Five storylines: Alabama-Missouri


TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The break is over. It's back to SEC action for the No. 1-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide on Saturday when they travel to Columbia, Mo., to face the league upstart Missouri Tigers.

The Tigers are still looking for their first SEC win after dropping a close one to Vanderbilt last weekend. Welcoming Alabama to Faurot Field won't be the easiest way to accomplish that. On Wednesday, coach Gary Pinkel had nothing but praise for the Crimson Tide, calling Alabama a team with "no weaknesses."

At 2:30 p.m. CT on Saturday, Pinkel and his staff will try to find something to exploit, but the search could be difficult.


1. Defending the air: Alabama has not faced a passing game quite like Missouri's all year. The Tigers have produced more than 60 percent of their offense on passing plays this season. Safety Vinnie Sunseri said he expects Missouri to use plenty of multiple-receiver, no-tailback looks on Saturday and try to stretch the Alabama secondary.

2. James Franklin out at QB: A strained MCL will keep Missouri's star quarterback off the field Saturday, according to Pinkel. The junior slid in for Blaine Gabbert last season and accounted for 36 touchdowns, good enough for third-most in school history. With Franklin out, though, Pinkel will call on backup Corbin Berkstresser. The redshirt freshman has fared well in Franklin's absence, tossing three touchdowns to one interception. He started against Arizona State two weeks ago and finished 21-for-41 for 198 yards in the win.

3. First trip to Columbia, Mo.: There's something about going to a place for the first time, adjusting to the field, the noise in the stadium, and potentially, the weather. The cold temperatures were on Eddie Lacy's mind when asked about going to Columbia, Mo., this weekend. He said that the pre-game walkthrough should help players get acclimated to Faurot Field. Even though Missouri is having a rough start to the season, expect the Tigers fans to show up in numbers as they welcome No. 1 Alabama to town for the first time in decades.

4. Replacing White, Hart: There might not be much of a noticeable difference on offense -- Kenyan Drake has shown himself capable of handling the No. 3 spot at tailback and Amari Cooper's surge at receiver is well documented -- but playing without DeAndrew White and Dee Hart on special teams will take an effort to replace. Christion Jones is likely to slide back in on punt return and Brent Calloway could see more action on the coverage team. If Cyrus Jones is going to make an impact at receiver, now could be his opportunity.

5. Back from the bye: It's a tricky thing, coming back from a weekend without playing a game. Players go home and relax. Sunseri said he put on 8 pounds when he visited the family in Tennessee. But this week was all about regaining focus. Fresher legs should be beneficial to an Alabama team that got dinged up against Ole Miss. Deion Belue has practiced after missing the entire second half with a shoulder injury, but has been limited in terms of participating in contact drills.