The Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

That’s where all SEC teams are striving to be in December, playing for the SEC Championship, in what’s come to be known as a national semifinal game annually.

Auburn and Missouri had magical 2013 seasons that saw each surpass expectations and reach greater heights than anyone projected.

The last back-to-back SEC Championship team was Tennessee in 1997-98 with some guy named Peyton Manning, and no SEC team other than Tennessee did it during the BCS era.

What are the paths for the defending SEC Champion Auburn and SEC East winner Missouri? Let’s check them out.

Auburn’s path to repeating

Despite playing in college football’s toughest division, Auburn also draws SEC East favorites South Carolina and Georgia.

2014 Auburn Tigers’ schedule
Aug. 30: Arkansas
Sept. 6: San Jose State
Sept. 18: at Kansas State
Sept. 27: Louisiana Tech
Oct. 4: LSU
Oct. 11: at Mississippi State
Oct. 25: South Carolina
Nov. 1: at Ole Miss
Nov. 8: Texas A&M
Nov. 15: at Georgia
Nov. 22: Samford
Nov. 29: at Alabama

Auburn has the best SEC team entering 2014, but a brutal strength of schedule is the main reason why many analysts figure Alabama to win the SEC West.

Auburn’s strength of schedule is aided by road games at Alabama and Georgia in the same season. Along with the brutal SEC West schedule, the Tigers play two SEC East favorites in the annual UGA game and host South Carolina. That’s brutal.

The toughest aspect of Auburn’s schedule is the nasty six-game stretch that features LSU, South Carolina, Ole Miss, Texas A&M and Georgia. The bye week falls prior to South Carolina, and the Tigers will play the Gamecocks, Rebels, Aggies and Bulldogs in consecutive weeks.

Auburn has the toughest strength of schedule for any of the big six favorites in 2014, aided, in part, by playing seven preseason ranked teams, according to the USA Today Coaches Poll.

Missouri’s route to returning

Missouri’s schedule is much more favorable to repeat. In fact, it’s the second-easiest strength of schedule in 2014 among SEC teams.

2014 Missouri Tigers schedule
Aug. 30: South Dakota State
Sept. 6: at Toledo
Sept. 13: UCF
Sept. 20: Indiana
Sept. 27: at South Carolina
Oct. 11: Georgia
Oct. 18: at Florida
Oct. 25: Vanderbilt
Nov. 1: Kentucky
Nov. 15: at Texas A&M
Nov. 22: at Tennessee
Nov. 29: Arkansas

The Missouri strength of schedule is impacted by a couple different factors. Arkansas becomes the new cross-divisional rivalry, but they do retain the previous cross-divisional opponent Texas A&M from the last couple years. Arkansas and Texas A&M are two of the biggest rebuilding teams in the SEC. That works to Mizzou’s advantage.

Missouri faces one Big 5 conference opponent in the Big Ten’s Indiana, and the Tigers host AAC and Fiesta Bowl winner UCF. South Dakota State comes to Columbia, while Gary Pinkel returns to Toledo, where he coached from 1991-2000. Missouri’s non-conference opponents won over 64 percent of their games in 2013, but the Tigers should win all four.

The Tigers don’t face any brutal four-game stretches, but playing Georgia, Florida and Vanderbilt in a three-week span could be challenging in October. The first bye week sandwiches South Carolina and Georgia and the second Kentucky and Texas A&M. Tough road games at South Carolina, Florida, Texas A&M and Tennessee will be interesting and are spread throughout the schedule.

Last year, Missouri faced seven different ranked opponents at the time the Tigers played them, including Georgia, Florida and Oklahoma State in the Cotton Bowl. No doubt some breaks were caught with other teams suffering injuries, but championship teams have to take advantage of them, and Mizzou did just that. The Tigers were one overtime loss away against South Carolina from having an undefeated regular season.

Missouri’s 2014 strength of schedule is ideal for making another championship run; obviously, that depends on how the team gels and how key pieces are replaced as to the season’s ultimate prize. The schedule alone should help Missouri be a favorite in 2014.