SEC Debate: Mizzou's upset chances hinge on various factors
Can Mizzou post one of the most impressive upsets in SEC Championship Game history on Saturday?
In our latest SEC Debate, we posed the question to SDS staff to see what the underrated Eastern Division champs need to do to keep Alabama — and essentially the SEC — out of the College Football Playoff with a victory.
WHAT WILL IT TAKE FOR MIZZOU TO UPSET ALABAMA?
Jon Cooper (@JonSDS)
For Missouri to pull the upset, the Tigers have to do three things: 1. Win the turnover battle, 2. Maty Mauk play the best game of his career and 3. Score two defensive or special teams touchdowns. The common theme of upsetting Alabama has been turnover battle and quarterback play, but I’ll add two special teams or defensive touchdowns to the list. Marcus Murphy is certainly good enough to return a punt or kickoff for a touchdown, and the defense has a knack for making big turnover plays. Missouri is playing its best football right now, but fourth quarter Maty Mauk will need to play that well for four quarters.
Christopher Smith (@csmithSDS)
Mizzou has made its mark in the last few years by forcing turnovers, making dynamic plays in the return game, getting after folks with a devastating pass rush and running the football. I can’t envision the Tigers accomplishing the latter against Alabama, and it’ll take all three of the other trends for Missouri to have a chance, in addition to some downfield connections between Maty Mauk and the senior receivers. The Tigers interior defensive line also must hold its own against the Alabama running game. In short, the Tigers have to play a near-perfect game to beat Alabama. Gary Pinkel really may be the best in the country at developing talent, but he can’t physically match Alabama 11-on-11, much less with his bench in the course of a 60-minute game.
Drew Laing (@dlaingSDS)
Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers. As with any underdog, winning the turnover battle is CRUCIAL to Missouri upsetting Alabama. Fortunately for the Tigers, they’re one of the best in the SEC with a plus-nine TO margin, while Alabama finished the regular season with a margin of minus-two. I think with a strong pass rushing duo and Missouri’s ability to create havoc in the backfield, the Tigers should have some opportunities to force some interceptions through constant quarterback pressure.
Jason Hall (@JasonHallSDS)
It’s hard to count out Missouri. The Tigers have proven doubters wrong all season. However, they haven’t played a team as balanced as Alabama. The Crimson Tide have talent across the board, despite a change in identity on both sides of the football. For Missouri to win, Maty Mauk must have a career day and play mistake-free football. Marcus Murphy and Russell Hansbrough both need to be healthy to provide a strong running game. The Tigers defense — specifically Shane Ray and Markus Golden — must pressure Blake Sims and force Alabama’s offense to make mistakes. It’s a tall task, but Missouri has exceeded expectations since its disappointing loss to Indiana
Jordan Cox (@Jordan_Cox)
I think if you’re Missouri, you feel a lot better about your chances this week after watching the Iron Bowl. Alabama can be beaten over the top and, though inconsistent, the Tigers have as good of weapons as anyone in Maty Mauk, Bud Sasser and Jimmie Hunt. Those three need to play well and take advantage of the opportunities they’ll have. Defensively, Mizzou’s defense can give the Crimson Tide trouble. Shane Ray and Markus Golden terrorized Arkansas last week, and are capable of beating Alabama up front and getting to Blake Sims. Lucky for the Tigers, this game is not at Bryant-Denny Stadium, where Sims has been much better. If Mizzou can force him into some mistakes, it will be in the game late. And as we find out week after week, if Missouri’s in the game late, it will find a way to win
Ethan Levine (@EthanLevineSDS)
Missouri needs to do three things to compete with Alabama on Saturday: win in the trenches, protect the football and cover Amari Cooper. The Tigers boast the best defensive line in the SEC, and that line, led by Shane Ray and Markus Golden, needs to wreak havoc on the Alabama offense. If Mizzou can stymy the Tide’s rushing attack and give Blake Sims fits, it can control the game with its defense. Likewise, that defense must blanket Cooper and dare Sims to throw the ball elsewhere, ideally in the face of pressure from the line. Lastly, the Tigers cannot beat themselves with turnovers. Maty Mauk has only thrown two interceptions in his last five games, and he threw the ball well to Bud Sasser and Jimmie Hunt in Mizzou’s last game against Arkansas. If he protects the football and is an adequate game-manager, and if the defense steps up (especially the defensive line) Missouri certainly has a chance to stun No. 1 Alabama in Atlanta.