Alabama has tamed two tigers this season, but it needs to defeat one more for its 24th conference title. The 79th Iron Bowl was intense, but Saturday’s Southeastern Conference title game will be a brutal test between Alabama and Missouri.
Missouri Tigers: 10-2, (7-1)
Head coach Gary Pinkel and the Missouri Tigers are SEC East division champions for a second straight season. Missouri defeated Arkansas 21-14 last week. Maty Mauk tossed for 265 yards, one touchdown and an interception. Russell Hansbrough led Missouri’s run game with 91 yards on 20 carries. Bud Sasser and Jimmie Hunt both shredded Arkansas’s secondary. Sasser caught nine passes for 127 yards. Hunt recorded five receptions for 61 yards and a touchdown.
Sophomore quarterback Maty Mauk has had a roller coaster season. He suffered a midseason slump, after a strong start. Mauk regained his composure down the stretch and has been huge for Missouri in the last couple of games. He’s completed 53.5 percent of his passes for 2,279 yards, 23 total touchdowns (one rushing) and 11 interceptions.
Russell Hansbrough anchors Missouri’s run game. He’s registered 949 yards rushing and nine touchdowns. Marcus Murphy is a change of pace back. He’s tougher than he looks, but Murphy loves to bounce plays to the outside. Murphy has 747 rushing yards and four touchdowns. Mauk is lethal as a runner if defenses don’t watch him. He’s totaled 336 yards rushing.
Bud Sasser is Missouri’s primary receiver. He has 65 catches for 904 yards and nine touchdowns. Sasser’s averaged 75.3 yards receiving per game. Jimmie Hunt has emerged as Mauk’s dependable second option. Hunt has 34 receptions for 529 yards and seven touchdowns. Darius White has appeared in nine games, but his impact has been crucial. White has 26 catches for 318 yards and four touchdowns.
Junior linebacker Kentrell Brothers leads Missouri defensively. He’s collected 103 tackles, one sack, four pass breakups, four passes defended and three forced fumbles. Defensive linemen Shane Ray and Markus Golden both are sack specialist. Ray leads the team in sacks (13.5). He also has 59 tackles (20.5 tackles for loss), two forced fumbles and a blocked kick. Golden has 8.5 sacks, 62 tackles (16.0 tackles for loss), three fumble recoveries and two forced fumbles. Senior defensive back Braylon Webb leads the secondary with 62 tackles and four interceptions.
Alabama Crimson Tide: 11-1, (7-1)
Auburn’s quarterback Nick Marshall dominated Blake Sims for much of the game, but Sims showed resiliency in the second half and delivered Alabama to a 55-44 comeback victory. Alabama outscored Auburn 34-18 in the second half. The Crimson Tide held Auburn to 174 yards rushing. Amari Cooper displayed a Heisman-like performance. He totaled 13 catches for 224 yards and three touchdowns.
Senior quarterback Blake Sims has come through for Alabama in critical moments this season. He hasn’t been as consistent as he should be, but he finds a way to get victories for the Crimson Tide. Sims has completed 63.1 percent of his passes for 2,988 yards, 30 total touchdowns (24 passing, 6 rushing) and seven interceptions.
Junior running back T.J. Yeldon had a solid performance against Auburn. He rushed for 127 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries. He’s battled injuries all season, but Yeldon’s managed to total 885 rushing yards and 8 touchdowns. Yeldon is 115 yards away from a third 1,000-yard season. Sophomore Derrick Henry wore down Auburn’s defense in the second half. He averaged 14.4 yards per carry, totaling 72 yards and a touchdown. Henry has 754 rushing yards and eight scores this season. Sims has accounted for 302 rushing yards.
Junior receiver Amari Cooper can stamp his ticket to New York with a solid performance against Missouri. He’s averaged 131.1 receiving yards per game. Cooper’s totaled 103 catches for 1,573 yards and 14 touchdowns this season. DeAndrew White is second on the team with 33 receptions for 338 yards and three touchdowns. Tight end O.J. Howard is third on the team in yards with 226. Senior Christion Jones is third on the team in receptions (16) for 224 yards.
Linebacker Reggie Ragland anchors Alabama defensively. He has 86 tackles (8.5 tackles for loss), 1.5 sack, three fumble recoveries, three pass breakups, one interception and a forced fumble. Senior linebacker Trey DePriest has 78 stops, two pass breakups, a forced fumble and a safety. Jarran Reed leads all defensive linemen in tackles (48). He also has a sack and five pass breakups. Xzavier Dickson has 8.0 sacks (leads team), 35 tackles and two pass breakups. Defensive back Landon Collins leads Alabama’s secondary with 84 tackles, six pass breakups and three interceptions. Nick Perry and Cyrus Jones both have two interceptions apiece.
Alabama faced Missouri in 2012. The Crimson Tide defeated the Tigers 42-10 on a muggy Faurot Field. AJ McCarron threw for 171 yards, but Alabama’s backs stole the show. Eddie Lacy rushed for 177 yards and three touchdowns on 18 carries. T.J. Yeldon totaled 144 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries.
Nick Saban and Gary Pinkel
Gary Pinkel and Alabama’s head coach Nick Saban formed a friendship as teammates at Kent State University in the 1970s. Both men played under head coach Don James. James mentored both men and gave them their first coaching experience as graduate assistants with the Golden Flashers. Pinkel became Toldeo’s head coach in 1991, after Saban left to become a defensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns. Both coaches have guided their programs to conference title games. Saban stands at 4-1 (2-0 LSU, 2-1 Alabama), while Pinkel has yet to bring home any hardware (0-3). Saban and Pinkel will battle for SEC supremacy Saturday in Atlanta.
|Alabama vs. Missouri 2014 stats|
|Missouri’s offense||Alabama’s defense||Missouri’s defense||Alabama’s offense|
|28.6 points||16.9 points||19.7 points||36.7 points|
|176.0 rush yards||92.2 rush yards||127.0 rush yards||206.8 rush yards|
|15 rushing TDs||3 rushing TDs||13 rushing TDs||28 rushing TDs|
|189.9 pass yards||219.8 pass yards||204.1 pass yards||282.6 pass yards|
|22 passing TDs||16 passing TDs||15 passing TDs||28 passing TDs|
|365.9 total yards||312.0 total yards||331.1 total yards||489.3 total yards|
|44% 3rd down||36% 3rd down||35% 3rd down||53% 3rd down|