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August 27, 2012

Alabama-Michigan: Traditions clash

TUSCALOOSA | Saturday's game in Dallas between the University of Alabama and Michigan will mark only the fourth time the storied programs have ever faced one another, which each meeting coming in postseason bowl games.

The teams have combined for 25 national championships, 14 for the Crimson Tide and 11 by the Wolverines. Michigan's official web site claims four consecutive titles from 1901-1904, and its most recent title in 1997. UA coach Nick Saban became familiar with UM's tradition as coach at Michigan State from 1995-1999.

"We had a tremendous amount of respect for Michigan when we were there, we had a tremendous amount of respect for Notre Dame when we were there," Saban said. "One was 56 miles away, the other was 70 miles away -- very tradition rich programs, very well-coached."

Alabama will be looking to even its all-time series with Michigan at 2-2 on Saturday. The Wolverines beat Alabama 28-24 in the Hall of Fame Bowl following the 1987 season. Alabama countered with an Outback Bowl win under coach Gene Stallings, 17-14, to cap the 1996 season. Michigan won the last meeting 35-34 in overtime in the Orange Bowl that followed Alabama's 1999 Southeastern Conference championship.

Toussaint's status
Michigan's 1,000-yard rusher from a year ago, Fitz Toussaint, was at the top of the Wolverines' running back depth chart Monday. But UM coach Brady Hoke said the running back, suspended after a summer DUI arrest, hasn't been reinstated yet.

"Every day, how they come in every day, how they perform every day, how they are true teammates every day," Hoke told reporters when asked how the status of Toussaint and another suspended player, Frank Clark, are being evaluated. "They're not done paying consequences on our level yet."

Toussaint was reinstated for preseason practice a couple of weeks ago. Clark, charged with second-degree home invasion, is listed as a backup defensive end on the Wolverines' depth chart.

Storm in gulf concern for Norwood
A number of Alabama players have families who live in the path of tropical storm Isaac, which could be categorized as a hurricane by Tuesday. Among those is Kevin Norwood, of D'Iberville, Miss., which is a short drive north of Biloxi, Miss., on the state's southern coast.

"I've been worried about that. It's coming August 29, the same day Katrina hit," Norwood said. "It's kind of scary for me because my family's down there. The devastation that Katrina left behind is real scary stuff. I'm going to watch for that."

The UA roster includes six players from Louisiana, including Bradley Sylve, whose town of Port Sulphur in the Plaquemines Parish was destroyed by Katrina.

"Some LSUs, some Mississippi States and things like that. Anything that I can possibly bribe them with. Not much is working." - UA defensive end Damion Square on the player-issued tickets he's trying to trade with teammates to fulfill the 20-plus requests he has from family for the Michigan game in Dallas. Square is a Texas native.

A daily countdown to the kickoff against Michigan was posted in the offseason, and linebacker Nico Johnson said the number has dwindled quickly. "It seemed like yesterday it was, like, 52 days. Now, it's, like, six," Johnson said. "I'm glad it's here. I can't wait." ... UA running back Eddie Lacy said he is ready to play after mildly spraining both a knee and an ankle in Alabama's final fall scrimmage on Aug. 18. ... Norwood said freshman wide receiver Amari Cooper, who has been limited with a foot injury, practiced well on Saturday. "He's back practicing hard," Norwood said. ... Alabama offensive lineman Chance Warmack lived in Detroit until he was age 7, and said he was well-introduced to Michigan's football tradition even as a youngster. ... UA has won 10 consecutive season openers dating back to a 20-17 loss to UCLA in 2001. ... Alabama has a .600 winning percentage all-time in neutral site games (70-46-4).

Reach Chase Goodbread at chase@tidesports.com or at 205-722-0196.

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