NCAA Football

Arizona Center Vomits on Ball, Then Snaps It vs. Oregon in Pac-12 Title Game

Even if your team is getting smashed, the show must go on. That was especially true for Arizona Wildcats center Carter Wood on Friday night as his team took on Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship Game.

Right before Wood snapped the ball, he puked all over it. Merely an inconvenience apparently—he proceeded to snap the freshly marinated ball and thus start the play.

[Vine]

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Stands for Pac-12 Championship Game at Levi's Stadium Surprisingly Empty

The No. 2 Oregon Ducks and No. 7 Arizona Wildcats came to do battle at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California, for the Pac-12 Championship on Friday, but just moments before the start of the game, thousands of seats were empty. CSNNW.com's Aaron J. Fentress noted the emptiness: 

Look at all the empty seats at Levi's Stadium. pic.twitter.com/zQ72vRs72q

— Aaron J. Fentress (@AaronJFentress) December 6, 2014

This matchup has it all: a Heisman favorite in Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, a defensive beast in Arizona linebacker Scooby Wright III and a rivalry feel, as Arizona gave the Ducks their lone loss on October 2. 

Maybe the stands will fill in later in the night, but it's not a great showing at the start—that's for sure.

[Twitter]

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SEC Championship 2014: Biggest Questions Surrounding Missouri vs. Alabama

Missouri can't possibly beat Alabama, can it?

That's perhaps the biggest question surrounding the 2014 SEC Championship Game, but it's far from the only one.

Few are surprised to see the Crimson Tide in this position, but the Tigers' second consecutive SEC East crown came as a bit of a shock. Despite both teams winning their respective divisions in a tough conference, you can see in the College Football Playoff rankings how their perceptions are vastly different.

Most expect Alabama to coast to the SEC title. With the way this season has unfolded, though, it's clear that no team is untouchable. The Crimson Tide have lost once, nearly lost to Arkansas and weren't exactly convincing against Auburn.

The Tigers are facing an uphill battle, but this isn't exactly a David vs. Goliath situation.

As the fans prepare for Saturday's clash in the Georgia Dome, the three topics below are among the most heavily discussed.

 

Does Missouri Slow Down the Alabama Passing Game?

It's almost impossible for any NCAA secondary to stop Amari Cooper for an entire game. The Alabama wideout is arguably the best offensive player in the country, and he's set a slew of Alabama records this year:

Grantland's Matt Hinton summed it up perfectly following Cooper's exploits:

Missouri can't afford to let the junior go crazy like he did against Auburn, Florida and West Virginia.

Of course, stopping Cooper is much easier said than done.

Zac Ellis of Sports Illustrated believes that the best way the Tigers can at least mitigate Cooper is attack the source.

"Stopping, or at least limiting, Cooper starts up front with Missouri's pass rush," Ellis wrote. "Alabama's star receiver can’t exploit the Tigers defense if [Blake] Sims can't throw the ball comfortably. But if Sims has too much time in the pocket, Cooper can take advantage."

In the first half and up until early in the third quarter against Auburn, Sims really struggled. He was making silly mistakes, and things got to the point that Jacob Coker warmed up on the sidelines.

Sims eventually recovered and finished with 312 yards and four touchdowns. He also scored the go-ahead touchdown on an 11-yard scramble.

The Tigers' pass rush was largely nonexistent, which played a role in Sims finding his groove in the second half. With a stronger front seven, Auburn might've been able to keep Sims on his toes.

On paper, that shouldn't be an issue for Missouri. The team ranks fifth in the country in sacks per game (3.33) and also sits eighth in tackles for loss (7.6).

In Shane Ray and Markus Golden, the Tigers have two players who excel at getting after the quarterback. Dave Matter of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch noted their impressive stat lines:

By continuing to get consistent pressure on Sims, Missouri would force the senior quarterback out of his comfort zone. That could lead to turnovers, and at the very least would in part negate Cooper's presence.

 

Can Alabama Put the Onus on Maty Mauk to Win the Game?

Missouri isn't exactly a run-first team, but it's averaging 176 yards a game on the ground compared to 189.9 yards through the air. The success of the running game by and large decides whether the Tigers win or lose.

That often rings true because it determines how much the outcome rests on Maty Mauk's shoulders. While the sophomore quarterback has improved in recent weeks, it's still hard to look past his 9-of-21 passing for 97 yards and four interceptions against Georgia back on Oct. 11. Mizzou lost 34-0 at home.

Mizzou head coach Gary Pinkel did his best before the game to boost Mauk's confidence, per David Morrison of the Columbia Daily Tribune:

In an interview with AL.com's Mike Herndon, CBS announcer Gary Danielson stated his belief that Missouri can't afford for Mauk to simply be good; he must be exceptional:

Maty Mauk has to step up his game. You're not going to beat Alabama with average quarterback play. They have feasted on average quarterbacks under Nick Saban's era at Alabama. Ask Michigan what it's like to play them with inferior quarterbacking. Ask Florida this year what it's like to play them with an inferior quarterback. He has to have the game of his life, Maty Mauk.

Maybe Mauk can silence his critics on Sunday by throwing for 200-plus yards and rushing for another 50-75. If that is to happen, though, the Tigers must get a strong combined effort from Marcus Murphy and Russell Hansbrough.

 

What Happens if Alabama Loses?

Alabama is considered the heavy favorite for this one. According to Odds Shark, the line opened up at -3 in favor of the Tide, and it's since jumped to -14.5.

Most fans outside of Missouri expect the SEC Championship Game to be little more than a coronation ceremony for Alabama as it heads into the CFP.

Everybody assumes that the Crimson Tide would be one of the top two seeds in the event if it beats the Tigers.

But what would the selection committee do if Missouri won?

Alabama would be out of the playoff discussion altogether, barring some crazy upsets this weekend. Even with so few teams climbing into that "great" category this year, there's no way the committee sends in a two-loss team that didn't even win its conference.

The tougher conundrum is whether Missouri would warrant Top Four consideration after winning the SEC. As you can see at the top of the article, the Tigers head into the weekend 16th in the playoff rankings. They'd have to jump ahead of a dozen teams just to crack the playoff.

ESPN.com's Edward Aschoff isn't optimistic about the Tigers' chances:

Mizzou hasn't been elite since the Georgia loss, but it's been winning better than anyone in the SEC other than Alabama. Six straight wins, three coming on the road, isn't easy in this league -- no matter which side you're on -- but the wins haven't been pretty and the playoff selection committee just isn't impressed. Say what you will about how great the defense has been in conference play -- the committee is likely stuck on the fact that the offense has been inconsistent this season.

As far as a playoff run goes, the Tigers just haven't passed the eye test. Mizzou proved it wasn't a one-hit wonder this year, but when it comes to a playoff spot, the early season is haunting it.

While winning the SEC title this year is unlikely to significantly improve Mizzou's playoff chances, it could pay major dividends in the future in terms of perception. The Tigers would be viewed as a major player in the SEC going forward. That would in turn help Mizzou pass the proverbial eye test in subsequent seasons.

 

Note: Stats are courtesy of NCAA.com unless otherwise noted.

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Pac-12 Championship 2014: Live Score, Highlights for Arizona vs Oregon

Keep it locked in here to follow Oregon vs. Arizona for the Pac-12 championship!

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