Garcia's lock of the week: Missouri (+14.5) over Alabama
After a pretty rough “lock” last week by picking South Carolina to beat Clemson, I need a good lock for this SEC championship game.
Watching both Alabama and Missouri several times this season, I think this game will be a lot closer than people expect.
Missouri’s strength is its defense, specifically its defensive line and pass rush. Alabama’s strength is its offense, specifically its passing game.
This Alabama offense isn’t like past years. Lane Kiffin has implemented a West Coast system and the Tide isn’t relying too heavily on its run game this season. Sims has thrown for just less than 3,000 yards with 24 touchdowns to only 7 picks. The major stat is his completion percentage, 63 percent. You have to be able to complete the ball in a West Coast offense or you won’t go very far.
Obviously, Sims has the best receiver in college football in Amari Cooper, and Kiffin feeds him the ball as often as possible. Cooper leads the Tide with 103 catches, 1,573 yard and 14 touchdowns. The second-leading receiver is DeAndrew White with 33 catches for 338 yards and 3 touchdowns. That’s quite the discrepancy.
Missouri’s defense leads the league with 40 sacks. Shane Ray leads the team and broke the school record with 13 sacks this season. From what I’ve been seeing out of Alabama, they have slowly stopped using more pass blockers and relied just on their five offensive lineman. It will be interesting to see whether coach Nick Saban and Kiffin help out the lineman by using tight ends and running backs against this Tigers defensive line. I imagine Kiffin will have the backs help out, because if they can give Blake Sims time to find Cooper it could be a very long game for Missouri.
If the Tigers have any chance at winning this game, they have to keep Sims in the pocket and force him into making bad throws with pressure. They also can’t let him scramble around because that is when he is especially dangerous.
Let’s not forget about Missouri’s offense against this Alabama defense. This defense ranks sixth nationally in scoring, but I have seen some pretty big holes throughout the season. Maty Mauk will have to make plays down the field and I can guarantee you that he and the Missouri offense are licking their chops after watching Auburn scorch them last week. I haven’t been impressed with the Tide’s pass defense at all this year. They just aren’t the same type of defense that they were in years past.
If Mauk can find Bud Sasser down the field on some scrambling plays and gain confidence going into the fourth quarter, this could be a very dangerous game for Alabama. As we’ve seen the last few weeks, Missouri plays its best football in the fourth quarter.
I do like Alabama to win this game because I believe Kiffin will have a good game plan to neutralize Missouri’s sick pass rush, but I think it will be closer than people think.
My lock? Take Missouri +14.5.