No. 5 Missouri Tigers (11-1 SU, 10-2 ATS) vs. No. 3 Auburn Tigers
(11-1 SU, 10-2 ATS)
College Football Week 15: SEC Championship Game
Date and Time: Saturday December 7th, 2013. 4:0PM Eastern
Where: Georgia Dome Atlanta, G.A.0
by Jay, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Mizzu +1.5/Aub -1.5
Over/Under Total: 58
An unfathomable match-up awaits inside the Georgia Dome this week when
the no.5 Missouri Tigers meet the no. 3 Auburn Tigers for
the SEC Championship. It’s hard to believe either school made it to the
SEC Championship Game when you consider the fact that neither team received
a single AP vote to be considered in the preseason AP Top 25. Missouri took
down 4 ranked teams in route to a breakout 11-1 regular season with the
help of a dynamic offense averaging 38.8 points (15th in FBS) and gritty
defense that yielded just 19.4 points per game (14th in FBS).
While Auburn, sparked by first year head coach and offensive mastermind Gus Malzahn, turned the tide on a 3-9 2012 campaign into a 2013 Cinderella story for the ages. Not only did Auburn beat Georgia on a Hail Mary two weeks ago but they captured an unthinkable field goal return for a touchdown as time expired to defeat no. 1 Alabama in the Iron Bowl last week. Now as long as the clock does not strike midnight on Cinderella, Malzahn’s Tigers have the opportunity to capture the most prestigious title in college football and stake their claim as SEC Champions if they can pull out just one more victory over Missouri this Saturday.
However, Missouri promises to be one tough out and odds makers have the Tigers of the West marked as miniscule 1.5 point underdogs. Missouri, like Auburn, has found ways to win close games when the pressure has been at its highest. Mizzu captured wins over no. 24 Ole Miss and no. 21 Texas A&M during the final two weeks of the season in must-win situations to punch their ticket to Atlanta. Missouri also overcame adversity during the mid-point of the season when quarterback James Franklin went down with a shoulder injury. Franklin missed 4 games before returning in the wins against Ole Miss and Texas A&M. Franklin has been rock solid with a 66.9 completion percentage to go along with 16 scores and 4 picks. Even backup Maty Mauk was impressive under center in Franklin’s absence with 10 scores and just 2 picks.
The reason both quarterbacks have been so successful is because Coach Gary Pinkel has gotten excellent production from their rushing attack. Junior tailback Henry Josey is the workhorse for the offense and is narrowing in on the 1,000 yard barrier on the season. Josey and sophomore tailback Ruseell Hansbrough have combined for the bulk of Missouri’s 236 yard per game average this season which ranks 18th in the FBS. If both backs can run well again this Saturday, it should keep Franklin in position to capitalize on throws down the field when the opportunity arises. If you break down the match-ups of this game, the similarities are obvious. Both teams have tremendous rushing attacks and stout defenses to match. However I would give the edge in pure passing situations to Missouri with Franklin behind center. Still that is only a slight edge and I emphasize “pure passing situations.”
On the other side of the field, Auburn has an outstanding quarterback that has emerged from the depths of the unknown similar to the way Cam Newton emerged into the national spotlight during Auburn’s 2011 National Championship run. Junior quarterback Nick Marshall has been outstanding in the 2nd half of the season with his legs. Marshall has been able to grasp the style of the read option that Malzahn made famous with Newton and the offense has been nearly unstoppable ever since. Marshall has rushed for more than 400 yards in the last 3 games and is closing in on the 1,000 yard mark as well. Marshall is an extremely dangerous runner but possibly not as dangerous as running back Tre Mason.
Mason has racked up more than 1,300 yards and 18 touchdowns already on the ground this season to make a case for the best rusher in the SEC. With both Marshall and Mason shredding defenses, it should not be surprising that Auburn has the 5th best rushing unit in America averaging 318 yards per game. What may be surprising is that Auburn has been able to run the ball effectively on everyone including 296 yards against Alabama’s dynamic defense last week. Obviously the key to Missouri winning this game will be trying to stop that dynamic Auburn rushing attack which is much easier said than done. The good news for Mizzu fans is that quarterback Nick Marshall is not the best “pure” passing quarterback and does make mistakes when kept in obvious passing situations. If Missouri can force Marshall into those passing situations continuously, it will greatly increase their chances at claiming their first SEC Championship.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: If last week’s finish to the Iron Bowl did not convince you Auburn is destined for success, I do not know what will. This should be a great match-up and there is no way I will bet against the magical ride Auburn is currently on. Take Auburn -1.5!
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