Predicting the SEC championship game
Alabama (11-1) will play in the Georgia Dome for the second time this season after beating West Virginia in Atlanta in the season opener.
This time the Tide will face Missouri (10-2), back-to-back winners of the tumultuous SEC East, with a spot in the College Football Playoff at stake for coach Nick Saban.
Can the Tigers and coach Gary Pinkel pull off the monumental upset as a 14.5-point underdog? Here are our predictions for Saturday’s SEC championship game.
Christopher Smith (@csmithSDS): Alabama 35, Missouri 14
Missouri has one advantage, but it’s a big one: the Tigers pass rush, and even the team’s overall defensive line, is better than Alabama’s. Maty Mauk is going to have to make plays downfield and Marcus Murphy needs to be dynamic as a returner for Mizzou to have a chance. Otherwise I don’t see the Tigers keeping up on the scoreboard. Markus Golden and Shane Ray spearhead what’s become a pretty nasty defense, but Missouri doesn’t have anyone who can cover Amari Cooper and O.J. Howard. Plus, the Tide should be able to run the ball fairly well.
Jon Cooper (@JonSDS): Alabama 31, Missouri 17
This game will come down to Maty Mauk’s ability to execute explosive plays down the field. The Tigers should have an advantage in special teams with Marcus Murphy, and they boast the most difference-makers on defense with Shane Ray and Markus Golden. Mauk has been a monster in the fourth quarter, but waiting until the fourth quarter would doom him against Alabama. Alabama is going to score points, but it remains to be seen if Missouri can score with them. Alabama will beat Missouri by two touchdowns.
Brad Crawford (@BCrawfordSDS): Alabama 38, Missouri 17
In one of the more non-competitive SEC Championship games in recent memory, Alabama cruises to a berth in the College Football Playoff with a victory that’s filled with big plays in the passing game. I’ve looked at every angle and I’ve yet to determine how Mizzou’s offense is going to keep up with Amari Cooper and Lane Kiffin. The Tigers gave up an SEC championship game record 677 yards last season and if they’re not careful, that number could be approached through the air. The betting favorite’s 18-5 in the SEC title game since 1992 and I think the Crimson Tide will cover with ease.
Chris Walsh (@CrimsonWalsh): Alabama 32, Missouri 20
I like Missouri and I’m impressed with what this team has done, but this just isn’t a good matchup. For example, Missouri is good running the ball, but Alabama is better. On the flip side the Tigers are fifth in the SEC against the run, but the Crimson Tide is first. Missouri’s defensive line impressive, but Alabama’s has more depth. I keep looking for signs of a tired Crimson Tide team, but I think Alabama has one more game in it before getting a well-deserved break before the playoffs.
Ethan Levine (@EthanLevineSDS): Alabama 31, Missouri 20
This is a David-and-Goliath showdown. The Tide has more talent at most positions, and like Nick Saban-coached teams typically do it is playing its best football at the right time of the year. However, Missouri is going to stay within one score of Alabama into the fourth quarter. Maty Mauk has only thrown two interceptions in his last five games, and by simply protecting the football he won’t give Alabama any added advantages. The Tigers will control the battle in the trenches with its dominant defensive line, dictating what the Alabama offense can and can’t do for much of the game. Blake Sims is far less dynamic outside of Bryant-Denny Stadium, and he won’t light up Missouri’s stingy defense the way he did against Auburn. Alabama will ultimately pull away and win, but Missouri will turn this into an ugly, gritty game and will keep it close into the fourth quarter.
Brett Weisband (@WeisbandSDS): Alabama 34, Missouri 24
Alabama is clearly the better team on paper, more talented up and down the roster. Missouri finds ways to win, and they’ve been proving everyone wrong (including me) for the past month. I swore I’d stop picking against the Tigers, but I just can’t do it. The Tigers will be right there in the fourth quarter, but Alabama’s defense won’t break down the stretch like so many of Mizzou’s victims did. The Tigers have an unquantifiable, “they know how to win” air about them, but Alabama’s ability to crush opponents is easily put into words. Missouri keeps it tight, Alabama overwhelms them late.
Jason Hall (@JasonHallSDS): Alabama 31, Missouri 20
Alabama. Not to discredit Missouri, who has exceeded expectations all season, but the Crimson Tide is the best team in college football. To me, Alabama has looked like the dominant teams of recent years past since the Texas A&M game. The Tide will win this game and represent the SEC in the College Football Playoff
Drew Laing (@DLaingSDS): Missouri 28, Alabama 27
Yeah, I’m going to be THAT guy. Alabama has the better team, but I’ve learned never to count out or go against Missouri in these last few weeks. The Tigers defense is more than capable of forcing turnovers and getting pressure in the backfield. I think Missouri puts the Crimson Tide back on their heels a little bit and makes enough plays on defense to win the game. It’ll be very close, but I like the Tigers to pull of a monumental upset which unfortunately will keep the SEC likely out of the inaugural College Football Playoff.