SEC Championship Preview

Mauk Pic

By Ron Davis, 23 Sports-

Friday, Dec. 5
For the second time in three years, both Alabama and Missouri will play in the SEC Championship; however this will be the first time these schools face off in the event. Alabama held off Georgia 32-28 in a classic finish in 2012 and went on to defeat Notre Dame in the National Championship. Missouri went neck and neck with Auburn in last year’s game but ultimately fell apart in the 4th quarter and lost 59-42.

Alabama comes to Atlanta ranked No.1 in the country with an 11-1 record, their only blemish coming from 23-17 loss at the hands of Ole Miss in early October. Mizzou stands at 10-2, ranked No. 16 and coming in on a six game winning streak, improving drastically since being shocked by Indiana 31-27 and blanked by Georgia 34-0.

Quarterback play will likely determine the winner of this game. Both Maty Mauk and Blake Sims have big play potential from both their arms and legs. Sims has thrown for 24 touchdowns to 7 interceptions, completing 67% of his throws, while Mauk has 22 touchdowns to 11 interceptions and only a 53% completion percentage.

Sims has been consistent all year long, but struggled in the first half of last week’s contest against Auburn by throwing three interceptions. Mauk, on the other hand, was very inconsistent to begin SEC play but he has always played his best in the 4th quarter this season with 8 touchdowns to zero interceptions.

Both of these teams play tough, physical defense. The Tide did give up 44 points to Auburn last week, but before that the most points they’ve given up was 23 in the season opener to West Virginia. The Tigers’ defense has only two bad games on the year, losing both of those games against Indiana and Georgia.

Bama has one of the best safeties in the country in Landen Collins who has registered three interceptions and six pass deflections, the most in the Tide’s secondary. Mizzou’s defense boasts an exceptional d-line, led by ends Shane Ray and Markus Golden. The duo has combined for 22 sacks and creates many opportunities for other teammates to make plays.

Alabama may have the best arsenal of playmakers in the country in running backs TJ Yeldon and Derrick Henry, and Heisman hopeful Amari Cooper. Cooper has been electric this year and is considered a top-five pick in the upcoming NFL Draft. Missouri has a pair of explosive running backs in Russell Hansborugh and a Paul Hornung Award finalist, Marcus Murphy. Mauk will be looking for his most reliable receiver Bud Sasser, who ranks 3rd in the SEC with 904 yards.

Bama and Mizzou have four mutual opponents (Florida, Texas A&M, Tennessee, and Arkansas) and both went 4-0 against the group. Bama outscored them 149-54 and Mizzou 126-75.

In the end this game will come down to either Blake Sims or Maty Mauk, one of which will have to make a play or two more than the other to win the game. The winner of the SEC Championship has gone onto play in the National Championship the last eight years. An Alabama victory all but ensures them a birth in the inaugural College Football Playoff, while a lot needs to go right for No. 16 Missouri to find a way into the top four.