabama’s 451 total yards, including the game-winning touchdown, which will go down in Iron Bowl lore.
Shut down Milroe, and the Michigan defense will shut down the Alabama offense.
But that’s easier said than done.
“I don’t think we’ve seen a quarterback like this,” Michigan defensive coordinator Jesse Minter said, according to Fox Sports. “I think the closest thing we see is in practice with some of our guys. I think Taulia (Tagovailoa) at Maryland was, as a scrambler, kind of a similar type of guy. But a guy this involved in the run game, his ability to make off-schedule plays — to me, I think Alex Orji has done a great job (simulating Milroe in practice).”
Jermaine Burton, senior wide receiver
The Alabama offense is not going to win in a shoot-out, but it can get the ball down the field. Alabama is fourth in the country in passing plays of at least 40 yards, according to the Tuscaloosa News.
The Wolverines’ defense is one of the best in the country, allowing the fewest points per game (9.5) and the second-fewest yards (239.7) per game in the nation.
Burton has been Alabama’s most productive wide receiver this season and must have a solid game to give Milroe a threat down the field.
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Burton leads all Alabama receivers with 777 yards and eight touchdowns while bringing playoff experience to the offense.
The senior wideout played his first two seasons at Georgia, hauling in five touchdowns during Georgia’s 2022 national championship season.
Sophomore wide receiver Isaiah Bond is also a player to watch on Alabama’s offense, leading the Crimson Tide in receptions with 44 on the year.
Dallas Turner, junior linebacker
Alabama and Michigan will be an old-school football game settled at the line of scrimmage.
The Wolverines bring a physical brand of football to the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day, and Alabama will undoubtedly try and make quarterback J.J. McCarthy beat them with his arm.
Enter Crimson Tide linebacker Dallas Turner.
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Turner leads Alabama with 14.5 tackles for loss, nine sacks and 13 quarterback hurries, becoming the fourth straight Alabama player to win SEC Defensive Player of the Year.
“We just got to bring our hard hats whenever we play them, and we just got to be the more physical team,” Turner said as Alabama began Rose Bowl practice, according to AL.com. “We got to practice like that throughout the week, pick up on every single tendency that they do as an offense.”