Dr. Saturday - NCAAF

The initial reports were true: Nick Saban confirmed on his radio show Thursday night that Alabama and Michigan are "probably for sure" hooking up for the 2012 opener in the Intergalactic House of Jerry Jones in Dallas. The Tide's unquenchable thirst for big-ticket neutral-site games will likely also take them back to Atlanta to open against as-yet unspecified ACC foes in the Chick-Fil-A Classic in 2013 and 2014, per Don Nicky.

So let the Big Ten/SEC chest-thumping begin, again. To recap, Michigan has taken two of three against the Tide, all last-second decisions in Florida bowl games to close the 1987, 1996 and 1999 (above) seasons, and eight of ten against the SEC at large since 1984. Only one of those, a 27-7 win over Vanderbilt in 2006, came in the regular season; prior to that, the Wolverines hadn't seen an SEC foe outside of a bowl setting since beating Vandy in 1969. The visit from Penn State earlier this month was Alabama's first regular-season encounter with the Big Ten since 1928.

But for all intents and purposes, a one-shot inter-conference showdown set more than 500 miles from either campus to open a new season is a bowl setting, and this one got a lot more interesting over the last three weeks with the prospect of a senior Denard Robinson taking a more seasoned version of his flash dilithium routine into the teeth of another immovable Nick Saban defense. But that's still a good while away. In the meantime, no one knows better than Wolverine and Tide fans just how much things can change in two years.

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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.

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