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Posted on Sun, May 27, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

Michigan's Al Borges, 2-0 against Alabama's Nick Saban, draws from past as he schemes for nation's top defense

By Kyle Meinke


Al Borges won four games against Alabama when he was the offensive coordinator at Auburn. He is already planning for Michigan's season-opening game against the Crimson Tide on Sept 1.

Melanie Maxwell I

They're big. They're fast. And they reload.

The Alabama defense is fearsome on a yearly basis, and no Michigan football player or coach knows that better than Al Borges.

The Wolverines' second-year offensive coordinator got an intimate look at the Crimson Tide during his tenure with Auburn from 2004-07, when his Tigers engaged them annually in the Iron Bowl.

His takeaway: “They’re fast guys. Coaching down there, I’m very aware. Plus, they’re very well trained. Their staff, (defensive coordinator) Kirby Smart does a great job and (head coach Nick) Saban is a defensive guy by nature.”

Michigan is slated to face Alabama on Sept. 1 at Cowboys Stadium in what many already are calling the nation's most-anticipated opener.

The Wolverines are coming off an 11-2 season and Sugar Bowl championship. The Crimson Tide are the defending national champions -- and also happen to feature the country's reigning No. 1 overall and scoring defense.


Alabama's defense led it to a national championship last season. The Crimson Tide's 21-0 win over LSU was the first shutout in BCS title game history.

Associated Press

Saban spent 13 years as a college defensive assistant, defensive backs coach and defensive coordinator at several schools, and six more in the NFL. Smart is considered one of the top assistants in the nation.

Together, they've created a speedy -- and complicated -- defense that is to be feared.

“Alabama has always been good on defense, this staff has just made them better,” Borges said. “When I was at Auburn, every year they were top five I think. A couple years, they were No. 1.

"That’s them. That’s what you’re dealing with.”

Borges' Auburn teams went 4-0 against Alabama during his time in that rivalry, but his offense was held under its scoring average in each game.

The Tigers averaged 22.0 points per game against the Tide in that four-year stretch, and 28.8 points per game against everyone else. That's a 23.6-percent dip in production.

Borges also faced Saban twice while at Auburn, and beat him both times -- but it was a struggle to do so.

The first matchup came in 2004, when Saban was still head coach at LSU. Borges' SEC-best offense, which averaged 32.1 points per game, was held to 10 points.

The second meeting came in 2007, Saban's first year at Alabama. Borges won again, but Auburn scored just 17 points, a touchdown off its average of 24.2 points.

Borges said he already has begun watching Alabama film as he tries to reverse that trend, and has paid close attention to what Saban does against dual-threat quarterbacks such as Denard Robinson.

“The schematic doesn’t change, the awareness of the quarterback does,” Borges said. “In terms of containing him, making sure that they’re fencing in all their blitzes.

"They’ll get a lot of big plays out of it, because they basically make you beat them. They play aggressively, but they play smart.”

What could be troubling for Michigan is Alabama was particularly stout against the run last year, allowing only 72.2 yards per game. That was more than 10 yards per game fewer than anyone else in the country.

The Wolverines' offense is predicated on the run, averaging 221.9 rushing yards per game last year (13th nationally).

Kyle Meinke covers Michigan football for He can be reached at 734-623-2588, by email at and followed on Twitter @kmeinke.



Fri, Jun 29, 2012 : 6:51 p.m.

Michigan needs to go back to it's true and original maize color asap.


Fri, Jun 29, 2012 : 6:50 p.m.

Hey Bama fans, Wanna bet on this game with me via paypal as long you guys give my MIchigan 8 pts. ;)


Fri, Jun 29, 2012 : 6:46 p.m.

Beat Bama! GO BLUE! Michigan will triumph over Bama.


Thu, May 31, 2012 : 7:56 a.m.

Borges has no chance against this Alabama defense. I see us kicking 2 field goals. One of them because we get a turnover deep in their zone. He'll make excuses. Saying we failed to execute. The problem is Borges has to have his qbs thread the needle. his offense is uncreative and relies heavily on the perfect execution of the players. That's not reality.


Thu, May 31, 2012 : 8:01 a.m.

I'll get many people with their usual arguments which prove to the world that they are just as clueless as the new charlie wiess is.


Thu, May 31, 2012 : 7:59 a.m.

Not saying we should go back exactly to RR offense or be like the Oregon offense. But you need a mobile qb with planned runs, quick acting offensive reads and a system that gets athletes out in space.


Tue, May 29, 2012 : 4:47 p.m.

Some seem to have forgotten that their offense has to score on our defense and I don't expect our defense to give up a lot of points. That's why I expect this to be a good game. The only way that changes is if the offense turns the ball over too much or has a boatload of 3 and outs. The way our defensive coaches and players will be prepared for this game, I expect bama to score around 24 points or less.


Tue, May 29, 2012 : 4:04 a.m.

Whenever you see Borges with his hands on his head he his panicking and wondering why eeveryone around him still believes he knows what he is talking about


Tue, May 29, 2012 : 3:46 a.m.

People seem to forget that for much of the regular season last year, Denard was fighting a stomach flu and had a very painful abscess on his right (throwing arm) elbow. That, and trying to operate under a new offense with new schemes, is why he struggled in the passing game last year. It was said that the week before the Nebraska game, Denard finally started to recover from those injuries and this correlates to his enhanced passing statistics. When you couple that with a better understanding of the West Coast passing philosophy, Denard could be more of a threat than anyone here can comprehend. Shoelace is an extremely talented athlete who thrives when he is being doubted. Being the underdog can only help team 133, so please... keep talking. The bigger they are, the harder they fall.


