Alabama-Missouri Preview

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

programs.

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

football team.”

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

teammate.

“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

rotation.

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

on offense.

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.”