When: 6 p.m. Saturday

Where: Columbia, Missouri

TV/radio: ESPN/FM-93.9, AM-920, FM-97.3

The line: Alabama by 27

2019 records: Alabama (11-2, 6-2 SEC), Missouri (6-6, 3-5)

The series: Alabama leads 4-2

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Four-down territory

1. Return of the Mac: It’s Mac Jones’ show in 2020. The Crimson Tide redshirt-junior, who spent two seasons as a backup quarterback, started the last half of 2019 after Tua Tagovailoa went down with a hip injury. Jones was recently given a vote of confidence by his teammates, and he even cracked the top-10 for preseason Heisman voting. In 12 games last season, Jones was 97-of-141 for 1,503 yards and 14 touchdowns with three interceptions.

2. False start: It was evident COVID-19 would cause issues this season, but no one expected problems this early. Missouri starts Saturday’s game without 12 players due for coronavirus reasons. The players, who were not identified, either tested positive for COVID-19 or are sidelined due to contact tracing. Either way, playing Alabama without all hands on deck is not a recipe for success.

3. Hold the line: The Crimson Tide lost just one starter off the offensive line, first-round NFL draft pick Jedrick Wills (Cleveland Browns). The rest of the crew are all back, including left tackle Alex Leatherwood, right tackle Evan Neal and center Landon Dickerson. All three started every game in 2019. Also back is left guard Deonte Brown, who had eight starts last season. That leaves Emil Ekiyor, who played sparingly last year, at right guard.

4. Fresh faces: Several true freshmen cracked the two-deep depth chart, including a couple who will start. Will Anderson is listed in a No. 1 spot at linebacker, while Drew Sanders is in the No. 2 spot. At the nickel position, Malachi Moore is the starter with Brian Branch is the backup. Tim Smith is No. 2 at nose guard. On offense, Javon Baker and Traeshon Holden are backups at one receiver spot, and Thaiu Jones-Bell is a backup at another receiver position. Bryce Young is the backup quarterback. On special teams, Sam Johnson is the starting punter.

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Key matchup

Jaylen Waddle vs. Missouri secondary

Waddle has put up good numbers since his freshman year, but has been overshadowed by Bama’s Big Three of Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III and DeVonta Smith. Jeudy and Ruggs are in the NFL and Smith is back, but now Waddle can be a primary target. Missouri has solid veterans in the secondary with Joshuah Bledsoe and Tyree Gillespie.

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Player of the week

Najee Harris, RB

The Alabama senior ended the 2019 season with a 136–yard effort against Michigan, and on Saturday he should pick up where he left off against weaker Missouri defense. It also doesn’t hurt that Harris will be running behind a star-studded offensive line. With 2,377 career rushing yards, Harris can be the Crimson Tide’s all-time leader with 1,215 yards this season.

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By the numbers

2: Missouri’s defense had just two interceptions last season. That could be a good sign for Alabama quarterback Mac Jones, who has three career picks in 154 attempts.

3: Nick Saban has three of the Crimson Tide’s four all-time wins against Missouri. The other victory was in 1978 with Paul "Bear" Bryant as head coach. The Crimson Tide is 4-2 against Mizzou.

8: Number of first-team preseason All-SEC players for Alabama: running back Najee Harris, receiver DeVonta Smith, offensive linemen Landon Dickerson and Alex Leatherwood, defensive lineman LaBryan Ray, linebacker Dylan Moses, defensive back Patrick Surtain II and punt returner Jaylen Waddle. Missouri has one first-team player in linebacker Nick Bolton.

20: Waddle is Alabama’s all-time leader in average punt return yards with 20. Second-best is Javier Arenas at 14.1

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Prediction

Alabama 35, Missouri 9

It really doesn’t matter which 12 Missouri players are out for this game, even if they aren't starters. It's not about talent, which Alabama clearly has. It’s about preparation. With the circumstances surrounding this season involving COVID-19, you have to think Nick Saban has planned for all the changes to the normal game day experience and will have the Tide ready no matter what.

— Edwin Stanton

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