No one expected Auburn and Missouri to be the teams to reach Atlanta and turn the 2013 SEC championship game into a mini Tiger bowl, but these are the surprising winners of the divisions, and two teams that hope to put on enough of a performance to convince the voters to give them a chance to take a leap in the polls and find themselves playing for the national title and not a lesser BCS bowl game.
Auburn, #3 in the nation, are here thanks to an unnoticed string of wins since their loss to LSU, ending with what will be a legendary Iron Bowl finish, as Chris Davis ran a field goal miss 109 yards to beat Alabama. Missouri lost to South Carolina 27-24 in overtime, but have been making the most of a down year in the SEC East, some great play from James Franklin and not having to face any of the stronger teams in the SEC West, namely Auburn, Alabama and LSU.
The man to look to at Auburn is quarterback Nick Marshall. His specialty is running, gaining 922 yards on 140 carries, averaging 6.6 yards per carry and scoring 10 touchdowns, complementing Tre Mason in the running game, with the latter scoring 18 touchdowns this season, picking up 1317 yards so far. Auburn have the 5th best rushing offense in the nation, averaging 318.3 yards per game, including 296 on the ground against Alabama, the best in the SEC against the run.
Right after Alabama come Mizzou, 20th in the nation against the run, allowing only 3.6 yards per carry. However, the SEC East Tigers don’t do very well against the pass, which means Marshall might use his arm a bit more than usual, with Auburn ranked 108th in the nation in passing yards. Mizzou are 97th in allowed completion percentage.
Missouri have a great ground game, with Henry Josey and Russell Hansbrough leading the way. Auburn are good against the pass but quite easy to run against, so we might see James Franklin, who ran for 80 yards against Texas A&M last week, do a bit more running than usual.
Predictions – Auburn have a slightly more impressive set of wins this season than Missouri, but it feels that when you start comparing weapons both teams have, Mizzou have a slight edge and a better quarterback.