Tide expects challenge from Tiger offense
Okay Missouri. It’s your turn. Time to step up.
It’s your chance at slinging the rock and killing the giant. Speaking of slinging, we all know you’ve got a quarterback that can make it rain from way downtown. Good. You’re going to need that... and a whole bunch more.
Because we’ve gotten halfway through the season for Alabama and it is hard to go against any of the numbers that the stat geeks put out there on their level of dominance. The Crimson Tide should be renamed the Crimson Tsunami. They don’t show pity or remorse and are a danger to anyone who happens to get in their way.
The Tigers are a game bunch of scrappers who enter the weekend with a two-game losing streak after starting the season with three straight wins. They played Georgia pretty tough in a 43-29 loss, including holding the Bulldogs' high-powered offense to just two field goals in the first half. But since then it’s been a train wreck as Georgia found its legs and then Mizzou lost to South Carolina 37-35 to a backup quarterback who threw for 249 yards, was only sacked once and never turned the ball over.
Missouri at Alabama
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 13 at 7 p.m. ET
Spread: Alabama -28
Three Things to Watch
1. The best quarterback Bama will see
The one thing that sticks out about this game is that Missouri has one thing going for it that none of the other challengers to the Tide’s dominance had; an off-the-charts NFL-caliber quarterback. Drew Lock is a — pardon the pun — lock for being a first-round draft pick this coming April. He has a strong arm with a high football IQ and will present a great challenge to this re-vamped defense. But this will have to be a bounce-back game since he completed less than half (17-of-36) of his passes against South Carolina last week, threw two interceptions (one for a pick-six) and did not collect a touchdown.
2. Establishing the running game
Obviously, both teams are big on winging it through the air (No. 14 and No. 6 in the nation in passing, respectively). But the bigger key to the game will be whichever team establishes the running game. MIzzou runs the ball for 212 yards per game behind a line that returned all five starters from a year ago and Alabama runs for 222 yards per game. Against the Gamecocks, the Tigers did a good job of opening up the play-action passing game with successful runs, putting Mr. Lock in comfortable passing situations. That will be a huge key against that aggressive Bama defense that likes to rattle even the most experienced QBs.
3. There’s (almost) no hope for Mizzou’s defense
In the NCAA defensive statistics, Missouri’s D is ranked at No. 77 nationally, giving up 392.2 yards per game. Compare that with the team that sits at No. 76 in the country which is Arkansas State, who has given up 392.0 yards per game. Yes that’s the same ASU team that gave up 57 points and 599 yards to the Crimson Tide. That and the fact that South Carolina ran and passed roughshod on them a week ago. Also, if you’re digging a little, Mizzou’s red zone defense is even worse, ranked No. 114 in the FBS by allowing opponents to score 94 percent of the time inside the 20.
The Tigers will be without their big-play receiving target Emanuel Hall this week, but one big advantage they will have is a pair of daunting tight ends in Albert Okwuegbunam (27 catches, 194 yards, 2 TDs) and Kendall Blanton (11, 96, 1), who could play a big part in the Mizzou offense this week. Especially after seeing Arkansas tight end Cheyanne O’Grady catch seven passes for 48 yards and two TDs to lead the Hogs in receptions last week. So don’t be surprised if the Black & Gold goes to their two NFL-ready tight ends to help move the ball against the Tide.
But in the end, this is still the same Alabama team with a rock-ribbed defense and, for once, an offense that can take any defense out to the woodshed any week. The Tide could get their first real challenge in the first half this Saturday, but they’ll still put this thing away before the fourth quarter.
Prediction: Alabama 56, Missouri 24
— Written by Eric Sorenson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He is a college football, college baseball and college hockey addict... and writer. Follow him on Twitter @Stitch_Head.