One other interesting thing about the Alabama defense: it swarms. For a lot of teams, you will see the number of solo tackles a lot higher than the number of assisted tackles. Missouri, for instance, has 260 solo tackles and 184 assists. Texas Tech: 217 solo tackles, 50 assists. Alabama, on the other hand, has 161 solo tackles and 148 assists. We hear Gary Pinkel talk about the concept of leverage a lot; it was one of Don James' tenets of football, and what it basically means is your No. 1 job on the boundary is to steer the play back toward the middle of the field. Missouri does it pretty well. Bama does it better than anybody. (Saban, of course, was also a James disciple at one point.) Xzavier Dickson has two solo tackles and eight assists. Nico Johnson: 11 and 13. Mosley: 22 and 17. DePriest: 13 and eight. They beat you to the edge, and when you cut back toward the middle, you are swarmed by eight guys. Among other things, that is more punishing than a simple solo tackle. It also makes it feel like there are 17 defensive players on the field.
"They've been able to create a lot of negative plays this year and that's a big reason because of how much movement they have up front," Alabama center Barrett Jones said. "They really have created confusion in their prior games. I think they're a really hard team to game plan for. "We really have had to work hard this week mentally and watch a lot of film and just prepare because they do a lot of different things on defense."
"They do what they do fast and they want to get a lot of plays out on the field real fast, get the defense on their toes and try to control the tempo in the game," Square said. "We want to come out and show different blitzes and different things like that to try to control the tempo of the game on our side of the ball. "It's just going to be a battle of who can control the tempo of the game."
"The bye week is always good for our bodies, to get our feet back under us, but we are anxious to get back on the field," Lacy said. A healthy Lacy is important because Alabama - despite a couple of personnel moves to shore up the position - will have fewer backs to rotate. "A rotation is good because you get some rest and don't have to bang your body up as bad," Lacy said. "You carry 20 or 25 times a game, that takes a toll on your body. "As we all know who play football, you are one play away from injury. All we can do (when someone is injured) is encourage him and stay focused on what you have to do. That is what we have to do now."
"You’ve got to say a little prayer the night before." That was Western Kentucky coach Willie Taggart’s response when asked if his team could beat Alabama. His plea for divine intervention was ultimately unsuccessful, as the Crimson Tide shut out the Hilltoppers 35-0. Another win, another shutout, another testament to "The Process." It really does seem like it’ll take a miracle for anyone to beat the nation’s top-ranked team anytime soon. Good for them, too bad for everyone else. This Saturday, Missouri gets the unenviable task of taking on the Crimson Tide. It’s a game every Missouri fan circled as soon as the schedule came out, in which a dangerous, James Franklin-led Tiger offense was supposed to give Alabama a run for its money in its first trip to Columbia. Now, with Franklin injured and the Tigers fresh off an upset loss to Vanderbilt, backup quarterback Corbin Berkstresser will be lucky to keep the Tigers from a second consecutive embarrassment on the CBS nationally-televised game of the week.
What advice does Bruce Walker have for McNulty going up against Jesse Williams? The Crimson Tide’s senior nose guard who became famous in the summer when he lifted 600 pounds on the bench press. "Bite him in the kneecaps," Missouri’s co-offensive line coach said.
Fisher and the Tigers will attempt to find the seams in the nation’s top-ranked defense. Their attack will be guided by redshirt freshman Corbin Berkstresser, in for the relief of junior quarterback James Franklin, who will be sidelined with a strained MCL. "That’s a tough position to play, backup quarterback," Pinkel said. "And the best thing that can happen to you is having everyone around you playing absolutely super and not making a lot of mistakes." It will be Fisher protecting the blindside of Berkstresser, helping to ensure his team escapes the Tide without further depletion to injury and hoping to secure a bid in a postseason bowl doesn’t sustain further doubt. He will bend his knees into position and will absorb the force of Alabama’s rush. He knows this perhaps better than many: "Football," he said, "is a painful game."
"They’re a game-managing team," Richardson said. "They don’t make many mistakes on offense. … Their defense makes plays and scores touchdowns for them, too. They’re a great team. Special teams make plays, too." Alabama’s offensive line is considered the best in college football. Richardson was asked if that unit is good because it’s bigger, stronger, more athletic of what? "They’re good because they do their fundamentals," he said. "They’re coached well. It’s not because they’re bigger. "
"They pretty much live and die with their football teams," he said, looking back at Missouri’s inauguration into the Southeastern Conference. That came the weekend of Sept. 8, when Georgia visited Faurot Field. The Bulldogs left with a 41-20 victory, and their fans left a positive impression on what Missouri has gotten itself into since leaving the Big 12 Conference. "We thought we knew what we were going to expect, but we were still preparing for the unknown," King said. "The closest thing we saw was Nebraska. Their fans travel well. But Georgia was great. We had a lot their fans in Thursday, Friday and Saturday. It seemed like they had a good time, too."
Starting with comments made by quarterback AJ McCarron during the spring, when he highlighted a lack of leadership on that 2010 squad, it was the hot topic at SEC Media Days, when Saban and fifth-year seniors Barrett Jones, Damion Square and Michael Williams talked about it constantly while previewing a season in which Alabama hoped to become the first repeat national champion during the BCS era. "We felt like we couldn't be beat. We felt like we were entitled to win," Williams said at the time. "You saw how that ended up."
With all the craziness in Columbia, we're a little surprise the Crimson Tide is only a 22-point favorite. Could be because Alabama is coming off a bye week and has its own injury problems with the loss of backup running back Dee Hart and wide receiver DeAndrew White to season-ending injuries against Ole Miss. Missouri's problems, however, are above the shoulder pads. The Tigers know the defending champs are coming in and ESPN has filled their heads with Nick Saban this, Nick Saban that, a defense that takes no prisoners and an offense that takes over the line of scrimmage.
Saban said there isn't an "Alpha Dog" on this year's defense like Rolando McClain or Dont'a Hightower. There's just more joint leadership. - "It's almost a personality change for somebody when they need to step up and be a leader. I think all those guys have done a good job and we have a really good leadership group on this team ... We don't have that one guy that can just say, 'Let's go,' and everybody rallies around him."
Missouri's defense pretty much held up its end of the bargain last week. If there's been any griping about the lack of production on the other side of the ball heading into the perceived mismatch against top-ranked Alabama, the Tigers have kept it to themselves. Outspoken defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson said no one's getting frustrated, and no one's pointing fingers. ''Nothing too dramatic. Ain't no wedges getting built,'' Richardson said. ''It ain't, `Are we fighting, we just enemies for the rest of our lives?' No, it's nothing like that at all.''
Alabama opened as a 17 ½-point favorite over Missouri, but the line has moved to 22 on some boards. Which brings us to another Saban stat. In games where he's had at least one extra week to prepare for his next opponent, he's 13-4 at Alabama. Three of those losses have come against LSU in the regular season (2007, 2010, 2011). Otherwise, he's 13-1 with more than a week, with the only loss coming to Utah in the Sugar Bowl after the 2008 season.