Tide has U-M's full attention

Defending national champs provide big challenge, big opportunity

Updated: July 29, 2012, 10:07 AM ET
By Michael Rothstein | WolverineNation

CHICAGO -- In the middle of a Physics 2 class he should be paying more attention to, Jordan Kovacs popped open his laptop and clicked on a program he said was available through the University of Michigan.

What he saw when he pressed play was scientific in nature and had something to do with physics, but absolutely nothing to do with what he was supposed to be learning in class that day. Instead of complicated equations, he stared at a mass of crimson on turf, trying to figure out how he'd handle his own test in September.

[+] EnlargeD.J. Fluker
Cal Sport Media via AP ImagesBrady Hoke says Alabama's O-line, led by D.J. Fluker, might be the best he has coached against.
Alabama, on film, appeared as daunting as anything in physics class.

"I've been watching a lot of film on them," Kovacs said. "I shouldn't admit it, but I've been watching in class a little bit. I'm sitting there on my computer and every now and then you just shake your head because they are very, very good.

"It's going to be the best team I've ever played."

When Michigan faces Alabama in Arlington, Texas, on Sept. 1, the Wolverines will see a Crimson Tide team breaking in a new starting running back and new offensive linemen, but the premise is still the same.

Alabama is the defending national champion and it'll be perhaps the stiffest challenge Michigan could have to open a season.

"Their offensive line may be as good an offensive line as I've coached against. Ever," Michigan coach Brady Hoke said. "I think they are formidable. They've got a good football team."

Part of what makes Alabama -- and many of the other teams in the Southeastern Conference -- so difficult to face is the talent level and the overall speed throughout the entire team.

It is speed evident on film and speed few on Michigan's roster have either seen or possesses. One person does, though -- quarterback Denard Robinson.

Robinson has seen it growing up in Deerfield Beach, Fla., and possesses it as one of the fastest players in college football. So is there a difference between the SEC and everyone else?

"They recruit great guys and train like champs," Robinson said. "If you want to be champions you have to train like champions, watch film like champions, be coached like champions and be players like champions. That's the key.

"In order for us to have success, we have to practice like champions. They must be doing something right down there. So right now, we have to do the same thing and get prepared."

Which takes Kovacs back to his film, to the head-shaking that goes on when he sees an Alabama offensive player make a cut or burst past everyone else for a touchdown or long gain.

Kovacs has heard about the speed in the SEC. He has seen it on film. But he isn't ready to fully buy in, yet.

"I've heard it. Heard it quite a bit," Kovacs said. "They always talk about SEC speed on defense and particularly in the front seven. Maybe it's true but we will find out. I won't admit it until Sept. 1."

By then, Michigan will know where it stands -- either on the same level as one of the top teams in the SEC and the country or somewhere above or below.

Michael Rothstein | email

ESPN Detroit Lions reporter