Alabama Coach Nick Saban seemed to downplay the situation in remarks this week, saying that he expected his defense to become more focused on its task as it comes up against the no-huddle offense more frequently.
The Crimson Tide, 5-0 overall and 2-0 in SEC games, will face off against Missouri, 3-3 and 0-3 in conference play, at 2:30 p.m. CDT Saturday at Faurot Field with television coverage by CBS. Bama is ranked first in the nation.
Alabama is coming off an open date. Bama’s last game was against a no-huddle offense with the Tide defeating Mississippi 33-14. Missouri is coming off a home loss to Vanderbilt.
Alabama has been very efficient in scoring points and in scoring defense and has taken care of the football as its recipe for success. Bama is one of three remaining teams in the nation that has not suffered a pass interception. (Air Force and Louisiana Tech are the others.) It has been eight games since a Tide quarterback threw an interception, which is the longest streak in the nation.
Bama is also one of three teams in the nation that has been perfect in the Red Zone in scoring (along with Oklahoma State and Buffalo). The Tide has made 22 trips into the Red Zone (inside the opponents’ 20) and scored 16 touchdowns and six field goals. The touchdowns have been balanced, eight rushing and eight passing.
Alabama is also one of the top three teams in the nation in Red Zone defense, holding opponents to 57.1 per cent scoring when inside the Tide 20. The Tide led the nation in Red Zone defense last year at 59 per cent. In five games, Bama has allowed the opponent only seven opportunities inside the 20, giving up four scores.
The Tide leads the SEC in both Red Zone offense and Red Zone defense. Missouri is 10th in Red Zone offense (scoring on 15 of 20 opportunities, 9 touchdowns and 6 field goals) and eighth in Red Zone defense, surrendering scores on 16 (14 touchdowns, 2 field goals) of 21 defensive stands.
Alabama is third in the SEC in scoring offense at 40.2 points per game and first in the league in scoring defense, allowing just 7.0 points per game. Mizzou is 10th in scoring offense, 25.3 points per game, and eighth in scoring defense, 22.8 points per outing.
On the ground, Bama is sixth in rushing offense (188.2 yards per game) and first in rushing defense (65.8), while the Tigers are 11th rushing (139.5) and fifth in defense against the run (107.5).
Missouri has a slight advantage over the Tide in passing offense, picking up 216.7 yards per game and ranking eighth in the SEC compared to the Tide, 10th in the league at 212.8 yards per game. In pass defense, Alabama is second in the league giving up 125.8 yards, and Mizzou is ninth at 219.2. In pass efficiency, the Tide is second and Missouri 12th and in pass defense efficiency Alabama is first and Mizzou 10th.
Two SEC teams are averaging over 500 yards per game (Texas A&M at 516.8 and Tennessee at 506.6) and Alabama is down the line, eighth in the league totaling 401 yards per game. Missouri is 12th at 356.2. The Tide is first in total defense, allowing just 191.6 yards per game. The Tigers are sixth, giving up 326.7.
(For those wondering how Auburn’s new offensive and defensive coordinators are working out, AU is last both in scoring offense and total offense and ninth in scoring defense and 12th in total defense.)
Kick returns are interesting to ponder for Saturday. Alabama doesn’t give up many scores, hence not many kickoff return opportunities (only six in five games this year), but the Tide has averaged a league best 31.5 yards per return, helped along by Christion Jones 99-yard touchdown runback against Ole Miss. Also the Tide doesn’t punt much, a league low 15 times for a 42.3 yard average and has allowed only 1.9 yards per return. Missouri has returned 15 punts for a 21.9 yard average and has three touchdowns on punt returns. The Tigers’ Marcus Murphy has 14 of the 15 returns and a league-best 20.1 average (and all three of the TDs).
Both teams are good in an area most coaches consider critical to success -- turnover margin. Alabama leads the conference with a plus 12 and average of plus 2.4 per game. Bama has six fumble recoveries and nine interceptions for 15 takeaways and has lost three fumbles. The Tigers are fourth in the category at plus 7 and 1.17 per game. Missouri has nine fumble recoveries and five interceptions for 14 takeaways and has lost four fumbles and had three passes intercepted.
Alabama under Coach Nick Saban has historically played very disciplined football, meaning few penalties, and that has been the case this year. The Tide leads the league with only 20 penalties and an average of only 33.6 yards per game in step-offs. Missouri is 11th with 39 penalties and an average of 52 yards per game.
On third downs, Bama is third in the league in conversions (31 successes in 63 opportunities for 49.2 per cent) and second in the conference in defense on third downs, allowing 20 successes in 68 chances for 29.4 per cent for opponents. Missouri is 12th in third down conversions at 27-92 for 29.3 per cent and seventh on defense, giving up 30 of 90 for 33.3 per cent.
For what it’s worth – in some games not much, in some games a great deal – the Tide is second in the league in time of possession, 31:43 per game, and Missouri is ninth, 28:20.
Tide placekicker Jeremy Shelley has been perfect, 24-24 on extra points and 7-7 on field goals, and leads the SEC in kick scoring at 9.0 points per game.
Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner leads the league in passes defended with nine break-ups and two interceptions. Missouri’s Andrew Wilson is best in the conference in forced fumbles with four and the Tigers’ Kp Edwards is best in the SEC in fumbles recovered with three.