SEC Championship College Football Preview: #5 Missouri Tigers vs #3 Auburn Tigers

2013 SEC Championship Game
#5 Missouri Tigers vs #3 Auburn Tigers

Georgia Dome – Atlanta, Georgia
Saturday, December 7, 2013, 4:00 pm Eastern, TV: CBS
Opening Line: Auburn -3
Current Line: Auburn -2
Opening Total: 58
Current Total: 58 1/2
Opening Money Line: Auburn -130 / Missouri +110
Current Money Line: Auburn -125 / Missouri +105

Auburn is a 2 point favorite over Missouri in Saturday's SEC Championship game in Atlanta.
Auburn is a 2 point favorite over Missouri in Saturday’s SEC Championship game in Atlanta.

One year ago, the Missouri Tigers and Auburn Tigers were a combined 2-14 in SEC play, and Auburn was winless. Auburn coach Gene Chizik was fired, despite leading the Tigers to a  BCS national championship just two seasons earlier. Missouri coach Gary Pinkel kept his job, mainly because it was Missouri’s first year in the much rougher waters of the SEC after decades in the Big 12.

Fast forward to 2013. Auburn hired Gus Malzahn from Arkansas State to replace Chizik, Malzahn was the offensive coordinator for the 2010 championship team. The change worked as Auburn went 11-1 overall and won the SEC West with a 7-1 record thanks to a thrilling 34-28 win over Iron Bowl rival Alabama. Missouri also finished 11-1 and won the SEC East with a 7-1 record. Now, Missouri and Auburn will meet for only the the second time ever Saturday in Atlanta for the SEC Championship. The winner will clinch at least a berth in the Sugar Bowl and perhaps a berth in the BCS championship game in Pasadena if undefeated Florida State or Ohio State stumble in their respective championship games Saturday. Number one Florida State is a heavy favorite against Duke in the ACC Championship game in Charlotte, and #2 Ohio State is favored against Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship game in Indianapolis. There is some talk that the Missouri-Auburn winner could pass Ohio State even if the Buckeyes win Saturday, but that seems to be unlikely.

Missouri won 12 Big Eight (now the Big 12) titles but none since 1969. Auburn has won 11 SEC titles, including in 2010 when the Tigers won the National Championship as well. Missouri won the only previous match-up against Auburn  34-17 in the 1973 Sun Bowl. Strangely, “East” champion Missouri is located approximately 733 miles northwest of “West” champion Auburn.

Missouri’s only loss came at home to South Carolina 27-24 in double overtime. In that game the Tigers led 17-0 going into the fourth quarter, but the Gamecocks mounted a furious comeback to send the game into overtime. Missouri has home wins over Murray State 58-14, Toledo 38-23, Arkansas State 41-19, Florida 36-17, Tennessee 31-3, and last week against Texas A&M 28-21. The Tigers also have road wins at Indiana 45-28, Vanderbilt 51-28, Georgia 41-26, Kentucky 48-17, and Ole Miss 24-10. Missouri has won 4 straight games since the South Carolina game. The Tigers are 10-1-1 ATS and the total is 6-6 this season. Missouri was a 4.5 point favorite against Texas A&M and the total was 72.5.

Missouri had to beat former Big 12 rival Texas A&M last week in order to clinch the East title, or South Carolina would have clinched the bid with an Aggie win. Texas A&M took a 14-7 lead at halftime, and looked to play spoiler. Missouri would take a 21-14 lead with two third quarter touchdowns. The Aggies tied it up early in the fourth. The Tigers would score the go ahead touchdown with 3:34 left to make it 28-21. That was a ton of time to leave for Texas A&M superstar quarterback Johnny Manziel. However,  the Aggies went three and out and punted the ball back to Missouri with 2 minutes left. The Tigers would run out the clock to secure the win. Texas A&M had 379 total yards including 184 rushing yards. Missouri held Manziel to 195 passing yards and a touchdown, along with 21 rushing yards. Missouri had 463 total yards including 225 rushing yards. The Aggies had the only turnover of the game.

Missouri is outscoring teams 39-19 this season. The Tigers are #16 in scoring and #14 in points allowed. Missouri is averaging 489.5 total yards a game on offense including 252.6 passing and 236.9 rushing yards. The Tigers are #17 in total offense and #18 in rushing nationally out of 125 FBS teams. On defense, Missouri is allowing 384.6 yards per game including 265.5 passing and 119.1 rushing yards. The Tigers are #14 in rush defense, #112 in pass defense nationally. Missouri is +15 in turnovers with 27 takeaways. The Tigers average 38 penalty yards per game and opponents average 50. Missouri is 85/175 on third and fourth down conversions and opponents are 80/210. The Tigers have forced 37 sacks and allowed 22. Missouri is 49/56 scoring in the red zone with 40 touchdowns and opponents and opponents are 30/37 with 19 touchdowns. The Tigers have 3 defensive touchdowns this season and have allowed a kick return for a touchdown.

Missouri quarterback James Franklin missed several games with a shoulder injury. Franklin has played the last two games. He was replaced by freshman quarterback  Maty Mauk four four games. Franklin has completed 66.9% of his passes for 1,952 yards with 16 touchdowns and 4 interceptions, along with 91 carries for 412 yards and 3 touchdowns. Mauk has completed 51.2% of his passes for 1,039 yards with 10 touchdowns and 2 interceptions, along with 38 catches, 156 yards and a touchdown.

Running back Henry Josey has 153 carries for 951 yards and 13 touchdowns, along with 9 catches for 55 yards and a touchdown reception. Russell Hansbrough has 99 carries for 624 yards and 4 touchdowns, plus a catch. Marcus Murphy has 81 carries for 561 yards and 9 touchdowns, plus 7 catches.

