Greg McElroy, Marcus Spears debate motivation for Alabama, Michigan in Citrus Bowl
If we were talking about a Michigan-Alabama bowl matchup in the preseason, you would’ve thought it would be in a College Football Playoff semifinal game. That isn’t the case this year, though.
Both Michigan and Alabama fell short of expectations, with the Wolverines finishing 9-3 and the Crimson Tide ending at 10-2. Now, the two teams will meet in the Citrus Bowl to end the season on a high note and get some momentum heading into offseason.
Motivation, however, has been considered to be somewhat of a concern. With neither team competing for a national title, would they have that edge in Orlando.
Greg McElroy and Marcus Spears debated that topic on Thinking Out Loud. The two are taking different sides of the coin.
“You look at the matchup, you get a chance to play Michigan with the whole world watching and Alabama has unfinished business,” McElroy said. “And to end it on a high note to create some momentum for what could be another championship-contending season in 2020. I played in the Citrus Bowl on a team after a disappointing season and we routed Michigan State, 49-7.
“We were up 42-0 in second quarter. I’m not suggesting Alabama can do that, but I would expect the motivation level to be high for a team that is string to get the bad taste out of their mouths afar the disappointing loss to Auburn.”
Alabama has been knocked around this year for its lack of signature wins and a “light” schedule. A win over Michigan would be the team’s lone victory over a rank opponent all year.
On the flip side, though, Spears offered his thoughts on why Michigan might have more motivation.
“I’m taking the other side of this, Greg — this is everything for (Jim) Harbaugh and Michigan,” Spears said. “The narrative now has become Jim Harbaugh will not be able to beat Ohio State. They won’t out recruit them and won’t have an opportunity to win the Big Ten. This game goes a long way in the Michigan fan base. You still are beating Alabama and Nick Saban and people are going to feel great about that if the University of Michigan can get that done in the Citrus Bowl.
“But when you think about how much implication goes into this game when it comes to recruiting, when it comes trying to sell to kids you can come to this program and have an opportunity. I’m always interested in what the incentive is in for these programs in these games. I think Michigan has a big, big opportunity playing here against Alabama.”
A win over Alabama would certainly give Harbaugh some credibility and prove that he can coach with some of the biggest names in the sport. It would also give the Wolverines a chance to take away some of the sting of that blowout loss to the Buckeyes.
The Citrus Bowl is easily one of the more intriguing games this bowl season.