SEC Championship Game: 5 Reasons Why Missouri Tigers Will Beat Auburn
SEC Championship: 5 Reasons Why Missouri Tigers Will Beat Auburn
As a school with a history of very little luck on their side, Missouri Tigers fans have to be annoyed by the ‘team of destiny’ that is the Auburn Tigers. Two successful desperation attempts at the end of their last two games have landed Auburn in the SEC Championship, which has to unnerve the Mizzou faithful at least a little bit.
Seeing a team of destiny is not as cute for fans that have stood by the side of what seems to be a team of damnation. In 1990, Mizzou was about to defeat the Colorado Buffalos before the Buffs were given five downs to score the winning TD, which ultimately led to a share of the National Championship for them.
Then there was the Flea Kicker game in 1997 against the No. 1 ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers. Up 38-31 with seven seconds left and the Huskers 12 yards away from scoring, QB Scott Frost threw a pass to Shevin Wiggins that would’ve hit the ground had Wiggins not kicked it up (which he later admitted was intentional) for Matt Davison to make the catch in the end zone. Nebraska would go on to win in overtime.
And finally there was the BCS snub of 2007. The Orange Bowl Committee decided to select the rival Kansas Jayhawks over Missouri for reasons beyond logic. The Tigers had beat the Jayhawks that season at a neutral location. They were ranked higher, they won the Big 12 North, and Kansas hadn’t beaten a single top-25 team to that point, yet the Orange Bowl Committee decided the Jayhawks ‘earned’ their selection.
All of that is in the past now and the future is too bright for Mizzou to worry about that stuff any longer. There will be no more talk of bad luck and good luck after this weekend because Missouri is going to win. Mizzou fans, it’s your turn and it has been long overdue. After being labeled as unfit for the SEC, Missouri is going to win the conference, earn at least a spot in the Sugar Bowl, and here are five reasons why.
Missouri seems to have a big edge with football's most dominating factor in determining wins and losses. Mizzou has forced 27 turnovers this season, and is currently riding a 40-game streak with at least one takeaway which leads the nation. Their turnover margin of +15 is sixth-best in the country, and looks pretty good next to Auburn’s margin of +1.
4. Missouri’s Defense is Progressing While Auburn’s is on the Decline
In their first six games of the season, Auburn allowed 18.8 points per game, while Mizzou allowed 23 per contest. In the six games since, Missouri has surrendered 14.2 per game in regulation (15.8 overall), while Auburn has surrendered 26.2 per contest in their last six. On top of that, the teams have played four common opponents this season and Mizzou has held every one of them to lower totals. Missouri has allowed common foes to score just 15 points per game, compared to 31 per contest for Auburn.
3. Missouri Has a Massive Advantage Through the Air
James Franklin and Maty Mauk lead a Missouri passing attack that has thrown for 3,031 yards 27 TDs, with six INTs compared to 2,073 yards, 17 TDs and seven INTs for Auburn. After Sammie Coates (747 yards), no other Auburn receiver has cracked 300 yards while Mizzou’s big, fast receivers are going to be a matchup nightmare.
L’Damian Washington (6-foot-4), and Dorial Green-Beckham (6-foot-6), have compiled 824 and 686 receiving yards respectively, and each have 10 TDs. Marcus Lucas (6-foot-4) has added 596 yards on 50 receptions with two TDs. Auburn’s 100th-ranked pass defense will definitely have their work cut out for them on Saturday.
2. Missouri Can Win the Ground Game
A lot has been said about Auburn’s tremendous rushing attack, which averages 318.3 yards per game, but Missouri has nice ground game as well, gaining 236.9 per game. The teams are ranked first and second in the SEC in the category, and fourth and 18th in the nation. This area is supposed to be Auburn’s biggest advantage in the game, but Missouri’s run defense may have something to say about that. They're currently ranked second in the SEC, 14th overall, and they just shut down Johnny Manziel for 21 yards on 11 carries.
With 922 yards thus far, Auburn counts on QB Nick Marshall for a big chunk of their rushing attack, and he may have his hands full with Mizzou’s stellar defensive line. Missouri’s ground game on the other hand, will be up against a much softer run defense. Auburn is is 57th in the nation, allowing 158.6 yards per game, which may lead to Missouri beating them at their biggest strength.
1. Missouri is a Much More Well-Rounded Team
It’s no secret that Auburn is going to run the ball, and run the ball often. They’re great at it and succeed despite the fact that everybody sees it coming. Missouri will feature the second-best run defense Auburn has seen, and if they’re able to contain the ground game, Auburn’s plan B does not look very good.
Airing it out could be tough for them, considering Coates, their only legitimate receiving threat, will be covered by the extremely underrated E.J. Gaines. Gaines has put together an amazing career with Missouri and just shut down Texas A&M’s Mike Evans (who came into the game second in the nation in receiving yards) for just eight yards on four receptions. When you add Missouri's pass rush to the mix, which is fourth in the nation with 37 sacks, the idea of passing the ball looks pretty scary for Auburn.
On the other side, Mizzou won’t need a plan B on offense because they have two plan A’s. Top-notch rushing and passing attacks with several stellar weapons in both areas will give Missouri a lot more options in the game, and in turn be extremely tough for the Auburn defense to decipher. Mizzou has a stronger defense, knows what to expect, and has one of the most well-rounded offenses in the country. On Saturday, expect to see both Auburn’s lucky streak and Missouri’s unlucky streak come to an end.