SEC Championship Game: Alabama vs Missouri Pick Against the Spread


Can you believe the regular season is over? It seems like only yesterday we made our first SEC Football picks against the spread. Yet, we’ve made it to the finish line, and instead of a full slate of games featuring Southeastern Conference opponents, there is only one matchup to discuss this week: the SEC Championship Game between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Missouri Tigers.

Last Week ATS: 4-5

This Season ATS: 54-40-3 (57.4%)

Our 4-5 rivalry week slate gave us a final regular season record of 54-40-3 (57.4%), which guarantees a mark of higher than 50% for the season following Saturday’s title game and 12 bowl games featuring league teams. Of course, there is still some work to do to maintain a profitable rate of higher than 55%.

Now, on to dollars and cents.

SEC Championship Game: #1 Alabama Crimson Tide (-14.5) vs #16 Missouri Tigers

Saturday December 6, 2014, 3PM Central, CBS

Much like they were in 2013, Missouri has been the little team that could this season. The Tigers have used an impressive defense to overcome a couple of embarrassing home losses – 31-27 to a 4-8 Indiana squad that won just one Big Ten game, and a 34-0 defeat to SEC East runners up Georgia – to make it to Atlanta for the second year in a row. They’ve won three straight games as underdogs, two of which came on the road and with knowledge that if they lost, they would also lose their shot at the title.

“I just think it got contagious,” Mizzou head coach Gary Pinkel said this week. “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.”

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  • Pinkel should be proud. His team has found ways to win despite having one of the worst offenses in the league. Quarterback Maty Mauk, a gunslinger type with high expectations coming into the season, has completed less than 50% of his passes in conference play. In eight league games, he has seen interceptions – four of which came against Georgia – and he’s been sacked 15 times.

    However, Mauk’s play has improved greatly in recent weeks. In the upset victories over Texas A&M, Tennessee and Arkansas, he’s completed 60 of 107 passes (56.1%) for 747 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions. Mauk has also benefitted from an improved rushing attack: Russel Hansbrough has 358 rushing yards across the last three games and is now just 51 yards shy of 1,000 for the season.

    Increased offensive performance is great, but it’s the defense that’s been outstanding for the Tigers.

    Missouri leads the SEC with 40 sacks this season, and only ten of those have come when the defense blitzes. That means the Tigers have been able to get pressure on quarterbacks with just four pass rushers, allowing the secondary to blanket receivers. This season, Missouri has allowed 19.7 points per game, which ranks 13th nationally.

    Of course, they’ll be facing an Alabama squad that is loaded on both sides of the football, and has more to play for than just an SEC Championship.

    “I think we have an outstanding league and we have a lot of good teams and the fact that we play each other and end up beating each other probably hurts a little bit,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban said Sunday. “I think some of the teams in our division are really, really good teams and I’m sure there are some other really good teams out there that I have not seen.

    Nov 29, 2014; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide wide receiver Amari Cooper (9) catches a first quarter touchdown past Auburn Tigers defensive back Jonathan Jones (3) at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

    “Without looking at everyone, I would think that somebody in our league qualifies to be one of the better four teams in the country based on the quality of the league and the good teams that we all have to play.”

    Saban is obviously making a case for his team to be one of the four selected for the inaugural College Football Playoff. At 11-1 and ranked No. 1 by the committee, it would appear that all the Tide needs to do is win and they’re in.

    Winning is likely. Alabama comes in a heavy favorite, and for good reason.

    Amari Cooper is possibly the best player in the nation, and he’s set every major Alabama receiving record for a career and single-season, and still has one season of eligibility remaining (but don’t expect him to use it). Quarterback Blake Sims has done a great job finding Cooper and needs just 12 passing yards to reach 3,000 this year (not bad for a guy that wasn’t supposed to even win the starting job). Plus, the offensive line has allowed only 11 sacks this year and has paved the way for two of the league’s most talented running backs – T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry.

    Cooper may be the best overall player, but Landon Collins might be the best defensive player in the nation. The safety is an All-American and is likely to take home plenty of hardware on the award circuit following this game. But he’s not alone, and the defense is loaded with four and five star prospects and future NFL stars.

    Missouri has stung me four weeks in a row, and six times all season. I haven’t believed in them all year, but they’ve proved me (and a lot of other people) wrong time and time again. However, when picking games, it’s usually best to side with the most talented team. In this case, it’s not even close.

    The Tigers have had a good ride, and they’ll give a great effort in Atlanta, but the Tide will win and cover.

    Alabama 34, Missouri 17

    Next: Why Auburn Makes Sense for Muschamp

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