Mac Jones Shines at QB as Alabama Handles Michigan in Citrus Bowl

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No. 13 Alabama pulled away from No. 14 Michigan to win the Citrus Bowl, 35-16, on New Year's Day in Orlando in a matchup that brought two powerhouse programs and coaches Nick Saban and Jim Harbaugh together.

In only his fourth career start, Mac Jones wasted no time making a statement, finding star receiver Jerry Jeudy for an 85-yard touchdown on the Tide's first offensive play of the day.

After Michigan struck back with a Shea Patterson-to-Nick Eubanks touchdown and two field goals, Alabama wouldn't score again until late in the first half, when running back Najee Harris went airborne and forced his way into the end zone to give the Tide a 14-13 lead. But the lead would be short-lived, as the Wolverines closed out the half with a 36-yard drive that ended in a 57-yard field goal by Quinn Nordin.

The second half, though, was all Bama. Jones once again started fast under center, this time finding DeVonta Smith for a 46-yard score to put the Crimson Tide back on top.

They would not look back, as Michigan repeatedly failed to finish promising drives and was kept out of the scoring column in the second half, punting four times before two late interceptions thrown by Patterson. Alabama delivered the final blows when Jones found Jeudy for a 58-yard gain to set up a 20-yard TD catch by Miller Forristall, then made it 35-16 on a 75-yard drive largely led by Harris, who punched in the eventual score.

Jones, filling in for the injured Tua Tagovailoa, had an impressive day. He went 16 for 25 for 327 yards and three touchdowns, showing strong pocket presence and a glimpse of what life could be like in Tuscaloosa if Tagovailoa enters the NFL draft, as expected. Jeudy, also expected to leave for the NFL, shined as Jones's top receiver on Wednesday, recording 204 yards on just six catches. 

Patterson had a frustrating end to his Michigan career, going 17 for 37 for 233 yards and struggling to connect with his receivers on deep balls. 

In its first season in the College Football Playoff era where it wasn't among the final four teams, Alabama finished 11-2, its only losses to Auburn and LSU. It was the Tide's ninth straight 11-win season.

Michigan finishes Jim Harbaugh's fifth season 9-4, its other defeats coming to Wisconsin, Penn State and Ohio State.