Westwood One’s coverage of college football continues on Saturday as Missouri takes on Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. Coverage begins at 3:30 PM Eastern on Westwood One and streaming right here at WestwoodOneSports.com.
For a preview of the game, we turn to our analysts Chris Doering and Derek Rackley.
Missouri’s biggest weapon against Alabama is their pair of defensive ends. Shane Ray and Markus Golden have combined for 22 sacks this season. Ray’s 13.5 sacks ranks him number one in the conference. While Alabama’s line has only given up 11 sacks the entire year, this number is likely to climb higher on Saturday versus Ray and Golden, especially if true freshman starting left tackle Cam Robinson is unable to play due to a shoulder injury.
Even if the Tigers duo is unable to get home against Blake Sims their relentless pursuit of the quarterback could have a large impact on the game. Sims has been solid most of the season for the Tide, but we did see the senior signal caller make several bad decisions leading to three interceptions in the first 31 minutes of the game last week against Auburn. With Missouri’s linemen bearing down on him this week, it is certainly possible that some of those same bad decisions could reappear in this game.
The other big thing that Ray and Golden can do to affect this game is to force Lane Kiffin into utilizing more of the quick passing game. Wide receiver Amari Cooper can do it all and is certainly capable of taking a five-yard throw the distance, but where Cooper has had his biggest impact is on the deep ball. Many of these throws require five- or seven-step drops by Sims, which forces him to hold the ball longer in the pocket. By putting heat on Sims, Cooper will not be able to get as deep down the field and Missouri’s corners will not have to try to cover him for quite so long.
– Chris Doering
To avoid the upset and make the first-ever College Football Playoff, Alabama must play much better pass defense against Missouri’s Tigers than they did last week against the Tigers from Auburn. Those Tigers were able to stay in the game a week ago because they ripped off a number of explosive passing plays against an Alabama defense that generally doesn’t get gashed in that manner, especially considering Nick Saban works closely with the Crimson Tide defensive backs. In the first half alone, wide receiver Duke Williams was able to get behind the Alabama secondary for a 42-yard completion and wide receiver Sammie Coates had two touchdowns and another long reception, all three totaling 34 yards or more.
I don’t think Missouri runs the football as well this year as they did last year when they also advanced to the SEC Championship Game, but they definitely like to chuck the football around in the passing game. All other things being equal, if Alabama can keep the football in front of them on defense, I don’t think Missouri has enough firepower to beat the Tide.
– Derek Rackley
John Sadak, Chris Doering and Derek Rackley will have the call from the Georgia Dome beginning at 3:30 PM ET. You can listen right here on WestwoodOneSports.com!