Nick Saban believes Alabama faces a unique challenge with a
visit to SEC-newcomer Missouri on Saturday.
The test seems far greater for the Tigers, however, as they face
the nation’s No. 1 defense without their starting quarterback.
In their first trip to Faurot Field in 34 years, the top-ranked
Crimson Tide try to frustrate redshirt freshman Corbin Berkstresser
and prevent Missouri from picking up its first SEC victory.
The Tigers (3-3, 0-3) squandered a golden opportunity to notch
their first SEC win last Saturday by falling 19-15 at home to
perennial conference doormat Vanderbilt.
“This year, there’s so much hype being in the SEC, and you’ve
got all the outside voices telling you that you (stink) and you’re
not worthy,” Missouri offensive tackle Elvis Fisher said. “We know
what we do here. We work our butts off. And then it’s devastating
to go out there and not put on your best performance.”
Winning this week seems far less likely considering the Tigers
are 0-12 all-time against top-ranked teams. This includes a 38-20
home loss to Alabama in 1978 – the last meeting between these
Despite Missouri’s struggles against No. 1 teams, the unknown of
what to expect at Faurot Field concerns Saban.
“We are playing in a place where no one in our team meeting has
ever been before, including me,” he said. “Our team needs to be
ready to play their best against what I would say is a very good
Although Saban remains cautious, Alabama (5-0, 2-0) should have
a major advantage when Missouri has the ball.
Berkstresser was pressed into the starter’s role after James
Franklin sprained his left knee in the first quarter of the
Vanderbilt game. Berkstresser did little to impress, completing
just 9 of 30 passes for 189 yards, with 85 of those coming on a
scoring toss to Bud Sasser on an overthrown pass meant for a
“He’ll learn from it and get better,” said coach Gary Pinkel, a
teammate of Saban’s at Kent State. “When you throw a redshirt
freshman out there, it’s tough.”
Berkstresser could have an even tougher time against an Alabama
team that ranks first in the FBS in both scoring defense (7.0
points per game) and total defense (191.6 yards), and is tied for
the SEC lead with nine interceptions.
The Tigers will also be without starting center Mitch Morse,
who, like Franklin, injured a medial collateral ligament in his
knee. Missouri’s already battered offensive line relies on three
sophomores, three redshirt freshmen and a true freshman in its
The line will have its hands full trying to stop a defense led
by linebackers C.J. Mosley and Adrian Hubbard and end Damion
Square. In their 33-14 win over Mississippi on Sept. 29, the
Crimson Tide finished with a season-high five sacks, bringing their
total up to 16.
Alabama, which is coming off a bye week, lost backup running
back Dee Hart and wide receiver DeAndrew White to season-ending
injuries against the Rebels, but seems to have enough other weapons
Junior Eddie Lacy has a team-high 314 rushing yards, while
freshman T.J. Yeldon has run for 292 yards.
Amari Cooper, meanwhile, is AJ McCarron’s top target, catching
17 passes for 222 yards and three touchdowns.
McCarron has thrown for 999 yards with 12 touchdowns and zero
interceptions, one of four FBS quarterbacks to have attempted 100
passes without an INT.
“As an offense, if we get the ball first we just have to come
out and strike hard,” said Kevin Norwood, who is second on the team
with 179 receiving yards. “We need to keep striking until they
quit. As an offense we have to move the ball.”