As unpredictable as this college football season has been, nothing this year has been more unpredictable than the matchup that will take place on Saturday at 4 p.m. for the SEC Championship.
Auburn and Missouri finished last season with a combined 2-14 record in the conference, with Auburn winning just three games and finishing 0-8 in the SEC. This season, the two have combined for just two losses overall and both finished with a 7-1 conference record.
Though many have already tabbed Auburn as the winner of this showdown, giving it a potential shot at the BCS Championship, Missouri's balanced attack gives the "other" Tigers a chance to win the SEC crown in just its second year in the conference.
The James Franklin Effect
Despite missing four games this season due to a separated shoulder, quarterback James Franklin has thrown for 16 touchdowns on the season to just four interceptions. The senior was not on the field for the Tigers' lone loss, a 27-24 double-overtime loss to South Carolina, and he returned to form in his second game back against Texas A&M.
Along with having a 153.2 rating as a passer, Franklin can also get it done with his legs. Prior to his injury, Franklin rushed for over 60 yards in three games with three touchdowns during that stretch. Since his injury, the signal caller has failed to rush for a touchdown but had his first game with over 80 rushing yards against the Aggies to earn a spot in the championship game.
With Franklin on the field, Mizzou is a more confident team. Backup Maty Mauk proved he will be the next in line when his time comes, but Franklin is the proven leader of this team.
Missouri's Stingy Defense
From the outset, Mizzou's offense may appear to be the reason it's gotten to this point, but its defense is one of the best in the SEC. In fact, it has allowed the second-least points per game behind only the vaunted Alabama defense.
It will be strength vs. strength when the two teams play each other on Saturday. For a more in-depth look, here's a quick breakdown of the Auburn's offensive numbers against Missouri's defense:
|Auburn Offense||38.6 (Fourth)||318.2 (First)||491 (Second)|
|Missouri Defense||19.4 (Second)||119.1 (Second)||414.2 (11th)|
SEC Digital Network
Auburn's weakness is its passing game while Missouri's weakness is its pass defense. With playmakers like Michael Sam and E.J. Gaines on the field for Missouri, it stands a pretty good chance of doing what Alabama was unable to do: Stop Auburn's offense.
Henry Josey and the Mizzou Rushing Attack
Following a horrific injury that kept him out of the 2012 season, Henry Josey returned to form from 2011 and averaged 6.2 yards per carry. The junior tailback has also totaled 951 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns, one away from his career total as a freshman and sophomore.
With Tre Mason on the other side of the ball, Josey is likely to get overlooked. But their numbers show they're not that far apart as Vincent Rizzo Sports points out:
Tre Mason (13) and Henry Josey (9) combined to rush for 22 touchdowns this season in conference games. #VRSports— Vincent Rizzo Sports (@VRizzoSports) December 5, 2013
Josey has been the workhorse for Mizzou this season, rushing for over 100 yards three times this season and has four multi-touchdown games, but the aforementioned quarterback for the Tigers has coupled with sophomore Ryan Hansbrough to total another combined 1,036 rushing yards on the season.
With a three-headed monster that has helped take down four ranked SEC opponents this year, the Mizzou rushing attack is one of the biggest reasons why it has a shot to take down Auburn in the SEC Championship.