When the Rams left for Los Angeles, I was angry and sad. But I quickly realized that there were benefits to NOT being tied to a NFL team every Sunday. One thing I’ve done since the relocation is pick out a great college football venue to travel to each year, a bucket list item, if you will.
This year, with Mizzou playing at Alabama, my son and I traveled to Bryant-Denny stadium in Tuscaloosa. There is nothing like a great, blue blood college football atmosphere. We went to LSU a couple of years ago, Wisconsin last year and now Alabama, and the feel is just different than it is at a place with much less history. The fans are incredibly invested in the history of their program. They aren’t pompous or insufferable, like many pro sports fans get when their team is good. I can’t say enough nice things about Crimson Tide fans and the game day environment in Tuscaloosa.
From Rama Jama’s restaurant to the Bear Bryant Museum to Dreamland BBQ, it was all fantastic. If you’re a sports fan who has the wherewithal and desire to make that trip, you should do it.
The game itself was great for Alabama fans too. The Tide are without question the best team in the nation. They played a bad game and drilled Mizzou 39-10. They moved the ball at will against the Tigers and, if not for penalties and mistakes, easily could have put up 60 points. What Wyoming is to Missouri this year, the Tigers are to Alabama. With that, five takeaways from Missouri’s loss at Alabama…
1) Alabama could have scored four more touchdowns: The Tide did score four touchdowns, but penalties and missed opportunities prevented them from getting four more. Coach Nick Saban said after the game that “if there was a disappointment it was that we had to kick field goals in the red zone.” A rundown of what Alabama did as opposed to what they could have done: After Tua Tagovailoa hit Jerry Jeudy with an 81 yard bomb on Alabama’s second play of the game, Saivion Smith picked off Drew Lock on Mizzou’s second play and returned the ball to the fourteen yard line. The ‘Bama offense bogged down because of two Tagovailoa misfires and settled for a field goal (first missed TD opportunity, should have been 14-0). On Alabama’s next possession, Tua’s swing pass to Henry Ruggs III went 83 yards for a score with 10:24 left in the first, but was called back because of a holding call (second missed TD opportunity, should have been 21-0). Mizzou forced their only turnover later in that drive. Later in the first quarter the ‘Tide increased a 10-3 advantage…after they got to the M.U. seventeen yard line with a 1st and 10, they settled for another field goal. Tua missed connections on 2nd and 3rd and 3 passes before that three pointer that made it 13-10 (third missed TD opportunity, should have been 28-3). UA scored two touchdowns in the first five minutes of the second quarter (should have been 42-10) Then late in the second quarter, Alabama had it 1st and goal at the 4 and couldn’t punch it in, taking the field goal that made it 30-10 (fourth missed TD opportunity, should have been 49-10). What WAS a 30-10 advantage easily could have, and probably should have been 49-10 Alabama. If not for a lack of sharpness by Tua, Alabama would have blown out Mizzou the way they did Ole Miss or Louisiana.
2) Missouri’s offense tried to hold the score down: The Tigers ran only 61 plays, and 35 of those were rushes. Lock only threw it 26 times. Once the Crimson Tide got ahead by more than a touchdown at 20-10, Missouri ran 43 plays the rest of the game. 21 of those were rushes. I’m sure there was a desire for balance, but the Tigers also kept the clock rolling and limited Alabama’s ability to be on the field. That made sense, because their four TD drives ran :23 seconds, 3:26, :08 and 1:28.
3) If the NFL IS concerned about a quarterback’s performance against better competition, Lock isn’t looking good. The Tiger QB was without his top receiver in Emanuel Hall, but went 13-26 for 142 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. Alabama has a good defense…closer to an NFL defense than most…and Lock looked like the battered Marc Bulger at the end of his Rams career against them. Lock is going to have to elevate the people around him in the NFL. His stretch of poor SEC games has to be alarming for NFL scouts.
4) The Missouri pass defense has some real problems: The Tigers are allowing 300.7 yards per game, good for 124th in college football. Only Illinois among the 65 Power Five schools is ranked worse. Their thirteen touchdowns allowed is 93rd, and only seven Power Fives have allowed more. Once the pride of the program, the defensive line has only eight sacks. What once was known as D Line U under defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski (who wasn’t retained by Barry Odom), now leads only Oregon State among Power Five teams in terms of getting to the quarterback. Kuligowski’s Alabama line, by the way, is fifth in the country with 23 sacks, right where his Mizzou lines regularly were under Gary Pinkel.
5) Missouri is falling behind in the SEC East: I certainly didn’t know what Mizzou was after their late season run against lame duck coaches last year. As has been well chronicled, wins over Florida, Tennessee and Arkansas were good wins, and earned Odom an extension. But, they turned out to be against teams in turmoil that have new coaches in 2018. And on Saturday, Florida improved to 6-1 with a chance to win the East if they beat Georgia. Tennessee went to Auburn and won 30-24 on Saturday. And Arkansas features one of the top offensive minds in the country in Chad Morris. So while Mizzou continues to languish under Odom, it seems the rest of the league…especially their division…is improving.
Saturday was a case of men against boys. Mizzou was a 28 point underdog, and lost by 29. To me it’s not that they lost, or lost by 29. Their approach, their ability and what SHOULD have happened are the big concerns coming out of the Alabama game. And next week’s home game against Memphis won’t be easy.