Week 14 Results (6-3)| Overall Record (74-25)
Saturday, December 6, 2014
SEC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME | Georgia Dome | Atlanta, Georgia
#1 Alabama (11-1, 7-1) vs. #16 Missouri (9-2, 7-1 SEC)
4:00 PM ET | CBS
Who, What, Wear?: Missouri will be the home in Atlanta on Saturday. As good as Arkansas-Missouri looked on Friday with both teams wearing home uniforms, let’s hope they can do the same Saturday. That would look great in the Georgia Dome. Otherwise, Alabama will wear the road white jerseys/white pants and Missouri will wear one of the 50 shades of gray/black from which they choose every weekend.
Records That Will and Will Not Fall: Florida’s Reidel Anthony holds the record for receptions in a game at 11 in the Gators’ 45-30 win over Alabama in 1996. Darvin Adams had 217 yards receiving for Auburn in 2010, which broke Anthony’s 16-year-old record of 171 yards (1996). If Lane Kiffin continues to call plays that gets the ball to Amari Cooper, don’t be surprised if Cooper breaks records for both catches and yards receiving. Cooper has recorded at least 10 receptions in four games this season.
Another receiver to watch is Missouri’s Bud Sasser. His 9 catches for 127 yards were instrumental in Missouri’s SEC East-clinching comeback win over Arkansas last Friday in Columbia. Alabama’s secondary has proven to be susceptible to the big play more than once this season, so it’s not out of the question that Cooper and Sasser have a receiver duel in the Georgia Dome Saturday night.
An interesting side note is Errict Rhett owning second place with 10 receptions from the inaugural 1992 game. Most of those completions were on the shuttle pass that looked much more like a run than a pass. Steve Spurrier didn’t call the play for the fun of it. He called it because it worked and it nearly cost Alabama a shot at the national championship. Alabama’s aggressive and dominating defense was neutralized by this play. Luckily for the SEC and everyone else but Florida quarterback Shane Matthews, Antonio Langham returned an interception for a touchdown late in the game to save the championship for Alabama and the Championship Game for commissioner Roy Kramer.
There will be ZERO rushing records broken because Auburn shattered nearly every team and individual record related to running the ball in last year’s championship game win. So, there’s that.
Georgia’s Drew Butler averaged 51.6 yards per punt in 2011 versus LSU. Alabama’s JK Scott may blow right by that record. Scott punted only twice the entire night versus Auburn on Saturday night, but one of those punts went for 70 yards. That broke his earlier season-best of 66 yards against LSU. Oh, and by the way, this kid is a true freshman so he should be in Tuscaloosa for another three years. In his first ever game, Scott hit one for 62 yards against West Virginia in the Georgia Dome. That is only five yards shy of the record-long of 67 yards held by LSU’s Brad Wing from 2011. Scott has had a 60-plus-yard punt in five games and has hit a 56-plus-yard punt in four games. In other words, the punter may be a good source of conversation on Saturday in the ‘Dome.
Getting And Avoiding Sacks: Missouri’s defense leads the SEC in sacks while Alabama’s offense leads the conference in least number of sacks allowed. The Tigers have registered 40 sacks on the season while the Tide quarterback has been dropped just 11 times.
Missouri has a great defensive line, but Alabama has a quarterback that is making huge plays each week using his feet. Blake Sims has scored six touchdowns on the ground and has as many first down scrambles in key situations on third down. If Sims can’t counteract a few Missouri blitzes with a huge gain on the ground or by getting Amari Cooper the ball against man-coverage, it could be a long day for Missouri’s defense.
Then again, if Missouri’s front four can pressure Sims into making bad throws early and often, Alabama will be hard pressed to score many points. The offense will always play into the hands of the defense anytime they can cause havoc to a quarterback without blitzing. The Tigers are one team that will not require many blitzes with defensive linemen like Shane Ray. The 6-3, 245-pound junior out of Kansas City leads the SEC in both sacks (13.5) and tackles for loss (20.5). Those stats are good enough to be in the top five nationally in both categories. The problem for Alabama is even if they avoid sacks, the run game can be affected with a guy like Ray cutting down Derrick Henry and TJ Yeldon.