Receiver L’Damian Washington has 44 catches for 824 yards and 10 touchdowns. Dorial Green-Beckham has 49 catches for 686 yards and 10 touchdowns. Marcus Lucas has 50 catches for 596 yards and 2 touchdowns. Bud Sasser has 20 catches for 292 yards and a touchdown, and also threw a touchdown pass. Jimmie Hunt has 20 catches for 239 yards and a touchdown.

The only loss for Auburn came at LSU 35-21. Auburn has won 8 straight games since that loss. The Tigers have home wins over Washington State 31-24, Arkansas State 38-9, Mississippi State 24-20, Ole Miss 30-22, Western Carolina 62-3, Florida Atlantic 45-10, Georgia 43-38, and last week against Alabama 34-28, along with road wins at Texas A&M 45-41 Arkansas 35-17 and Tennessee 55-23. Auburn is 10-2 ATS and the total is 7-5 this season. The Tigers were 10 point underdogs against Alabama and the total was 52.5.

The annual Iron Bowl between Alabama and Auburn is always notable but this year’s edition was even more so because both teams were ranked in the top five and the winner would clinch the SEC West Division title. Auburn took an early     7-0 lead against Alabama, but the Crimson Tide scored 21 straight points to open the second quarter. Auburn would score another touchdown just before halftime to make it 21-14 Tide going into the locker room. The Tigers tied it up early in the third. Alabama regained the lead early in the fourth on a 99 yard touchdown pass to make it 28-21. Each team went for it on fourth down and failed to convert. After an Auburn punt, Alabama drove down to the Auburn 27 and had a 44 yard field goal attempt blocked that would have put the Crimson Tide up 10 points with 2:41 left. It was the third missed field goal in three attempts for Alabama kicker Cade Foster.

The Tigers took over at their own 42 and drove all the way down for the game tying touchdown with 32 seconds left. Alabama managed to get to the Auburn 38 on a 24 yard run from Crimson Tide running back T.J. Yeldon. Officials originally said the clock expired on the rush sending the game into overtime. However replays showed the clock had one second left. Most people thought Alabama would try the Hail Mary, but instead the Crimson Tide tried a 57 yard field goal from redshirt freshman Adam Griffith. It barely missed wide right but Auburn cornerback Chris Davis caught the missed field goal and returned it 100 yards for the touchdown to make the final score 34-28. He came close to stepping out of bounds but he kept his feet in bounds. It was the second straight miracle finish for Auburn after a 73 yard Hail Mary touchdown pass in the last minute of the Georgia game.

Auburn is outscoring teams 39-23 this season. The Tigers are #17 in scoring and #31 in points allowed nationally. Auburn is averaging 491 total yards including 172.8 passing and 318.2 rushing yards. The Tigers are #5 in rushing, #15 in total offense, and #107 in passing out of 125 FBS teams. On defense, Auburn is allowing 414.2 yards per game including 255.7 passing and 158.6 rushing yards. Auburn is #100 in pass defense.  The Tigers are +1 in turnovers with 17 takeaways. Auburn is averaging 39 penalty yards per game and opponents are averaging 42. The Tigers are 77/169 on third and fourth down conversions and opponents are 73/200. Auburn has forced 25 sacks and allowed 15 this season. The Tigers are 44/50 scoring in the red zone with 35 touchdowns and opponents are 31/44 with 21 touchdowns. Auburn has four special teams and two defensive touchdowns, and has allowed one defensive touchdown.

Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall has completed 59.2% of his passes for 1,627 yards with 11 touchdowns and 5 touchdowns, along with 140 carries for 922 yards and 10 touchdowns. Back-up Jeremy Johnson has taken a few snaps. Johnson has completed 70.7% of his passes for 422 yards with 6 touchdowns and 2 interceptions, along with 47 rushing yards.

Running back Tre Mason has 237 carries for 1,317 yards and 18 touchdowns, along with 10 catches for 113 yards. Mason also has a kick return for a touchdown. Cameron Artis-Payne has 88 carries for 573 yards and 5 touchdowns, plus a catch. Corey Grant has 60 carries, 585 yards and 5 touchdowns, along with 4 catches. He also has a kick return for a touchdown. Receiver Sammie Coates has 32 catches, 747 yards and 6 touchdowns.  Ricardo Louis has 25 catches for 290 yards and 2 touchdowns.  Quan Bray has 20 catches, 191 yards and 3 touchdowns. Marcus Davis has 22 catches for 191 yards and a touchdown. C.J. Uzomah has 9 catches for 146 yards and 3 touchdowns. Three defensive players are out for the season.

Missouri is 7-0 ATS after accumulating more than 450 total yards, 4-0 in SEC games, 8-1-1 after a straight up win and on fieldturf, 7-1-1 after a cover, 6-1-1 after rushing for 200 yards or more, 6-1 against teams with winning records, and 1-5 in December.

Auburn is 8-0 ATS after a win & a cover and after rushing for 200 yards or more, 7-0 in SEC games, 6-0 against teams with winning records, 5-0 after allowing 450 total yards or more, 4-0 after allowing more than 200 rushing yards, 10-1 overall, 4-1 in December, and after passing for less than 170 yards, and 5-2 in neutral site games.

Both Missouri and Auburn struggle against the pass but both teams like to run more on offense than pass. Missouri is more balanced than Auburn though. This should be a high scoring game. I know it is the SEC Championship game, but Auburn could be in for a little bit of letdown after two emotional wins over bitter rivals Georgia and Alabama. I like Missouri to pull off the mild upset.

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