That doesn’t mean that figures – in this case statistics – are completely reliable as a barometer of how a football game will play out, but we have noticed that Alabama usually has a better statistical body of work than its opponents and that the Crimson Tide usually wins.
One of the few games remaining before bowl season begins is Alabama vs. Missouri in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game. Kickoff Saturday in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta is at 4 p.m. EST (3 p.m. central time) with television coverage by CBS.
Alabama is 11-1 on the season and Missouri is 10-2. Both are 7-1 in SEC games with Bama having won the West and Mizzou the East. The Crimson Tide of Nick Saban is ranked first in the nation in all polls, including the College Football Playoff Selection Committee ranking. Missouri is ranked 13th or 14th in the polls and 16th in the CFP ranking.
The Western Division in which Alabama played is generally regarded as more challenging than the East this season. Consider that Alabama’s fellow Western Division competition included Mississippi State, ranked as high as number one in the nation during the season; Auburn, as high as number two; Ole Miss, number three; Texas A&M, number six; and LSU, number eight.
Missouri played South Carolina, which had been ranked early in the season, and Georgia as ranked teams.
The Tide and Tigers had four common SEC opponents, but the results tell us little. Alabama defeated Florida by 42-21, while Missouri handled the Gators by 42-13; Bama blasted Texas A&M, 59-0, and Mizzou took the Aggies by 34-27; it was Alabama 34, Tennessee 20, and Missouri 29, Tennessee 21; the Tide struggled past Arkansas, 14-13, and Missouri was a 21-14 winner of the Razorbacks.
Those scores are part of the only statistics that really count – points for and points against. Alabama ranks third in the SEC this year in scoring offense at 36.7 points per game and Missouri is 11th at 28.6 points per game. The Tide is third in scoring defense, allowing 16.9 points per game, and Missouri is fifth, giving up 19.7 points per game.
Run the ball and stop the run, say coaches. Alabama is sixth in the league in rushing at 206.8 yards per game, Missouri eighth at 176. Bama is first in rush defense, allowing 92.7, with Missouri fifth, giving up 126.8.
Alabama is second in passing offense, 282.6 yards per game, and Missouri is 11th, 189.9. In pass defense, The Tigers are sixth in the league, giving up 204.1 yards per game and Bama, torched by Auburn last week, is 10th, allowing 219.7. In pass efficiency, the Tide is second and the Tigers 11th. In pass defense efficiency, Mizzou is fifth, Bama seventh.
Alabama is second in the league in total offense, averaging 489.3 yards per game, and Missouri is 12th, averaging 365.9. Bama is third in total defense, allowing 312.3 yards per game, Mizzou fifth, giving up 330.9.
Missouri has been much better in an area coaches consider crucial to success, turnover margin. The Tigers are plus 9 on the year, ranking second in the SEC, while the Tide is minus 2, which is 11th. Mizzou has 10 fumble recoveries and 12 interceptions and has lost 2 fumbles and 11 interceptions. Bama has recovered 7 fumbles and turned in 10 interceptions while losing 12 fumbles and suffering 7 interceptions.
On third down plays, the Tide is better on offense, converting 91 of 172 opportunities for 52.9 per cent, while the Tigers have converted 83-188 for 44.1 per cent. On defense, Mizzou has allowed 67-193 for 34.7 per cent, Bama 66-183 for 36.1 per cent.
The third critical statistic in the minds of coaches is red zone (20 to the goalline) efficiency. Missouri ranks first in the league in red zone offense, scoring 35 of 38 trips (25 touchdowns, 10-12 field goals) for 92.1 per cent and Alabama is ninth with 47-56 (37 touchdowns, 10-14 field goals) for 83.9 per cent. On defense in the red zone, Alabama is seventh, allowing 30-37 scores (14 touchdowns, 16-17 field goals) for 81.1 per cent and the Tigers are ninth, giving up 34-39 (19 TDs, 8-9 FGs) for 87.1 per cent.
Missouri is the SEC leader in sacks with 40 for 270 yards (the Tide is fifth with 28 for 184 yards) and Bama is best against sacks, giving up 11 for 79 yards with Missouri sixth, having given up 20 for 159 yards.
Alabama ranks fifth in the SEC in penalties, flagged 63 times for an average of 43 yards per game, and the Tigers are 13th with 94 penalties for an average of 61.7 yards per game.
Bama is third in the league in time of possession, keeping the ball for an average of 31:34 per game, Mizzou 10th, 29:22.
The teams are essentially even in placekicking and Alabama has the better of it in punting and kickoff coverage, Missouri has been better in punt returns and kickoff returns.In individual statistics, Bama's Amari Cooper continues to lead the league in receptions and receiving yards per game and receiving touchdowns, Blake Sims is the leader in passing efficiency among starting quarterbacks and tied for first for passing touchdowns with 24, and JK Scott continues to lead the SEC in punting. For Missouri, tailback Marcus Murphy is SEC leader in all-purpose yards and kickoff return average, and Shane Ray leads in sacks and in tackles for loss.