Wed, May 30, 2012 : 5:55 p.m.

Here's hoping you're right!


Mon, May 28, 2012 : 2:35 p.m.

Great picture, Al. What in the heck are they feeding these coaches in Michigan? Maybe you should try juicing or stick to Hail's advice and go with the lite beer.


Tue, May 29, 2012 : 3:48 a.m.

They call him Gorgeous Borges for a reason bro.


Mon, May 28, 2012 : 3:41 p.m.

I can think of many reasons. He coaches young men. Setting a healthy example would be beneficial. Obese people are a blight on the health care system. They are somewhat disgusting to have to sit next to on an airplane. Should I continue? The waste of resources needed to maintain this unhealthy weight. Have you ever thought about the amount of food digested by just one obese person? The amount of fuel consumed due to the added horsepower needed to propel this person. The distruction and damage done to furniture and property.


Mon, May 28, 2012 : 3 p.m.

Why should he loose weight? what is the reason! He doesn't play football, he coaches it.


Sun, May 27, 2012 : 9:20 p.m.

Win or lose it's the start of the 2012 season and I will enjoy the game. I'm not a kid anymore and I see all this for what it is, entertainment, nothing more and nothing less. We'll win some and lose some that's the nature of the beast and I love it. The recipe for a good game, depends on what your cooking on your barbecue. Oh yeah, try and stick with lite beer. I started really enjoying the Mich. games when I learned it was more fun to do it up at home and have some friends over.


Mon, May 28, 2012 : 2:32 p.m.

Hail, Hail?, Do you prefer a skirt or culottes for appropriate attire while you are sipping your lite Beer?

Terry Star21

Mon, May 28, 2012 : 7:29 a.m.

Sounds like fun....we'll be grilling some bama steaks, medium crimson with some bakery fresh roll tide buns - scorched of course.....


Sun, May 27, 2012 : 8:43 p.m.

Can someone explain what years Borges beat Saban at Bama? As far as I can see he only beat Saban once in 2007 or am I missing something


Sun, May 27, 2012 : 10:20 p.m.

It says in the article that he beat Saban in 2007 while he was HC at Alabama, and in 2004 when Saban was HC at LSU.


Sun, May 27, 2012 : 5:07 p.m.

Praying the spring and summer pay off for Denard, and the experience at Auburn and film study pay off for Borges. It could be a very special season for all of us if Michigan finds a way to beat Alabama.


Sun, May 27, 2012 : 5:59 p.m.

It could be special either way. If UM loses a tough one, then goes out and wins the rest, with it's brutal schedule, it would take two major conference undefeated teams somewhere else to keep Michigan out of the championship. With the schedule UM has, though, and our lack of depth on both lines, winning even 10 games is going to be extremely difficult, imo.


Sun, May 27, 2012 : 3:52 p.m.

Denard is going to have to have his best game ever thowing downfield for us to win this game. If he can't hit receivers out 15, 20, 30 yards consistently and Bama only has to play defense with 10 yards of the line of scrimmage, we're going to have a long day.


Tue, May 29, 2012 : 11:49 p.m.

Get ready for a VERY LONG DAY! At least you will catch 'Bama early in the season. They did not blow out PSU in 2010 or 2011. Michigan will be completely outmatched and outclassed in this game...just as they were against the hapless Hokies in the Splenda Bowl. Where's the threat?

Scott Laux

Sun, May 27, 2012 : 3:09 p.m.

I believe Al Borges is going to find a way to use Denard's awesome talent, and win this game. Amen.


Sun, May 27, 2012 : 2:18 p.m.

Michigan won't beat Alabama, that is the reality. Alabama has incredible speed size and depth especially in the trenches. Michigan is rebuiling both lines. The best Michigan can hope for is to avoid any serious injuries.

Steve McQueen

Mon, May 28, 2012 : 9:52 a.m.

Whatever. It is no wonder that the number of posts here at continues to drop....when these idiotic posts from other schools trolling are all over the place here.


Mon, May 28, 2012 : 2:42 a.m.

Denard beating the blitz? When has that happened. Bama will try and contain him with the D-ends and blitz him up the middle. Denard is too short and too inacurate with his passes to make Bama pay for the blitz. Denard panics, when he is pressured like that. Go back and watch the MSU game. Michigan would be better off running the ball about 40 times against bama and passing about 15 times. They may not win , but Denard will still be able to come back and play another day. They try passing the ball, Denard will eventually get hurt.


Sun, May 27, 2012 : 4:33 p.m.

Physical and quick they will be, but this Alabama defense will have 8 or 9 new starters, playing together as a unit for the first time. Many will have significant game experience, but it's a new team playing together for the first time. Learning the group intricacies of Saban's defense doesn't come automatically.


Sun, May 27, 2012 : 4:13 p.m.

On any given "Saturday" in this case. Truthfully though, they are serous underdogs obviously. But if Denard is able to make them pay when they blitz, Michigan stays in the game. Denard will have to find running lanes when the pass is not there, and vise/versa.


Sun, May 27, 2012 : 1:14 p.m.

They should study the USC Michigan rose bowl in 2007 when Pete Carroll abandoned the run against the Michigan excellent run defense. Question is....can denard make Bama pay?

US Beaches Net

Mon, May 28, 2012 : 12:52 a.m.

No, he can't make Bama pay? Also, the picture used in this article showing Bama players celebrating, appears to be from the 2009 Nat'l Championship Team. Roll Tide!