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Missouri’s chances at Alabama? Unfortunately, less than you think

One does not simply beat top-ranked Alabama at home.

Arkansas State v Alabama Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Missouri’s match-up against No. 1 Alabama on Saturday is, obviously, an uphill battle.

The Crimson Tide are staggeringly dominant this year. They rank fifth nationally in total offense (567.5 yards per game); they’ve ranked in the top-20 once in total offense under Nick Saban — and that was 18th overall in 2014. They rank fourth in plays over 10 yards, fourth in plays over 20 yards and third in plays over 30 yards, but those don’t do their offense justice.

They’ve run 395 plays this year. Thirty-percent have gone for at least 10 yards; 11.6-percent have gone for at least 20 and 6.3 percent have gone for 30. And, keep in mind, all of that is without their Heisman-favorite quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa, playing a snap in the fourth quarter of a football game.

There’s no realistic way to break this game down that provides hope for an upset. But even if we throw out how dominant Alabama has been this year, there has to be precedent for upsetting a top-ranked Alabama team at home, right?

No, not really.

Under Nick Saban, Alabama has been ranked No. 1 ahead of a home game against a Power-5 opponent 21 times.

In those games, Alabama is 20-1.

Average score? Alabama 36, Opponent 10.

(That’s actually rounding up for the Opponents, too. They’ve actually averaged 9.86 points per game.)

The one win isn’t really a key example for Missouri, either. That came by why of soon-to-be Heisman-winner Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M in 2012, a 29-24 defeat. While Drew Lock is a talented quarterback, his skill-set doesn’t match-up to what Manziel did in that game (253 passing yards, 92 rushing yards, 2 TDs, no turnovers).

What about the close calls for Alabama in this situation under Nick Saban?

Well, not many of those, either. Beyond the loss to Texas A&M, only one other game was decided by one possession. That was a 12-10 win over Tennessee in 2009, and that took two Terrance Cody blocks to perserve a win.

OK, OK, so one-possession losses at home to a No. 1 Alabama are rare. What about TWO possession losses?

Great question! There have been TWO of those games. Alabama beat Auburn 55-44 in 2014; the Crimson Tide beat LSU 24-10 in 2017. That’s it.

However, if you’re looking for what you hope is a spiritual precursor to Missouri’s performance on Saturday, that Auburn-Alabama game from 2014 might just be it. Because that game was absolutely bonkers:

  • Auburn put up 630 yards of total offense, with 456 yards coming through the air by Nick Marshall.
  • Prior to that game, Alabama’s defense was among the nation’s best, and only one other team gained 400 yards against them — that was top-ranked Mississippi State two weeks prior.
  • Blake Sims is no Tua Tagovailoa, but he is still the most productive quarterback under Saban (again, until Tagovailoa passes him this year). That season, he threw for 3,487 yards, 28 touchdowns and ten interceptions. However, THREE of those interceptions came against Auburn. So, an otherwise stingy quarterback with the ball certainly can have a mistake-filled day.
  • Auburn had big play after big play, including touchdowns of 32 and 68 yards.
  • Auburn ran NINETY plays in the loss. Alabama had 61.

So, if Missouri is going to keep it close on Saturday, Drew Lock and the offense will have to execute a nearly flawless game with a prodigious statistical output; the defense will have to capitalize on any Tua Tagovailoa miscue (he’s thrown exactly zero interceptions this year), and when the offense isn’t producing chunk plays, it needs to hang onto the ball and run nearly 30 more plays than Alabama.

Is it likely? No.

Has it happened before?

Almost never.

But that’s why this would be an upset in the truest sense of the word. Fans, if you want Missouri to literally stun the college football world, then hope for a high-scoring affair in Bryant-Denny Stadium.