SEC Championship 2013: Keys to Victory for Auburn and Missouri

Richard LangfordCorrespondent IDecember 1, 2013

AUBURN, AL - NOVEMBER 30:  Ryan Smith #24 of the Auburn Tigers yells to an official as he and Jonathan Jones #3 react after Smith recovered a blocked punt in the fourth quarter against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Jordan-Hare Stadium on November 30, 2013 in Auburn, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

After a wild series of events saw Auburn's Chris Davis return a missed field for a game-winning touchdown with no time left on the clock, it will be No. 4 Auburn and not No. 1 Alabama playing for the SEC Championship. 

Joining them in the battle for conference supremacy will be No. 5 Missouri. The Tigers took down Johnny Manziel and the Texas A&M Aggies on Saturday night to secure their spot atop the SEC East. 

All of this sets up for what should be a highly competitive game with huge stakes. There is a strong possibility that the winner of this game will play in the BCS title game even if Ohio State or Florida State does not suffer a loss. That much remains to be seen.

What we do know is that these two talented teams will battle for the SEC title. These following keys will determine which team comes out on top. 


Win the Battle on the Ground

AUBURN, AL - NOVEMBER 16: Tre Mason #21 of the Auburn Tigers carries the ball for a touchdown against the Georgia Bulldogs at Jordan-Hare Stadium on November 16, 2013 in Auburn Alabama. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

In an age of passing, this game is going to play out mostly on the ground. Auburn is second in the nation in rushing yards at 320.3 yards per game. Missouri is not nearly as dependent on the run for offensive success, but it is key to their attack. Missouri is 18th in the nation at 238.0 rushing yards per game. 

Missouri doesn't have to rush for more yards than Auburn to win, but it will have to run with more ease. Whichever team consistently churns out more yards per rush is going to have the upper hand. 

COLUMBIA, MO - NOVEMBER 30:  Running back Marcus Murphy #6 of the Missouri Tigers carries the ball into the end zone for a touchdown during the game against the Texas A&M Aggies on November 30, 2013 in Columbia, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Ima
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

This will not only wear out the opposing defense, but it will give the offense the upper hand and allow it to dictate the action. Neither of these teams are going to find much success on obvious passing downs. 

Missouri appears better suited to slow down Auburn's run than the other way around. On the season, Missouri has allowed 1,245 rushing yards gained at 3.41 yards per carry. Auburn has allowed 1,685 yards gained at an average of 4.26 yards per carry. 


Missouri Needs Epic Performance from James Franklin

COLUMBIA, MO - NOVEMBER 30:  Quarterback James Franklin #1 of the Missouri Tigers scrambles during the game against the Texas A&M Aggies on November 30, 2013 in Columbia, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images


As I mentioned above, Missouri is not as dependent on the run as Auburn. Missouri is 41st in passing yards to go with its 18th ranking in the run game. 

Senior quarterback James Franklin is a big reason why. He missed four games this season due to injury, but now he's got two games under his belt and he was good against Texas A&M. Playing the Aggies, Franklin hit 18-of-28 passes for 233 yards two touchdowns and no interceptions. 

For the season, the senior has thrown for 1,719 yards, 14 touchdowns and four interceptions while completing 67.3 percent of his passes. 

It will be vital that Franklin is efficient with his completion percentage in this game. It will help keep the offense on the field and help Missouri wear out the Auburn defense. 


Auburn Must Get Pressure with Down Lineman

AUBURN, AL - NOVEMBER 30:  AJ McCarron #10 of the Alabama Crimson Tide is pressured by Dee Ford #30 of the Auburn Tigers in the third quarter at Jordan-Hare Stadium on November 30, 2013 in Auburn, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Missouri's run game is strong enough that it is hard for teams to sit back and play the pass. This makes blitzing a difficult proposition, as it creates holes in the second level and allows running backs to bust off a long run. 

Of course, if Auburn gears up for the run and stacks the box, Franklin will be able to sit in the pocket and hit for deep passes. That is unless Auburn can generate pressure with its down linemen. 

This is something Auburn is equipped to accomplish. With senior defensive end Dee Ford closing in on double-digit sacks and four other defensive linemen having at least 1.5 sacks, this talented defensive line can alter a game. 

Auburn will be looking for that defensive line to alter this one.