Saturday’s SEC Championship will feature two spread offenses based on power running games and athletic defenses that make stops when they have to. There’s talent on both teams, and they match up particularly well with each other. It should be an outstanding game, and something new that creates intrigue in the SEC and around the country.
So, let’s take a look at which team has the edge at every position:
Related: SEC Championship Predictions
Nick Marshall, Auburn: 119 of 201 (59.2%) for 1,627 yards, 11 TDs, 5 INTs; 140 carries for 922 yards and 10 TDs
James Franklin, Missouri: 162 of 242 (66.9%) for 1,952 yards, 16 TDs, 4 INTs; 91 carries for 412 yards and 3 TDs
Buzz: The quarterback you choose here depends on the style of play you prefer. Nick Marshall has left several big plays on the field in the passing game, but he’s a homerun threat in the running game. James Franklin is more balanced and efficient as a ‘quarterback’, but like Marshall, he’s also left some big plays on the field this year. Both teams know what they are, and both quarterbacks represent each team’s style of play well. I’m more of a balanced offensive guy and believe in order to win a championship, the offense should be balanced.
Related: Auburn-Missouri preview
Tre Mason, Auburn: 237 carries for 1,317 yards (5.6 YPC) and 18 TDs
Henry Josey, Missouri: 153 carries for 951 yards (6.2 YPC) and 13 TDs
Buzz: Auburn features four rushers over 500 yards, including Nick Marshall, while Missouri features three over 500, with Franklin sitting at 412 yards. Along with Mason and Marshall, Corey Grant (585 yards, 5 TDs) and Cameron Artis-Payne (573 yards, 5 TDs) are also forces. Josey is the featured back for Mizzou, but Russell Hansbrough (624 yards, 4 TDs) and Marcus Murphy (561 yards, 9 TDs) are burners who can house it on any carry. Auburn leads the SEC, averaging over 318 yards per game, while Missouri is #2, averaging over 236 yards per game.
Running back edge: Auburn
Running game edge: Auburn
Related: Compare Auburn-Mizzou team stats
Reese Dismukes, C, Auburn
Evan Boehm, C, Missouri
Buzz: Two underrated offensive lines anchor both dominant running games, and the lifeblood of the protection and blocking scheme are talented centers. Auburn’s Reese Dismukes anchors the attack, along with LT Greg Robinson, LG Alex Kozan, RG Chad Slade and RT Avery Young. The Tigers are rushing for over 318 yards and have allowed only 15 sacks, good for third in the SEC. Missouri’s offensive line is anchored by center Evan Boehm, and LT Justin Britt, LG Max Copeland, RG Connor McGovern and RT Mitch Morse have all stayed healthy and had strong seasons. Although I think Boehm is the best player on either line, Auburn’s offensive line has been one of the best in college football.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Sammie Coates, Auburn: 32 catches for 747 yards, 6 TDs
L’Damian Washington, Missouri: 44 catches for 824 yards, 10 TDs
Buzz: This is one of the biggest mismatches in the entire game. Missouri features three pass catchers with over 500 yards receiving, while Auburn features one with over 300. Mizzou’s Washington and Dorial Green-Beckham have combined for 20 TDs, and Marcus Lucas has added 595 yards and two TDs. With respect to Auburn, their two main receivers are homerun threat Sammie Coates, who averages over 23 yards per catch, and tight end CJ Uzomah, who has caught nine passes for 146 yards and three TDs. Ricardo Louis is a big-play threat, but other than the Georgia Miracle, Marshall and Louis have left some big plays on the field.
