Against Missouri’s defense, Alabama really has the choice of how they want to attack. Missouri had one of the best defenses in the nation last season. They were so successful that the newly hired Drinkwitz decided to keep the DC, Ryan Walters, from the previous staff. The strength of the Mizzou defense in 2019 was their pass D. Unfortunately, they lost four impact players in the secondary.
Much like Alabama’s defense, the strength of Missouri’s defense will move from the secondary to the front seven in 2020. They will start four Seniors on the D-Line, three of which are returning starters from a unit that was already great in 2019. That bodes well for a team during this odd season in which experience will likely be more of a factor than it usually is.
The Mizzou D-Line can more than hold their own, but they will be facing one of Alabama’s best O-Lines in recent years. Alabama football returns four starters from last season’s solid unit, including dominant LT Alex Leatherwood. Evan Neal has a year of experience under his belt and the only question is who takes the 5th spot and where do they line up.
Evan Neal likely moves to RT after playing most of his Freshman season at Guard. Deonte Brown will take one of the Guard spots. Landon Dickerson will either play the second Guard or Center. The last spot will either be Center or Guard and will likely be filled by Chris Owens, Emil Ekiyor, or Darrian Dalcourt. There is a chance we see Freshman Javion Cohen fill a spot as well, but his natural position is Tackle, and it is highly unlikely that he unseats Neal or Leatherwood. However, as we saw with Neal in 2019, Saban may move Cohen to Guard to get him experience.
The battle in the trenches is assuredly the matchup of the game. If Missouri can win that battle, especially early, they might give their team a chance to hang around late in the game. The key for the Crimson Tide will be getting playmakers out on the edges and keeping the Missouri pass rushers off balance.
The one matchup that Alabama football wins handily is the WRs vs. CBs. Both starting CBs from the 2019 Missouri team are gone, and even though Alabama lost Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III to the NFL, they still have Devonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle. The pair’s experience means the Tide will win this matchup handily.
I especially look for Waddle to have a big game. He is now the biggest deep threat with the departure of Ruggs. If the Safeties have to come down to help out against Alabama’s RBs then Waddle has more than enough speed to burn them deep. Also, with Smith likely getting the lion’s share of attention, Waddle will see more 1-on-1 matchups.