No. 2 Alabama begins another title quest at Missouri
Nick Saban was hired at Alabama in 2007, and the Crimson Tide hasn’t gone three years in a row without a title since his arrival as head coach.
The No. 2 Crimson Tide are chasing a sixth title under Saban this season and open their 10-game all-SEC regular-season slate on the road Saturday night against Missouri in Columbia, Mo.
Alabama hasn’t lost a season opener since 2001 and is 13-0 in “week 1” games under Saban.
Unranked Missouri, a four-touchdown underdog, is entering the game short-handed, but not as much as originally feared.
It had been reported previously that 12 Missouri players would not play after either testing positive for COVID-19 or being contact traced to a player who did.
On Tuesday, first-year coach Eliah Drinkwitz said that inconclusive tests that came back negative would allow five of those players to compete. The identities of the players involved were not disclosed.
Missouri defensive lineman Chris Daniels and wide receiver Maurice Massey each opted out recently.
According to ESPN, the Tigers still have 69 scholarship players available, which is above the minimum threshold of 53 listed in the SEC’s guidelines for postponements and cancellations.
“We just adjust our roster and this is who’s available,” Drinkwitz said. “We’ve adjusted the way we practice.”
Alabama ranked second in the nation in scoring (47.2 points per game) and third in passing yards per game (342.2) in 2019.
Saban’s choice for his starting quarterback, redshirt junior Mac Jones, started four games last year when Tua Tagovailoa was injured and threw for 1,503 yards, 14 touchdowns and three interceptions with a 68.8 completion percentage and a 186.8 passer rating.
“We’ve just got to keep working as a team and focus on this upcoming game because you’ve got to go in there and execute and do your job, and that’s for everybody, not just the starting quarterback,” Jones said.
Missouri lost a potential starting quarterback recently when redshirt junior Taylor Powell decided to transfer.
Drinkwitz said he won’t name a starter ahead of Saturday’s game, but redshirt junior Shawn Robinson and redshirt freshman Connor Bazelak are believed to be the frontrunners. Robinson, a transfer from TCU, started seven games in 2018 and passed for 1,334 yards, nine touchdowns and eight interceptions. Bazelak completed 15 of 21 passes for 144 yards in three games last year.
“The person who’s going to play us first has no idea if they’re going to scout Washington tape, UAB tape, TCU tape, App State tape, N.C. State tape,” Drinkwitz said. “They don’t know which quarterback to prepare for. Whether they’re going to watch high school tape for a kid, watch the Arkansas game from last year, the Georgia game from last year or a TCU game from two years ago. So, poor GAs and QCs.”
Missouri ranked No. 14 in total defense last year and still sports a formidable secondary led by senior safeties Tyree Gillespie and Joshuah Bledsoe.
Alabama’s top offensive playmakers include receivers Devonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle, and its defense is led by cornerback Patrick Surtain II and linebacker Dylan Moses — all of whom are projected 2021 first-rounders. Moses hopes to bounce back after missing the 2019 season with a torn ACL.
“One of the reasons it was so important to us is for the players to be able to play and come back and create value for themselves,” Saban said. “For Dylan, even more important to be able to gain confidence and show people he’s healthy and the same kind of player or better than before.”
–Field Level Media