The 2013 SEC Championship will not feature any of the usual suspects this year. Instead, Missouri and Auburn will face off in what should be a highly contested matchup. Each of these teams is very sound on both sides of the ball which will bring about chess-like strategies from head coaches Gary Pinkel and Gus Malzahn.
There are several keys to victory that both of these teams must follow if they are to emerge with a win. Let's take a look at what Missouri and Auburn must do to get the better of their opponent.
Missouri's Keys to the Game
First and foremost, Missouri needs to remain stout up front and contain Auburn's dangerous triple option. The triple option starts with a read-option look in the backfield with another option to toss quickly to an outside receiver.
This is one of the most difficult schemes in college football to defend against, as Auburn has been able to rush for 3,819 yards and 39 touchdowns as a team this season.
Missouri has been rather stout against the run in 2013. Currently, they are ranked 14th in the nation and are only allowing an average of 119.1 yards per game. Missouri has also allowed just 11 rushing touchdowns in 12 games played this year.
Missouri’s defense leads the SEC with 37 sacks, 74 knockdowns and 116 total pressures (hurries + knockdowns + sacks). #AUBvsMIZZZ— College GameDay (@CollegeGameDay) December 4, 2013
Auburn averages 6.3 yards per rush as a team, and Missouri's defense has only allowed an average of 3.57 yards per carry throughout the regular season. Something will have to give here.
If Missouri can successfully defend against the run, it will put heavy pressure on quarterback Nick Marshall. He has been able to flourish this year because the running game has opened up space for the passing game after adjustments are made to defend against the run.
This becomes very important for Missouri, as the secondary has been lackluster this season. They are currently ranked 110th in the nation and have allowed an average of 266.2 yards per game. Missouri needs as much help as possible on the back end of the defense, so winning in the trenches while on defense is a must.
Auburn's Keys to the Game
Before Auburn even begins to think about a game plan against Missouri, the team must first put its incredible last-second victory against Alabama in the Iron Bowl behind them. Auburn is certainly on a high right now after such an improbable victory. However, they must keep their emotions in check to continue to play at a high level.
That being said, Auburn must show up defensively in this contest. Missouri has a sneaky good passing attack, as they have been able to put up 3,031 yards and 27 touchdowns against just six interceptions as a team this season.
Quarterback James Franklin does a nice job taking care of the football and avoiding costly turnovers. He has been very efficient this year, completing 66.9 percent of his passes for a 153.2 rating.
One of the reasons why Missouri's aerial attack has been successful is due to their balanced offense.
Missouri is very capable of sticking with the run to avoid becoming one dimensional on offense. With many talented runners—especially lead back Henry Josey—Missouri has rushed for 2,843 yards and 31 touchdowns as a team this season.
Missouri coach Gary Pinkel on Auburn: "Their defensive front is really, really good." Defense doesn't "give up a lot of big plays."— Auburn Gold Mine (@AUGoldMine) December 6, 2013
Auburn's defense must find a way to make Missouri's offense as one dimensional as possible by taking away either the run or the pass. Auburn has not been stellar defensively this season, as they are ranked 56th in the nation against the run and 100th against the pass.
Throughout the regular season, Auburn was able to accumulate 25 total sacks, which averages just over two per game. If they can win the battle in the trenches and apply constant pressure on Franklin, they may be able to hide some deficiencies in the secondary.
Auburn did show a knack to get to the football at times this season, racking up 12 interceptions in as many games. If they can truly apply pressure up front, they may be afforded an errant pass or two, which could end up completely turning the tide of the game.