'BamaMag.com's Laken Litman answers five questions put to her by GoBlueWolverine.
1. Does Alabama feel supremely confident about this game? Or do they see it as a big challenge, on par with LSU last season?
Answer. I wouldn't say supremely confident. They're not cocky, at least they don't give off that vibe. They see it as a big challenge, maybe not quite on par with LSU last season, but it's definitely big and they aren't taking Michigan lightly. This game sets the tone for the season. Nick Saban has been telling these guys every single day since two days after the national championship game that they are "not national champions, that team is gone." Alabama has been antsy all offseason, waiting for this game, waiting for their chance to show the country that they have the tools to be in the spotlight again. They're excited to play a name opponent like Michigan rather than, for lack of a better word, a cupcake team.
2. Did Alabama face a quarterback like Denard Robinson in 2011? What is defensive plan plan for stopping Shoelace? If there's a weakness to the Alabama D, what is it?
Answer. Saban said this week that Alabama has not faced "as significant of a player" since Cam Newton, which was in 2010, in terms of what he can do in the game and how the offense is essentially built around him. Their defensive plan for stopping Robinson is being smart and making good decisions. They know they can't jump and bat balls down otherwise Robinson will pump fake and take off down the field. But Alabama's biggest weakness defensively is its secondary, purely because it lacks experience. The Tide have a ton of youth back there. Saban said that if they don't play well against Michigan, it won't be because they felt entitled, it'll be because inexperienced players made mistakes.
3. Do you think Eddie Lacy will play? If not, is there concern about playing rookie T.J. Yeldon? Are either of those guys in the category of Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson?
Answer. Eddie Lacy will 100 percent play. He's not fully healed, but that doesn't matter. He's mentally tough and has been practicing all week. However, the younger guys will definitely get reps behind him. Jalston Fowler, Dee Hart, T.J. Yeldon and maybe Kenyan Drake will see the field against Michigan. As far as Alabama having another Ingram or Richardson, that's a no. These guys aren't trying to be like those two. However, if Lacy can stay as healthy as possible, he can have a special season.
4. A.J. McCarron -- it seemed like Alabama more wanted him to manage games for them in 2011, and of course he did a great job; are they going to let him loose more in the passing game in 2012?
Answer. Yes. New offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier wants to have a balanced offense, which is not something Saban has really had in the past. He likes to run, run, run. But the coaches have the confidence in McCarron and his knowledge of the game to let him air it out more. Plus Alabama has a very talented crew of receivers that McCarron has been developing chemistry with.
5. This question may sound a little funny, but we mean no disrespect by it -- it's a serious question. Do you think Nick Saban has a particular motivation to beat Michigan? When he left MSU he gave an interview saying he left because he couldn't recruit against Michigan; then last week in a press conference he told a story about being up on U-M 14-3 but having Charles Woodson pull the game out for Michigan – but he was talking about a game that never actually happened (there was no game even similar to that). Do you think Michigan is in his head just a little?
Answer. First of all, it's hard to read Saban. That said, best I can tell is nothing rattles this guy, so I'd have to say no. This week he was actually asked about Michigan having been a former rival of his while at MSU, and all he said was that he always has "tremendous respect" for rivals. He wants to win this game because he wants to win every game. He wants to win this game because it's the first game. He wants to win this game as much as he wants to win the next week's against Western Kentucky. I think that's how all coaches feel. However, you have to think deep down, there's that old burning desire from when he was at Michigan State and struggled against UM and wants to beat them for old times sake.
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