Ding dong, the wicked witch is dead. It’s a brand new day in the SEC and the nation. Last Saturday, the Auburn Tigers did the unthinkable and shocked the reigning BCS champions, the Alabama Crimson Tide, on the last play to win the game and the SEC West. With that win the SEC’s championship streak is in danger and Alabama’s quest for three championships is over. While Auburn interrupted a dynasty with their destiny, the Missouri Tigers punched their ticket to Atlanta with a win over the suddenly not hot Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M. Both Tiger teams are hoping that they can have a chance to play in the big game, but it comes down to this game. It’s time to break down this year’s SEC Championship
The Auburn Tigers
Auburn is having a dream season. The Plainsmen Tigers went from worst in the SEC West to first. Maybe it should not be a huge surprise since first year head coach Gus Malzhan spent three years on the Plains as the offensive coordinator. Even with a year away from the program and his system, a large amount of the offensive players were recruited to play in Gus’ scheme. The biggest question mark for the Tigers this year was who would be the trigger man. Auburn found him in junior college transfer Nick Marshall.
With Marshall, Auburn operates a very run heavy version of the spread. Because of the success the Tigers have on the ground, it seems as if they cannot throw the ball. That is not the case. Auburn throws it just enough to run their offense efficiently. For an example, look no further than the Alabama game. While conventional wisdom says balance is needed to beat Alabama, Auburn ran to the tune of 296 yards and just 97 yards passing.
The Missouri Tigers
After last year, if anyone was asked which of the two new SEC members would make Atlanta first, the overwhelming answer would be Texas A&M. Along came Mizzou and the best defense in the league. After being decimated by injury last year, Mizzou showed flashes of the old SEC with a dominant, nasty front seven that over powered opponents.
If not for a mid-season injury to quarterback James Franklin, Missouri could have been undefeated. Their lone loss came in overtime against South Carolina. It was a game Mizzou was winning going into the fourth quarter, but a Herculean effort by South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw carried the Gamecocks to victory. It was one of the few times that Missouri’s defense came up short in the second half.
The game is another case of strength on strength. Auburn’s rush offense has been relentless all year, while Missouri’s front seven has stoned everyone. Auburn has been able to run on everyone, and they will be able to run on Mizzou, just not as much as they are used to. Mizzou did show some weakness against Connor Shaw. Marshall does not pass as well as Shaw, but he is probably the second best QB Mizzou has faced. If Mizzou is able to stymie Auburn’s offense just a touch, then it will come down to the other side of the ball. With a veteran quarterback, Mizzou will have success on the Auburn defense. It is very unlikely this game is anything but a grind it out type of affair. In this position, experience wins out. James Franklin has been directing this offense for a long time, and Gary Pinkel has coached in conference championships before. Missouri squeaks by Auburn and will wait to see if they have a chance to play for the last crystal ball. Missouri 27-24.
Who do you think will win the SEC Championship? Let us know in the comments!