SEC's Hot and Not: Championship game edition
It flew by, but the SEC’s regular season is done. Alabama, as may expected, wiped the floor with Missouri on Saturday, rolling to a 42-13 win. Who comes out of that game hot and who’s ice cold?
- Derrick Henry. Alabama’s sophomore running back put the Crimson Tide on his back in the second half to close out the SEC Championship. He ran for 102 of his 141 yards in the second half on just nine carries, scoring twice along the way. When it was time to put the game away, Alabama called upon the 6-foot-3 bruiser to do the job. On Alabama’s final touchdown drive, they handed it to Henry five straight times and he delivered with 62 yards. Henry ended his freshman year on a strong note, so fans will have to hope that this year’s crushing finish will lead to big things in the playoffs.
- Alabama’s front four. The Crimson Tide were able to generate pressure with just their down linemen for much of the night, getting Maty Mauk on the run early and often. While the secondary gave up too many big plays off those scrambles, mostly by Jimmie Hunt burning the coverage deep, but they still held the Tigers to 16-of-34 passing, with more than 60 percent of Missouri’s 272 passing yards going to Hunt. Alabama didn’t record a single sack thanks to Mauk’s fleet feet and quick release, but the Crimson Tide dominated the matchup in the trenches. D.J. Pettway, A’Shawn Robinson and Ryan Anderson all created pressure and helped with the excellent effort.
- JK Scott. Alabama’s freshman punter is a finalist for the Ray Guy Award and he showed why on Saturday. Scott handled a bad snap and got off a heck of a kick under extreme duress midway through the third quarter. Scott averaged 43.3 yards per punt against Missouri. That’s below his season average, but he still pinned Mizzou deep and helped flip the field. Scott is as deadly a weapon in the special teams game as anyone in the SEC, something sorely needed at Alabama considering the Crimson Tide’s deficiencies in the kicking game.
- Shane Ray. Missouri’s defensive star put a black mark on his SEC Defensive Player of the Year candidacy by getting himself tossed from the SEC title game on a targeting penalty. Ray tried to tell reporters after the game that his late shot on Blake Sims was clean, but he had plenty of time to pull off, but he sure appeared to be intent on blasting the Alabama quarterback on the play. While Alabama rolled to victory, Ray’s impact would have been felt with Alabama slinging it around.
- Adam Griffith. Alabama’s kicker has been in some kind of funk. He’s missed 3-of-6 field goal attempts over Alabama’s last four games and finished the regular season ranked last in the SEC with a 63.2 field goal percentage. He pushed a 43-yard attempt wide left in the title game, which didn’t matter in the final score but it will once again be a concern in the Sugar Bowl semifinal game against Ohio State.
- Alabama’s secondary. The Crimson Tide had some troubling coverage breakdowns for the second consecutive week, allowing too many big plays. Alabama was mostly good against Mauk, limiting him to 16-of-34 passing, but they simply couldn’t keep track of Hunt seemingly every time Mauk fled the pocket. Hunt only had six catches, but three of them went for 30 or more yards. Alabama may catch a break in that regard going up against Ohio State’s third-string quarterback in the semifinal, but with the way the Buckeyes have been plugging in new quarterbacks all year without skipping a beat that’s no guarantee.