Missouri at Alabama

The Sports Xchange

October 10, 2018 at 5:34 pm.

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Saturday, 7:05 p.m. ET
SITE: Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa, Ala.
TV: ESPN
SERIES: Alabama leads 3-2. Alabama won the last meeting 42-13 in 2014.
RANKINGS: Alabama No. 1

PLAYERS TO WATCH
Tigers

–QB Drew Lock struggled against South Carolina, completing 17-of-36 pass attempts for 207 with two interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown. Lock has looked shaky in SEC play this season and will face an elite pass-coverage defense in Alabama, which leads the conference in interceptions (10) and pass breakups (36).

–RB Damarea Crockett rushed 20 times for 154 yards — both season highs — in the loss to South Carolina, scoring one of Missouri’s three rushing touchdowns. Missouri’s backfield looks as complete as it has been in years, and the Tigers will likely lean on Crockett, as well as fellow running backs Larry Rountree III and Tyler Badie, to move the ball consistently against Alabama’s defense.

–LB Terez Hall led Missouri’s defense against South Carolina with 11 total tackles, including a career-high three for losses, adding a sack and a pass breakup in what was arguably the most complete game of his career. Hall will need to follow that performance up with an even bigger outing if the Tigers hope to contain Alabama’s lethal and explosive offense.

–K Tucker McCann kicked a career-long 57-yard field goal to give Missouri a 35-34 lead against South Carolina with 1:18 remaining in the game. McCann missed a 25-yard attempt earlier in the game during a torrential downpour of rain but bounced back to hit a 44-yard attempt before nailing his career-long. The 57-yarder was the second longest field goal in school history and the longest in 33 years.

Crimson Tide

–QB Tua Tagovailoa has directed 44 drives this season, 31 of which have ended in touchdowns and two more in field goals. In those 44 drives, the Tide has converted 21 of 31 third-down chances. Tagovailoa is just as good, if not better, in the three SEC games, completing 43 of 58 passes for 912 yards and 10 touchdowns for an efficiency rating of 263.12. He has yet to play in the fourth quarter this season.

–RB Damien Harris, a senior, led the way with 111 rushing yards on 15 carries last week against Arkansas. On Alabama’s first drive of the second half, Harris accounted for all 44 yards, including runs of 18 and 19 yards. He punched the ball into the end zone on fourth-and-goal from the 1 after a replay review. “Being that close to the end zone, your mindset it to get in at all costs,” he said.

–TE Irv Smith Jr. helped set the tone last week when the junior turned a short pass into a 76-yard touchdown on Alabama’s first possession vs. Arkansas. He’s another weapon among a loaded receiving corps that includes Henry Ruggs III, Jerry Jeudy and DeVonta Smith.

–LB Dylan Moses, along with Mack Wilson, holds down the inside linebacker spots in Alabama’s defense. Moses has 34 tackles this season, including 5.5 for loss and 2.5 sacks.

KEYS
TO THE GAME

Quarterbacks look to take the spotlight when No. 1 Alabama hosts Missouri on Saturday.

Kickoff on ESPN is 7:05 p.m. ET at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa.

Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa has been insanely good thus far in becoming the leading Heisman candidate. He leads the nation in passer rating by a wide margin. The Crimson Tide (6-0, 3-0 Southeastern Conference) actually averages better than a point scored for every snap he has taken.

For the Tigers (3-2, 0-2 SEC), Drew Lock, a 2017 all-SEC selection last season, has 10,182 passing yards and 82 touchdowns for his career, sixth on the league’s all-time list. He needs six to tie Florida’s Tim Tebow (2006-09) and Chris Leak (2003-06) at 88 for fourth.

He definitely has the Crimson Tide’s attention.

“He’s the real deal,” Alabama nose tackle Quinnen Williams said.” He’s good.

“He can pinpoint. He can get it out there quick, fast. He knows where his looks are at. He’s a veteran on that offense. He really runs that offense.”

Through five games, Lock is second in the league in passing, averaging 297.4 yards per game, with 11 touchdowns and four interceptions.

His passer efficiency rating doesn’t rank in the top 10, but part of that has to do with injuries that have hit his receiving corps. All four of his top threats, including Nate Brown (groin), Emanuel Hall (groin) and Richaud Floyd (leg fracture), have all had setbacks.

Hall, who has 18 catches for 430 yards and three touchdowns, isn’t expected to play against Alabama, but Brown and Floyd could return to face a Bama secondary that will be without junior cornerback Trevin Diggs, out with a foot injury. He has an interception and six pass breakups.

“They have a prolific offense,” Bama junior safety Deionte Thompson said. “Drew Lock is hands down one of the best quarterbacks in the nation, if not the best. The way that he can get the ball out of his hands is very fast. The way they move, they average a play every six seconds after the ball is snapped. They average the most plays in college football. It’s going to be a fast-paced game.”

The Tide has been able to score faster than any team in the nation, with 15 touchdown drives in under a minute and seven in under 30 seconds. Missouri is 13th in the conference in pass defense, having yielded 284.8 yards per game, and nationally 105th in pass-efficiency defense.

“They’re the best team in college football,” Missouri coach Barry Odom said of Alabama. “You watch and you study, you evaluate and you game plan. They don’t have weaknesses. They play extremely hard, they play extremely well, and they’re coached to that level. Also, they have really good players.”

The more interesting matchup may be on the ground.

Mizzou rushed for a season-high 286 yards and had three rushing touchdowns last week at South Carolina and the previous week rushed for four against Georgia.

In its last two games, Alabama’s defense allowed 200 rushing yards to Louisiana and 172 at Arkansas. The Crimson Tide believes it is close to posting better run-stopping numbers and has allowed only three rushing touchdowns.

“I think right now, Georgia has the No. 1 defense in the SEC run stop-wise,” Williams said. “So, we’ve got to really get ourselves together.”

Led by senior running back Damien Harris, Alabama ran for 246 yards and four touchdowns at Arkansas last week. Going into the game, the Razorbacks were similar statistically to Missouri against the run (105.8 yards allowed vs. 102.2).

The Crimson Tide also has depth at the position with Josh Jacobs and Najee Harris regularly rotating in.

“Their runners they run like it’s fourth-and-1 and the national championship is on the line every time they carry the ball,” Odom said.

Alabama has scored at least 45 points against every opponent and has twice topped 60. The closest score was 45-23 against No. 22 Texas A&M.