(1) Alabama Crimson Tide (-14.5, 48 o/u) vs. (16) Missouri Tigers
Even though none of its SEC brethren are contending atop the rankings, No. 1-ranked Alabama (11-1, 7-1 SEC) looks like a lock to be part of the inaugural College Football Playoff.
This Saturday, Alabama faces No. 16 Missouri (10-2, 7-1 SEC) in the SEC championship game (4:00 p.m. Eastern).
This isn’t new territory for the Crimson Tide, who have been to the SEC title game in four of the last seven years; however, this year, Nick Saban brings a team that is less one-dimensional than in the past.
In addition to its stout defense and tough rushing game, Alabama boasts a high-flying passing game thanks to first-year offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin and dynamic, NFL-ready receiver Amari Cooper. With Cooper catching everything in site out wide, senior QB Blake Sims has amassed nearly 3,000 yards. The majority of those – literally – have been to Cooper, who has 1,573 yards on the season along with 14 TDs.
The full might of the Bama offense was on display in last weekend’s Iron Bowl, in which the Tide came from nine down to win 55-44 and cover as 9.5-point favorites.
Bama safety Nick Perry said, “I think it’s scary for them. Usually Bama beats you with defense and running the ball. Now, we can play a whole different type of game. We can put up points or we can shut them down with defense. I think that’s scary for other teams.”
Missouri coach Gary Pinkel knows this weekend’s game will his team’s toughest of the season. He said, “When you’re that potent offensively, when you can play defense at that high, consistent level, that’s certainly problematic for anybody that’s going to play against them.”
Still, the Tigers have showed resilience this season. Last weekend, Missouri was down 14-3 to Arkansas before coming back to win 21-14 and punching their ticket to Saturday’s title game.
“I just think it got contagious,” Pinkel said. “You win games like that, a lot of players are making plays. One of the great traits they have is that when things get tough, they get tougher. I can’t tell you how proud I am of these guys.”
While a Mizzou upset is unlikely, the Tigers will prove to be a better opponent than most are anticipating, which is why taking Missouri and the points (+14.5) is the smart pick.
(Photo credit: Matthew Tosh (Flickr: DSCF2431) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo may appear cropped.)
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