Alabama Crimson Tide: Missouri Tigers

E.J. Gaines is sick of the questions about playing in the SEC. Missouri's standout defensive back has heard enough. It's been 103 days since the Tigers officially became full-fledged members of the conference and the transition hasn't occurred without scrutiny.

"I am tired of that question," Gaines said with a laugh. "But it is what I expected. It's fun. It's intense. You play great teams each week."

[+] EnlargeE.J. Gaines
Jerome Miron/US PresswireMissouri cornerback E.J. Gaines expects his Tigers to give Alabama a tough challenge on Saturday.
The Tigers are 0-3 in their inaugural season as SEC members, losing games to South Carolina, Georgia and Vanderbilt. The SEC has seven ranked teams, while Missouri's former conference, the Big 12, has just four.
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Sheldon Richardson got the attention of the college football world when he called Georgia's style of play, "Old-man football."

Missouri's star defensive lineman continued: "If we execute, nobody in this league can touch us. Period."

That was before Missouri got its first taste of SEC play and Richardson was forced to eat his words. The Tigers were blown out by Georgia 41-20 and haven't won either of their two league games since, losing by three touchdowns to South Carolina and a 19-15 heartbreaker to Vanderbilt last weekend.

Richardson, for his part, apologized to Mark Richt and has been mum on the subject since. But what the 6-foot-4, 295-pound junior has done on the field has spoken volumes to Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron, who pointed him out as a player to watch when the two teams meet on Saturday afternoon in Columbia, Mo.

"They’ve got some good guys," said McCarron, sizing up the Missouri defense that's totaled 15 sacks and 53 tackles for loss this season. Richardson is tied for second on the team with three sacks. "[Richardson] is a pretty good ball player. But I think they play very good, sound defense as a whole. I think everybody knows what they’re supposed to do. They do it well. Force you to make plays to beat them. They’re not gonna beat themselves."

McCarron said the defense is "sound in what they do" and, "they make you move the ball down the field.

"They’re a good defense."

Opponents have tried to slow down Alabama's offense in recent games by putting eight men in the box to try to stop the running game and pressure McCarron when he drops back to pass. In turn, Alabama has attempted more short passes, and subsequently fewer deep shots down the field.

Alabama didn't complete a single pass of more than 20 yards against Ole Miss two weeks ago, but it's not anything that has McCarron worried.

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- As he's done all season, Nick Saban continued to guard his Alabama Crimson Tide against an upset. He could have stepped to the podium on Monday and not said a word and gotten his point across.

But that's not his style.

[+] EnlargeRobert Lester
Butch Dill/Getty ImagesRobert Lester believes the bye week came at a perfect time for the Tide.
With the weekend off, Saban spent Saturday taking notes. No. 4 LSU lost to No. 10 Florida in dramatic fashion. No. 5 UGA was exposed No. 6 South Carolina. Even Missouri got tripped up on the road by the previously 1-3 Vanderbilt Commodores. No one was safe.

"The teams that most of you in this room make head and shoulders above other teams, obviously showed you this last weekend how badly you can be mistaken," Saban said in his opening remarks. "I know I can be mistaken and get criticized, but you guys are badly mistaken when you make teams that are like so much better than everybody else. This weekend kind of proved that your predictability is not very good.

"What it proved is the only thing predictable about college football is its unpredictability."

It wasn't quite the tirade of a month ago when Saban criticized the media for overlooking Western Kentucky -- a team the Tide beat 35-0 -- but the message was the same.

"The key to the whole thing is consistency in performance, having a group of players that are committed to doing the things they need to do to play the game at a high standard and a high level all the time regardless of the circumstance or situation," Saban said.

No one need go on radio or television to put the No. 1-ranked Crimson Tide on upset alert. Saban and the coaching staff have that job covered.

"This bye week was perfect timing," said senior safety Robert Lester. "It gave the younger guys a chance to look at other teams and other great teams and them not bringing their A game to the game and actually lose a game, maybe they learn a lesson while not actually going out there and learning a lesson and it costing us."

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Tide schedule preview: Missouri 

June, 26, 2012
The rundown
2011 record: 8-5
2011 conference record: 5-4
All-time against Alabama: 2-1

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Devonta Pollard deciding on Friday 

May, 30, 2012
Devonta Pollard (De Kalb, Miss./Kemper County), a McDonald’s All-American and the highest rated available player in the Class of 2012, will announce his college choice on Friday.

The soft-spoken small forward will pick from Alabama, Georgetown, Missouri and Texas, according to his mother. Missouri has the biggest recruiting class and biggest scholarship crunch so the school of thought here is that the other three are in better shape.

“He’s come to the conclusion where he wants to go,” Jessie Pollard, Devonta’s mom said on Wednesday.

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Scout's Take: Atlanta Opening Regional
National recruiting analyst Gerry Hamilton joins ESPN's Phil Murphy to discuss top performers from the Nike's The Opening regional camp in Atlanta.