Should Michigan football play for the present or the future against Alabama?

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In all 50 games he donned a winged helmet, Michigan Soccer linebacker Khaleke Hudson has both enjoyed — and endured — a range of experiences. He saw the Wolverines become a mainstay in the poll once again, and he endured the annual agony of losing to their biggest rival, Ohio State.

More often than not, the senior came out on top. The Wolverines are 37-14 during his tenure in Ann Arbor – good enough to qualify his time with the hit program.

But Hudson wants one more win to top it all off — a triumph over Alabama in the Citrus Bowl on Jan. 1.

“It’s our last game in college football, so you want to come out with a win and rewrite our season and rewrite our careers,” he said.

[ Michigan still haunted by Ohio State even as it begins to prep for Alabama ]

The upper class men, who led this team through the twists and turns of the regular season, are expected to play against the Crimson Tide instead of succumbing to the injury scare that has driven players with aspirations professional skipping bowling matches in recent years.

“‘Finish what you started’ has always been kind of a rule of thumb that I personally think of,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said.

So it stands to reason that Wolverines will end the season relying on the same players they depended on at the very start. That’s up to Harbaugh’s MO. Given the ability to experiment with personnel in the past during bowl matches, Harbaugh has generally refrained from doing so. Starters with no remaining eligibility continued to be featured as Harbaugh focused on the short-term goal of picking up the next win.

Example: Jake Rudock played all 79 snaps in the 41-7 Citrus Bowl win over Florida five seasons ago, even as Wilton Speight was in line to replace him the following season.

“At the end of the day, you have to do what’s best for the program,” left tackle Jon Runyan said. “Your goal is to win eventually.”

A look into the future: Some first UM registrants train with the team during the preparation of the bowl

In the context of 2019, a victory over Alabama would be good for the optics. It would show that Michigan is capable of defeating an elite program — something it struggled to do throughout Harbaugh’s regime.

But beyond the here and now, UM faces many uncertainties.

In the immediate term, the Wolverines will hand over a significant portion of their roster. Ten of the team’s 22 starters, including quarterback Shea Patterson and linebacker Josh Uche, are leaving. Some others with NFL dreams, including junior receivers Nico Collins and Donovan Peoples-Jones, could also move on.

It begs the question whether the Wolverines would be better off using the Citrus Bowl to assess the young talent on the roster against a quality opponent like Alabama rather than sticking with veterans, who won’t be at Michigan next season. , to win a match of little consequence.

When asked for his thoughts on the matter, Hudson said the postseason game with the Tide could serve multiple purposes.

“I feel like a lot of guys are going to get a chance to prove themselves in this game,” he said. “A lot of guys are going to try their luck there just to see where we are, just to see what we have next season. It’s also a game for the seniors to come out on a high and we want to come out with a win too. It’s just a game for everything.

And for Hudson, it’s especially meaningful because it’s his last.

But for so many of his less experienced teammates, it could be just as significant and signal the start of something big.

They just need the opportunity to perform. We’ll see if they get it against the tide on the first day of 2020, when Michigan ends one season and starts the next.

Contact Rainer Sabin at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @RainerSabin. Learn more about the Michigan Wolverines, Michigan State Spartans and join our Big Ten Bulletin.

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