The Alabama Crimson Tide rolled to an easy 42-13 win over the Missouri Tigers to win the ‘Super Bowl of Southern Football,’ the SEC Championship Game. With the victory, Alabama (12-1) advances to the first College Football Playoff where they will meet the Big Ten champion Ohio State Buckeyes in a semifinal game at the Allstate Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day.
Missouri entered as the winner of the much weaker Eastern Division for the second straight season, and like last season, the difference in talent was immediately stark and apparent for all to see. Alabama took the opening kickoff and drove 68 yards in 10 plays capped by a one-yard touchdown run from T.J. Yeldon to sprint out to a 7-0 lead only 3:36 into the game. As is custom under Nick Saban, Alabama jumped on the weaker team right away, not allowing that team to believe they could win.
Under any circumstance it was going to be difficult for Mizzou, but the only real chance they had was if they got off to a good start, contained Alabama’s WR Amari Cooper, and got a stellar game from their own quarterback Maty Mauk—score them 0-for-3.
Cooper, named a Heisman Trophy Finalist on Monday, caught a championship game record 12 passes in Alabama’s ball-control game plan. At no point did it feel as though Missouri could deny him the ball when the play was called for him to have it. As for Mauk, he went just 16-for-34 passing for 272 yards, but most of that was off broken plays or scramble plays. Alabama was always at least one step ahead on this day.
Mizzou only rushed for 41 yards, opting to try and run outside the tackles in a flawed idea that played into the faster defense’s hands all day. But it is difficult to imagine much of anything that would have worked for them. It was a mismatch of talent and skill. To that end, the Crimson Tide rushed for 242 yards, 141 from Derrick Henry on but 20 carries. Henry and Yeldon each rushed for a pair of touchdowns as Alabama averaged 4.9 yards a carry.
The only glimmer for the Tigers came in the third quarter, but after they were already down 21-3. With the opening kickoff of the second half, Missouri drove 75 yards capped by a one-yard TD pass from Mauk to Bud Sasser on 4th-and-goal. The drive was highlighted by one of those broken scramble plays, and a 63-yard pass from Mauk to Jimmie Hunt. To illustrate the trouble the Tigers had running standard offense, the other 12 yards on the drive took nine plays to get. Still it was 21-10 and on Mizzou’s next possession. Mauk found Hunt once more off a scramble for 47 yards leading to a field goal making it 21-13. Then Alabama turned out the lights.
The fourth quarter belonged to the Tide, 21 unanswered points, an emphasis on power football. With the rushing disparity, combined with QB Blake Sims sensational 23-for-27 passing in earning MVP honors, Missouri did not stand a chance.
It marks Alabama’s record 24th SEC football championship and fifth victory in nine trips to the championship game. It is the eighth 12-win season in Crimson Tide history, but the fifth under Coach Nick Saban in only eight seasons. After Alabama won only six in his first season, they are 80-17 in the past seven. Now Alabama advances to the playoff, and Missouri goes to the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl to face Minnesota on January 1.