A new SEC Champion will be crowned on Saturday when Alabama and Missouri will hit the field to determine who will win supremacy. Missouri is the two touchdown underdogs headed into the match up against top-ranked Alabama. Scout.com takes a look at the big talking points as we preview the game and recap the headlines from Friday afternoon.
TURNING POINT: Missouri comes into the game on six game winning streak-a streak that began after the team's loss to Georgia. Head coach Gary Pinkell points to that loss as a turning point this season.
"That Sunday afterwards, the sense of urgency became a whole new phrase for us. We can sit and talk about how we can be better, but we're not getting there. The seniors elevated their leadership. The sense of urgency we realized. Slowly but surely we became a much better football team."
FRIENDS, NOW FRENEMIES?Alabama head coach Nick Saban and Pinkell go way back. Both of these men played on the same Kent State football team that won the MAC Championship in 1972, and they were both graduate assistants together.
" I remember being in the library at Kent State University. We were probably both 21, 22 years old, done playing. Talking about coaching college football. How we thought it would be really cool to do that. Paid to coach football. Are you kidding me?"
TRENCH WARFARE: With offensive lineman Cam Robinson expected to play for Alabama on Saturday, Nick Saban will have his pieces set. Alabama has yielded the fewest sacks in the league, while Missouri has recorded 40 sacks this season-the most in the league. Something will have to give on Saturday in the SEC Championship.
"We get to the quarterback a lot," said the Mizzou head coach on Friday. "But they've done a great job of protecting him. We're going to see where that goes. That's going to be interesting to see who wins that battle as the game goes on."
"I'm proud of how they compete," said Pinkell. "We talk about the speed and athleticism of those guys, the things they've done. That's great."
"They're great players," added Saban. "Both guys have had tremendous years, great production, whether it's sacks, tackles for loss. I think their quickness, they're instinctive players, and I think that creates a tremendous asset for them."
PROBLEMATIC 'BAMA OFFENSE: Pinkell knows very well that Alabama's offense can be quite prolific. Blake Sims' has been able to lead the offense to 50 point games on more than one occasion this season, and with Sims being protected by one of the best offensive line's in the league, and with Heisman contender Amari Cooper waiting to make a big play, Pinkell knows his squad will need to execute. However, the Missouri head coach admits, it was quite the challenge to prepare for an offense like Alabama's.
"Well, it presents a lot of problems, a lot of formations. They put Cooper all over the place. Just presents a lot of problems.They can run the ball well, big offensive line, do a lot of zone blocking, play-action pass, throw the ball downfield. It's certainly a task at hand here for us. I think they've got a great offensive design. Makes it very difficult."
AMARI COOPER: "Everybody knows they're going to throw the ball to him all the time, he still catches all those balls, it's really problematic," added Pinkell. "Everybody is going to have a plan. You're not going to stop the guy, there's no way. But you try to contain the guy."
THE RUN GAME: A lot of the talk is how can a team contain Cooper, however, 'Bama also is a huge threat on the ground. If Alabama running back T.J. Yeldon gets the running game going, it will make it harder to focus on the Sims-Cooper connection.
WHAT THEY SAY: "Their team did a great job of overcoming a lot this year to win a lot of close games," said Alabama head coach Nick Saban, "which tells you what kind of competitive resiliency they have. They're probably the best defensive team right now in the SEC the way they're playing."Follow @JacquieFran_