This area may dictate what direction this game will go and it will be interesting to see which team enforces its strength the best throughout the course of the game.
SEC CHAMPIONSHIP FACTS
Thanks to our friends at the SEC Communications Office, Chuck Dunlap (@SEC_Chuck) and gang, we have these SEC Championship Game facts and notes to share with you. Consider this your
only early Christmas gift from the gang at FBSchedules [dot] com. Weakly, right? For real tho’.
Like The Superbowl In More Ways Than One: The atmosphere and buildup surrounding the SEC Championship Game is huge and could be compared to the Super Bowl. The blowout that ensues once the game actually gets here is very similar as well. The average margin of victory in the 22 SEC Championship Games is 16.23 points.
Mathematically A Good Match-up: This year’s match-up is the 9th best of the 23 SECCG match-ups when comparing winning percentage of the two teams (.875). The best is obviously 2009 Alabama vs. Florida (1.000) — both were undefeated — with the epic 2008 battle coming in at No. 2 (.958). The highest ranked game not involving Alabama vs. Florida was last year’s Auburn and Missouri game (.917) coming in at No. 4. The worst came in 2007 when 2-loss LSU took on 3-loss Tennessee (.792) and the SEC still won the national championship that season.
WHAT ABOUT ALABAMA
Lucky For Alabama, Saban Remembers 2001: Most every fan in the SEC remembers the 2001 SEC Championship Game well because it’s the first and only time the SEC Championship Game played obstacle rather than catapult to the national championship.
Phillip Fulmer and the No. 2 Tennessee Vols were riding sky-high after beating heavily favored Florida in Gainesville the previous week (rescheduled from September 15). The SEC East was the premier division at this time with the Gators and Vols dominating conference play year-in and year-out. The SEC West was considered mediocre at best.
The final weekend of the regular season was moved to December 1 due to the events of 9/11. The deferred gratification paid off for the SEC as they had a de facto Final Four weekend leading up to next week’s SEC Championship Game. Nick Saban and a 3-loss LSU hosted Tommy Tuberville and the 2-loss Auburn Tigers to determine the SEC West Champion.
The best narrative and back story I’ve seen of the game and its impact on Tennessee, LSU and the entire conference comes from an oral history piece of the 2001 championship game written in August by Mark Nagi at OutkickTheCoverage.com. Saban may live in the now, but I’m sure he will conveniently work this into conversation with his players two or 316 times throughout the week. Add the fact that Saban and Missouri coach Gary Pinkel were teammates at Kent State in the early 1970’s, don’t be surprised if St. Nick builds up Pinkel’s team as the 2014 version of his ’01 Tigers.
We aren’t ones to look at random similarities from something that happened 13 years ago and expect you to believe that they hold water. I mean, it’s not like Pinkel has a somewhat mobile quarterback that would have the exact same name as Matt Mauk if he had a “t” added and a “y” removed from the end of his first name.
They Are The Champions, My Friend: Alabama will be looking to win its unprecedented 24th SEC championship in football on Saturday. A Bama win Saturday would also give Nick Saban as many conference championships as national championships at Alabama — at least for a month. Nick Saban is also in line to tie Steve Spurrier for most SEC Championships as a head coach if Alabama can beat Missouri Saturday. Spurrier currently has five championships, all with Florida.
WHAT ABOUT MISSOURI
Early Onset Domination: It’s hard to believe Missouri has dominated the East like they have for two years while every fan of another given team wholeheartedly believes, incorrectly, that this will be the week Missouri becomes this soft Big 12-type team that will fold when the pressure and talent of the SEC weigh down on them each and every week.
