College breakdown: No. 3 Auburn (11-1) vs. No. 5 Missouri (11-1)
by Ryan Black
Columbus Ledger-Enquirer
Dec 06, 2013 | 1563 views |  0 comments | 20 20 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Nick Marshall has led the Tigers to an 11-1 season. (Photo by Bill Wilson/The Anniston Star)
Nick Marshall has led the Tigers to an 11-1 season. (Photo by Bill Wilson/The Anniston Star)
slideshow
When: 3 p.m., today

Where: Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

Line: Missouri by 1.5.

TV: CBS

Radio: 1070 AM, 100.5 FM.

Four-down territory

1. Running with the Tigers:
Don’t be surprised if Saturday’s game clicks by at a frenetic pace, as both teams love to run the ball. Auburn enters the game tops in the SEC in rushing yards a game at 318.2. Missouri is second — though a distant runner-up, at that — averaging 236.9.

2. SEC championship coaches flourishing: The two coaches in Saturday’s game can use a victory to enter history. Malzahn has matched Auburn’s coaching record for victories in a debut season, as Terry Bowden went 11-0 in 1993. Pinkel, on the other hand, is tied atop Missouri’s all-time wins list alongside Don Faurot, with each boasting 101 victories.

3. Tale of two Tigers: Auburn is no stranger to the conference title contest, as it is making its fifth appearance since the game began in 1992. After losing the first two times, Auburn has come out on top each of its last two title game appearances (2004, 2010). Meanwhile, Missouri is making its first appearance in the SEC Championship Game in its second season in the league. With a win, Missouri can capture its first outright conference title since 1960, when Hall of Fame coach Dan Devine led the Tigers to the Big Eight crown.

4. Unfamiliar foes: The SEC Championship Game combatants have a nearly a non-existent history with each other. The pair has met just one time, coming in the 1973 Sun Bowl. In that matchup, Missouri doubled up Auburn 34-17, handing the Tigers their third straight loss to end the season at 6-6.

Key matchup

Auburn offensive line vs. Missouri defensive line:
Nick Marshall and Tre Mason have had all the ink spilled on them for the success of Auburn’s read-option attack. As is always the case, though, they wouldn’t have any creases to find in defenses if it weren’t for their offensive linemen doing their jobs. Missouri’s rangy defensive line poses as stiff a test as any Auburn has undertaken this season. In senior Michael Sam, Missouri has the SEC’s leader in both sacks (10.5) and tackles for loss (18.0). Throw in Kony Ealy on the other side (and depth inside, too), and Auburn’s big men up front will have their hands full. Don’t be surprised if the winner of this matchup is also holding the championship trophy at the end of the night.

Prediction

With two of the best offenses in the league taking center stage, this year’s SEC title game appears primed for a shootout. Each has a dual-threat quarterback, and while Missouri has a more consistent passing game, Auburn has shown it can go to the air when needed. Defensively, however, all of the numbers seem to tilt decidedly in Missouri’s favor. If this season — and especially the past two games — has taught us anything about Auburn, it’s that picking against them when it’s a nip-and-tuck affair is foolish. Give Malzahn, Marshall and Co. one more nail-biting win to clinch a BCS bowl berth. ... Auburn 38, Missouri 34.
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College breakdown: No. 3 Auburn (11-1) vs. No. 5 Missouri (11-1) by Ryan Black
Columbus Ledger-Enquirer

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