Alabama needs to keep Blake Sims upright against Mizzou
Alabama is a double-digit favorite heading into Saturday, and on paper they have the edge in nearly every matchup. The one place where Missouri will likely have a leg up: pitting their pass rush against Alabama’s offensive line. Whether the Crimson Tide can keep Blake Sims’ jersey clean — figuratively, since the Georgia Dome has artificial turf — will be a major factor in the SEC Championship.
Missouri has the fiercest pass rush in the SEC, led by two All-SEC candidates: Shane Ray and Markus Golden. Ray is the front runner for SEC Defensive Player of the Year, and he would give Mizzou back-to-back winners after defensive end Michael Sam took the award last season.
Ray is already at 13.5 sacks for the year, breaking the record Sam tied a year ago. Golden has been somewhat quieter, with 8.5 sacks on the season, but he’s come on strong in the last month, racking up 4.5 sacks in November. Those two made up for more than half of Missouri’s SEC-best 38 sacks, while 11 other players each had at least a half-sack on the year.
While blocking the Missouri defensive line is never an easy task, Alabama will have it tougher than most. The offensive line has been dinged up all year, with multiple players missing time throughout the season, causing what’s felt like a constant shuffle up front. Cam Robinson, the Tide’s freshman left tackle, suffered a shoulder injury against Auburn, which came shortly after a high ankle sprain a few weeks prior.
Robinson will be faced with the unenviable of lining up across from Ray for a good chunk of the game, but Mizzou defensive coordinator Dave Steckel likes to move Ray all over the line. Junior center Ryan Kelly has been good all season, but he’ll have to be at the top of his game to help point out Ray, wherever he lines up, as well as recognizing blitzes.
Sims is perfectly capable of escaping pressure on his own, possessing the most dangerous set of legs Nick Saban has ever had under center. It’s hard to get away from defenders if they’re bearing down from all angles, though, so Alabama will need all hands on deck on Saturday. That could mean less field time for Derrick Henry, especially on passing downs, as Saban seems to trust T.J. Yeldon more in pass protection.
Missouri’s defense is undersized and underrated all over, but they’ve performed at a high level for the majority of the season. Alabama certainly overlook them like most of the country has this year.