Preview: Missouri vs. Auburn
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[December 05, 2013]
The two most surprising teams in the
Southeastern Conference all season, No. 5 Missouri and No. 3 Auburn
square off for the league title Saturday at the Georgia Dome. The teams
combined for just two conference victories a year ago but now find
themselves a win away from playing in a BCS bowl - and potentially the
national championship game. The winner will find itself paying close
attention to the ACC and Big Ten title games Saturday night in hopes
Florida State or Ohio State will lose and clear the path for the SEC
champion to leap into the top two in the BCS standings.
Auburn's unlikely path to the championship game has included eight
consecutive victories, culminating with last week's 34-28 win over
bitter rival Alabama in which Chris Davis caught a missed field goal
in the back of the end zone and returned it for the winning
touchdown on the final play of the game. "That is our biggest
challenge as a team," first-year Auburn coach Gus Malzahn told
reporters of his team's task of shifting its focus after such a
dramatic win. "It was a very emotional win. It was a physical game,
but we have to put it behind us and we have to put all of our
attention on Missouri." Missouri also had to finish on a high note
to play its way to Atlanta, beating Texas A&M 28-21 at home a week
after a 24-10 victory at Mississippi to earn a spot in the title
game in just its second year in the league.
TV: 4 p.m. ET, CBS. LINE: Auburn -2.
ABOUT MISSOURI (11-1, 7-1 SEC): The Tigers surged to the top of the
SEC East on the strength of a balanced offense led by senior
quarterback James Franklin, who has passed for 1,952 yards with 16
touchdowns and four interceptions and rushed for 412 yards and 3
TDs, and an opportunistic defense. They average 489.5 total yards
and rank 18th in the nation in rushing (236.9) with Henry Josey
leading the way (951 yards, 13 TDs). The defense is tied for fourth
in the nation with 37 sacks, has forced 27 turnovers and has at
least one takeaway in 42 consecutive games, the longest active
streak in the FBS.
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ABOUT AUBURN (11-1, 7-1): Malzahn has overseen
the biggest turnaround in the nation after the Tigers went 3-9 a
year ago but have returned to the national prominence they
enjoyed when he was the offensive coordinator. Tre Mason, the
SEC's leading rusher with 1,317 yards and 18 TDs, and dual
threat quarterback Nick Marshall (1,627 passing yards, 11 TDs, 5
INTs; 922 rushing yards, 10 TDs) lead an offense that ranks
fifth in rushing (318.3) and 15th in total yards (491). The
Tigers have been less impressive defensively, but they held
Alabama to seven points in the second half.
Malzahn and Missouri's Gary Pinkel are among the three
finalists for the Maxwell Coach of the Year Award, along with
Duke's David Cutcliffe.
With a win, Pinkel (101-62) would pass Don Faurot as
Missouri's all-time winningest coach.
Auburn has scored 30 points or more in eight straight
contests and has won 87 consecutive games when hitting the
30-point plateau, while Missouri is one of three teams in the
nation to hold all of its opponents to 28 points or fewer.
PREDICTION: Missouri 31, Auburn 28