Alabama, 11-1 overall and ranked first in the nation, takes on Missouri, 10-2 and ranked 16th by the all-important College Football Playoff Selection Committee, at 4 p.m. EST (3 p.m. central time) Saturday. Both Bama, the SEC West champion, and Missouri, East winner, were 7-1 in conference games. CBS will televise the game.
With only one game to study this week, one would think the Almost Perfect Picks panel has every angle figured. The problem is that while the panel was correct on picking the winner 11 of 12 times on the Alabama side, the Tigers were predicted to come up losers perhaps half a dozen times (and one of them wasn’t the infamous 27-31 loss to Indiana). And yet the Tigers kept winning.
Mizzou didn’t do it so much with offense as it did with defense. Alabama’s defense hasn’t always been up to Crimson Tide standards – for reference, see the 630 yards and 44 points surrendered to another set of Tigers just last week – but it should be good enough to keep Missouri from exploding.
The challenge, though, is for Alabama’s offense to get the job done against a Missouri defense that generally has been very good. The only games in which the Tigers gave up more than 27 points were games in which Missouri lost the turnover battle. That didn’t happen often as the Tigers are plus nine in that important statistic.
Although Bama Coach Nick Saban doesn’t put a high premium on sacks – he just wants the defense to “affect” the quarterback – nothing affects a quarterback more than putting him on his back with the ball still in his hands, and Missouri is outstanding in that regard with Shane Ray and Markus Golden leading the way.
The APP panel believes, though, that Alabama Offensive Coordinator Lane Kiffin will be able to thrust his arms into touchdown pose with some regularity Saturday.
The Crimson Tide earned its way to Atlanta through the much tougher SEC West. The Bama resume includes beating (then) number one Mississippi State far more convincingly than the final score of 25-20, gutting out a win over LSU in Baton Rouge, shutting out Texas A&M (perhaps the most remarkable feat of the season), and overtaking and running over Auburn in a dramatic second half.
Alabama 38, Missouri 17.