Here are this week’s candidates to “boom” and to “bust” in Saturday’s SEC championship game between Alabama and Missouri:


1. Bud Sasser: Alabama finished the regular season ranked 10th in the SEC in pass defense, while Sasser closed the year as the SEC’s third-leading wideout with more than 900 yards and nine touchdowns. The Tide just gave up more than 600 yards through the air to Auburn’s run-heavy offense just last week, and Missouri quarterback Maty Mauk has begun stretching the field with Sasser and Jimmie Hunt in recent weeks. Sasser may not catch a lot of passes, but he’ll break loose for a big play or two when the Tigers need it on Saturday.

2. Shane Ray/Markus Golden: Alabama has one of the best offensive lines in the league and allowed the fewest sacks of anyone in the SEC, but Ray and Golden are going to find ways to make plays in this game. It’s what they do, and this is their biggest stage of the year. Alabama’s offensive line is going to play well, but there are going to be a handful of snaps that either Ray or Golden win for their team by any means necessary.

3. JK Scott: This matchup features two great defenses, and field position will mean everything when Alabama and Missouri square off. Scott, Alabama’s freshman punter, led the SEC at more than 47 yards per punt this season, and more importantly he landed 24 of his 45 punts inside opponents’ 20 yard lines with only five touchbacks. No one has flipped field position better than Scott this season, and as a result he’ll play a huge role in Saturday’s outcome.


1. Russell Hansbrough: Not only did Alabama close the season with the SEC’s best run defense, allowing just 92 yards per game, but it was the only team in the conference to allow fewer than 116 yards per game on the ground. This does not bode well for Hansbrough, who has only averaged 5 or more yards per carry in a game once since Sept. 20. Alabama is not going to allow Missouri to establish its rushing attack early in this game, hoping to force the Tigers into a one-dimensional passing game that could make life easier on the Tide’s secondary.

2. T.J. Yeldon: Missouri has also boasted one of the stingiest run defenses in the SEC this season, allowing just 126 yards per game on the ground, and Yeldon is going to have a difficult time getting into a rhythm against a disruptive Missouri defensive front. The Tigers linebackers are sure tacklers and the defensive line is the best in the conference. Yeldon is still working his way back from injury, and he’ll need plenty of help from his offensive line to keep Alabama ahead of the chains.

3. Missouri secondary: Alabama’s passing game is hitting on all cylinders right now, and the Tigers will be tasked with slowing down an offense that threw for 649 yards in its last two games. Amari Cooper will be the most dynamic playmaker on the field every second he’s between the white lines, and even if Missouri shifts coverages his way (and it should) Lane Kiffin and Blake Sims can find other ways to beat Missouri through the air with DeAndrew White, O.J. Howard and even some screen passes. The Crimson Tide may not throw for 300 yards against the Tigers, but it’ll certainly make plays through the air.