SEC Kickoff: Everything you need to know about Alabama vs. Missouri
Here’s everything you need to know about the 2014 SEC Championship between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Missouri Tigers.
When: Saturday, Dec. 6
Where: Atlanta, Ga.
Game Time: 4:00 p.m. ET
Current Line: Alabama (-14.5)
Game Buzz: Alabama is considered the overwhelming favorite in this year’s SEC Championship and it’s not very close. But the Crimson Tide will have to go through a pesky Missouri Tigers team that refuses to lose. Missouri is one of the hottest teams in college football right now with a six-game winning streak and one of the conference’s top defenses. It’s a matchup between the best two teams in the best conference and with more than SEC implications on the line, it figures to be yet another classic in Atlanta.
SATURDAY DOWN SOUTH PREVIEWS
- SEC Championship Game Plan: Alabama
- Can OJ Howard breakout against Missouri?
- Alabama coaching staff just as talented as its roster
- Inside the Numbers: SEC Championship
- Special Team: Alabama’s achilles heel?
- The forgotten stars: Missouri’s interior defensive line
- SEC Championship Game Plan: Missouri
- Mizzou made: Upperclassmen’s success highlights Pinkel’s player development
- 5 things Missouri must do to upset Alabama
- Markus Golden: Mizzou’s hottest player
No. 1 ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE
Players To Watch:
- QB Blake Sims
- RB T.J. Yeldon
- RB Derrick Henry
- WR Amari Cooper
- TE O.J. Howard
- OL Cam Robinson
- LB Reggie Ragland
- S Nick Perry
- S Landon Collins
Keys For Alabama:
- Protect Blake Sims: Alabama has done a fantastic job keeping its quarterback’s jersey clean all season, allowing the fewest sacks in the SEC. Coming up against the team with the most sacks in the conference, something will have to give. Nick Saban said on Friday that Cam Robinson has practiced all week, so Alabama’s offensive line should be as close to full strength as they’re going to get at this point in the season. They’ll need it against Missouri’s standout defensive ends and underrated defensive interior.
- Get something out of the secondary receivers: Amari Cooper is going to get his, there’s no question about that. He’s only had two games with fewer than 8 catches, and in one of them he left after the first drive of the game. Alabama doesn’t need much out of the other receivers on the field, but they’ll have to come up with catches when Sims looks their way. DeAndrew White and O.J. Howard have had big moments throughout the season, and Sims may need them at some point.
- Make Maty Mauk make a mistake: The Tigers played mistake-free football as they took the SEC East by storm, turning the ball over just three times in November. Alabama hasn’t been winning the turnover battle this season, with a margin of minus-2 on the year, but to make sure the Tigers don’t pull out another nail-biter Alabama will have to find ways to take the ball away. That could come down to safeties Nick Perry and Landon Collins getting in front of some of Mauk’s wild, on-the-run throws that he’s wont to make.
Crimson Tide’s glaring weakness: The kicking game. Punter JK Scott is one of the best in the country, but he’s had to take over kickoff duties as well after kicker Adam Griffith hit a rough patch. Alabama has the second-most out-of-bounds kickoffs in the conference and tied for the most missed field goals. The Tide tried out Gunnar Rayborn on field goals the last two weeks, but the indecision at kicker is a real issue.
Most interesting part of the game: How will the Crimson Tide play away from home? Some of Alabama’s games away from Bryant-Denny Stadium have been a struggle; there was a tight season-opening win over West Virginia in the Georgia Dome, the loss to Ole Miss, a narrow victory over Arkansas and a late comeback to force overtime against LSU. Overall, Alabama puts up 172 more yards and 22.4 more points per game at home. Will Sims and the Crimson Tide have trouble getting their rhythm away from home?
Team buzz: Alabama is right on the verge of qualifying for the College Football Playoff, and they’re playing some of their best football of the season on the offensive side of the ball. There are defensive issues to shore up from last week, but the Tide have proven themselves to be the top team in the country with just one more hurdle left to clear.
No. 16 MISSOURI TIGERS
Players to watch:
- QB Maty Mauk
- RB/KR Marcus Murphy
- WR Bud Sasser
- DE Shane Ray
- DE Markus Golden
- LB Michael Scherer
- LB Kentrell Brothers
Keys for Missouri:
- Limit Alabama’s rushing to under four yards per carry: The Crimson Tide have one of the country’s best rushing duo in TJ Yeldon and Derrick Henry. But in Alabama’s games where they’ve been kept under four yards per carry, Nick Saban’s team is 3-1 with all three wins decided by seven points or less. It’ll be the interior part of Missouri’s defensive line that will be the difference in how competitive this game is.
- Don’t let Amari Cooper beat you: There’s no doubt that Cooper is the most talented wide receiver in the SEC and maybe the nation, but you cannot let him beat you if you’re Missouri. Yes, he’ll still likely get several catches and it’s virtually impossible to limit him the entire game, but don’t let him have a repeat Iron Bowl-like performance. Force quarterback Blake Sims to make plays to his other receivers. Guys like DeAndrew White, OJ Howard and others are good, but they aren’t nearly as talented as Cooper. Missouri might be able to force some mistakes if the ball goes their way more often.
- Paging Marcus Murphy … : The X-factor for the Tigers is return specialist and running back Marcus Murphy. He’s got electrifying speed and playmaking ability and he’ll need some of those big plays at some point tomorrow afternoon. Nothing can affect a game like a big special teams play and he’s due for one in the SEC Championship.
Glaring weakness to watch: Penalties. Unfortunately for the Tigers, underdogs need to play nearly perfect games in order to beat teams like Alabama. And penalties can thwart even the best performances. Missouri ranks last in the SEC with 94 penalties. It’ll have to limit those kinds of mental mistakes against Alabama, especially because the Crimson Tide are typically a disciplined football team.
Most interesting part of the game: Missouri’s pass rush. All season long, Shane Ray and Markus Golden have carried this Missouri defense. Can this dynamic pass rushing duo perform up to expectations on the conference’s biggest stage?
Team buzz: Barely anyone is giving Missouri a real shot at winning this game. Most people are giving some courtesy to the Tigers in regard to keeping it close, but the vast majority of people believe this is Alabama’s championship to lose. Missouri excels at defense and forcing turnovers, both of which travel well. The Tigers have a better shot to win this game than most people expect. Now, it’s just up to them to prove everyone wrong — a position they’ve been put in more times than not this season.