Gary Pinkel’s Tigers have compiled a 14-2 conference record in two years (2013 & 2014) following a 5-7 inaugural season in the SEC. All Pinkel and the Tigers have done is win when it matters most (other than the SEC Championship Game last year) since 2013.
Missouri > x: Missouri has certainly made an early impact in the SEC East. Say what you want about the East being easier than the West, but if titles are so easy to win in the East, then why do to the Tigers have more Eastern Division championships than Vanderbilt, Kentucky and South Carolina combined? Just to add some additional salt to some rather fresh and sore wounds, the Tigers also have more division championships than Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Texas A&M combined.
A Missouri Win = Top Four: By beating the No. 1 team in the country, Missouri should move up far enough to be considered a Top Four team. I’m not saying move them to No. 1. I’m just saying they replace Alabama as the 2-loss SEC Champion representative of the College Football Playoff. Is Alabama probably favored versus the other three teams? Sure. But they lost in the SEC Championship Game giving them two losses and Missouri deserves to represent the league that everyone — even those who believe the conference is down as a whole compared to other SEC seasons — still believes is the believes is hands down the top conference in college football.
The biggest problem for Missouri is they moved up one spot from last week to No. 16 and a win would require a few teams to lose for them to move up 12 spots to No. 4. LSU did move from No. 7 to N0. 2 in 2007 and they beat a Tennessee team that was 10 spots below them.
Blake Sims | 207 of 328 | 2,988 yards | 24 TDs | 7 INTs | 8 Sacks | 302 Yds Rush | 6 TDs
Maty Mauk | 193 of 361 | 2,279 yards | 22 TDs | 11 INTs | 20 Sacks | 336 Yds Rush | 1 TD
Quarterback play and which team’s sack dominance wins out (See Getting And Avoiding Sacks section) will be the two keys in determining who wins this game. Yes, in games of this magnitude, you can normally add one or two caveats to the normal flow of the game that could decide the winner, but quarterbacks and sacks (or lack thereof) will dictate a large majority of the game’s momentum and success.
As far as talent, size, depth and pure athleticism, Alabama wins the beauty contest. The equalizers — and Gary Danielson will mention this no more than 323 times during the CBS broadcast — are dominant quarterback play and/or dominant defense that can alter the opposing quarterback’s ability to execute a game plan.
The History of Alabama vs. Missouri: This is a rubber match between these two programs. If this were the World Series, it would be game five. As many of your probably remember — or none of you — Missouri won the first game in the 1968 Gator Bowl, 35-10. Missouri continued its dominance over Bear Bryant and No. 2 Alabama in 1975 in Birmingham, upsetting the ‘Tide 20-7. Of course, we all remember those dominating years of Missouri’s Al Onofrio. Bear Bryant finally got over the Mizzou hump in 1978 with a 38-20 win over Warren Powers’ Tigers in Columbia. The last time these two played was in Missouri’s inaugural SEC season in 2012. Alabama splished and splashed its way to a 42-10 victory at Faurot Field.
So, Who Wins?: Alabama could very well be flat in the first half and Missouri may be a great second half team, but I just don’t see enough speed and depth from the Tigers for me to pick the upset. If I were to pick an upset, it would come after watching Alabama’s exhausting Iron Bowl basketball game played at Bryant-Denny Stadium last week. All those little factors that are present when an upset occurs are glaring this week: 1) Missouri had an extra day of rest, 2) Alabama played a physically and emotionally draining rivalry game and may have trouble coming down from the win.
With all that being said, Alabama is too good to lose this one. They are good enough to beat Missouri like Georgia did earlier in the season and if they come out hot to start the game inside what will look like a domed Bryant-Denny Stadium, the blowout will be on. Alabama wins SEC championship No. 24 and gets ready to play in New Orleans on New Year’s Day.
FINAL SCORE: Alabama 38, Missouri 13
Eric Taylor is a contributor to FBSchedules.com. Follow him on Twitter @EricFromSpfld or contact him via email at Eric.Taylor –at– stadiumjourney –dot– com.