Dee Ford, DE, Auburn: 23 tackles, 12 TFL, 8 sacks, 16 QBH, 2 FF
Michael Sam, DE, Missouri: 42 tackles, 18 TFL, 10.5 sacks, 9 QBH, 1 FF
Buzz: One of the best aspects of both teams is the number of players who rotate on the defensive line. Each team has about eight core linemen who play throughout every game, keeping the big boys fresh and competitive for four quarters. Missouri’s Michael Sam should be the SEC’s Defensive Player of the Year. He’s racked up 42 tackles, 18 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks. That’s the type of year we thought Clowney would have. Kony Ealy, Harol Brantley, Shane Ray, Lucas Vincent and Matt Hoch are all big-time contributors. Auburn’s Dee Ford has emerged as the biggest threat for the Tigers’ defensive line and has racked up 12 tackles for loss, eight sacks and 16 QB hurries. Along with Ford, LaDarius Owens, Gabe Wright, Nosa Eguae, Carl Lawson, Montravius Adams, Angelo Blackson and Ben Bradley are all core players of the pass rush. Both defensive lines are athletic and deep enough to match up against the opponent’s offense; Missouri leads the SEC in sacks with 37.
Cassanova McKinzy, Auburn: 56 tackles, 7.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks, 4 QBH, 1 FF
Andrew Wilson, Missouri: 87 tackles, 6 TFL, 2 QBH
Buzz: Auburn’s defensive scheme is a 4-2-5, with two linebackers and one hybrid safety/linebacker. McKinzy, Jake Holland (44 tackles) and Star Robinson Therezie (54 tackles, 4 INTs), who has emerged as a breakout player in 2013 as the hybrid, make up the linebackers. LB Kris Frost (46 tackles, 4 TFL) has also been instrumental in the corps. Missouri plays a 4-3 scheme, with three linebackers made up of Kentrell Brothers (50 tackles, 5.5 TFL), Andrew Wilson and Donovan Bonner (48 tackles). Wilson is the weathered veteran and leading tackler, and backup Markus Golden has also been a beast, totaling 50 tackles, 13 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks. Both linebacking corps are balanced and are good tacklers.
Chris Davis, CB, Auburn: 65 tackles, 12 pass breakups
EJ Gaines, CB, Missouri: 59 tackles, 4 INTs, 2 pass breakups
Buzz: The best defensive back in the game is Mizzou’s EJ Gaines. He’s a first-team All-SEC candidate, and he’s had another strong season. Gaines is joined by CB Randy Ponder (46 tackles, 2 INTs), SS Braylon Webb (73 tackles, 2 INTs) and FS Matt White (52 tackles, 1 INT). Auburn’s Davis is joined by CB Jonathon Mincy (49 tackles, 1 INT), FS Jermaine Whitehead (56 tackles, 1 INT) and SS Ryan Smith (56 tackles, 3 INTs). Auburn is the 13th best pass defense in the SEC, allowing opponents over 255 yards per game, while Missouri is 14th, allowing opponents over 266 yards per game. Although Auburn is slightly better numbers-wise, Mizzou has picked off a league-high 18 passes. That’s the difference for me, but these two are very comparable in athleticism for sure.
Chris Davis, Auburn, PR: 12 returns, 246 yards, 1 TD
Marcus Murphy, Missouri, PR: 18 returns, 100 yards
Buzz: One of the biggest advantages Auburn has Saturday is on special teams, and it was obviously a huge reason they beat Alabama. Everyone knows about Chris Davis, but punter Steven Clark had two brilliant punts that pinned Alabama deep in their own territory. Auburn allows just seven yards per punt return. Place kicker Cody Parkey has hit on 13 of 17 field goals. Marcus Murphy is Mizzou’s best player on special teams, and he’s due to house a long punt return. Andrew Baggett has hit 14 of 21 field goal attempts and punter Christian Brinser is 8th in the SEC in punting.
Gus Malzahn, Auburn
Gary Pinkel, Missouri
Buzz: The architects of the two biggest turnarounds in college football are Gus Malzahn and Gary Pinkel. From each team missing bowl games last year to sitting 11-1 and bidding for a shot in the national championship, it’s hard to put into words how great of a job each have done. Pinkel is the veteran; Malzahn is the young gun. Neither has won an SEC Championship, and both have incredible coaching staffs that make great in-game adjustments and play calls over the course of the season. Neither coach stands above the other, despite Pinkel’s experience or Malzahn’s brilliant play calling.
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