Alabama came out on top in one of the most exciting Iron Bowls in the history of their rivalry with Auburn. This week they will continue on the path to the first ever College Football Playoff, with only Missouri and the SEC Championship in their way.
Missouri, after beating Tennessee and Arkansas on the road, fought their way back into the SEC Championship for the second straight year and will go head to head with the biggest beast from the West.
Both teams have all-conference players on both sides of the ball, but one team has more to lose than the other. Alabama is playing to secure their spot in the playoff and if Missouri wins they would more than likely secure a major bowl appearance.
Missouri has played well when they’ve needed to, having to win their last two games to stay alive in the SEC and doing just that. Alabama has also played well when they’ve needed to, knocking off No. 1 Mississippi State and then overcoming Auburn in the Iron Bowl in a whirlwind of a game.
Alabama wide receiver and Walter Camp finalist Amari Cooper had a record setting game against the Tigers with 224 receiving yards on 13 catches and three touchdowns. That’s an average of just over 17 yards per reception. Where Alabama could have improved is surprisingly, on defense. The Tide gave up a program record of 630 yards against Auburn, which they can’t afford to do again if they expect to win.
Keys for Missouri to Win
Missouri has two of the top defensive ends in the country with Markus Golden and Shane Ray. These two are more than capable of putting consistent pressure on quarterback Blake Sims. Sims has the ability to run outside the pocket, but with enough pressure, Missouri can contain him and keep him out of a rhythm.
On offense, Missouri should take advantage of Alabama’s weakness on rushing defense. Despite having the number one defense in the country, they gave up a season high on the run last week against Auburn, who averaged 3.7 yards per carry. This makes for an intriguing matchup with Missouri’s Russell Hansbrough, who is a tough runner with elusive size,
Alabama’s defense gave up a lot of yards in the air last week against Auburn, with WRs Sammy Coates and D’haquille Williams combining for a total of 327 receiving yards. Maty Mauk needs to navigate the Tide defense through the air as well as Auburn did, but their wide receiver depth is shaky. Missouri’s Lawrence Lee was dismissed from the team last week for “disciplinary reasons.” This is the third wide receiver the Tigers have lost since the beginning of Spring.
Just like any other team that has played Alabama this year, Missouri has to score touchdowns when they are in Alabama territory, they can’t afford to settle for field-goals. Red zone struggles have doomed many a Tide opponent this year, just ask Mississippi State. The game will get away from the Tigers if they settle for field-goals against an explosive, high-scoring Alabama offense.
Keys for Alabama to Win
Alabama played some of the best football they have all season against Auburn. Blake Sims went 20-27 with 312 yards and 4 touchdowns, however, he threw a season high of 3 interceptions. Turning the ball over this many times is uncharacteristic of Alabama and they can’t afford to do this against Missouri. Sims will also be getting pressured by Shane Ray, who leads the SEC in sacks, so protecting Blake Sims at all cost is going to be the goal for Alabama’s offensive line. When Sims is protected, he has more time to throw the long ball that we saw against Auburn.
Amari Cooper had the best game of his career (again) and could easily put up similar numbers against Missouri’s secondary if Blake Sims has ample amount of time to throw the ball. In the third quarter alone against Auburn, Cooper had touchdown passes of 39 and 75 yards. A set of similar touchdown passes against Missouri could give them a lead they are likely not going to come back from.
Alabama’s secondary gave up 456 yards in the air against Auburn, the most given up during the Saban era at Alabama. Hopefully there was much improvement made in this area this week because Missouri could try to mimic the “deep ball” and have success with it.
Alabama is no stranger to the GA Dome and the excitement it brings, this is the second time this season they will play in Atlanta and the 8th trip to Atlanta since 2008. They have only one loss in the SEC Championship in the GA Dome, which came from Florida in 2008. Alabama beat Florida in 2009 and Georgia in 2012 to win the SEC Title.
Fun Fact: The last time these two teams met was in 2012 (Missouri’s first season as a member of the SEC) and the Tide beat them in Columbia, 42-10.
Everything You Need to Know:
When: Saturday, December 6
Where: Georgia Dome – Atlanta, GA
Time: 4:00pm EST on CBS
Spread: Alabama -14.5
*Section Photo credit to Kevin C. Cox, Getty Images; Featured Photo (above) credit to John David Mercer, USA Today Sports