Tomorrow afternoon at the Georgia Dome, WestwoodOne will be on hand to bring you complete coverage of the SEC Championship Game between the #5 Missouri Tigers and the third-ranked Tigers of Auburn. John Tautges, Terry Donahue and sideline reporter Chris Doering will have all the action beginning at 3:30 PM Eastern.
For a preview of the game, we turn to our sideline reporter Chris Doering, who has some insights on both sets of Tigers.
Missouri Scouting Report:
An injury-riddled 2012 season that finished with a 5-7 record is long forgotten at this point, but the struggle the Tigers encountered last year has paved the way to a berth in the SEC title game. Missouri lost five of its top ten offensive lineman, were without RB Henry Josey for the entire season and had starting QB James Franklin suffer three different injuries that seriously limited his effectiveness, just to catalog a small bit of the adversity that hampered them last year. But it was those injuries that allowed a lot of backups to see playing time and that has helped to create the deepest and most well-rounded team in the conference. Mizzou is blessed with three interchangeable running backs, a receiving corp that goes seven or eight deep and averages 6’4″ in height. Add to that the best and most athletic group of defensive ends in the nation that look like they were recruited from a basketball gym somewhere and you’ve got a recipe for success that’s paid off. Not only are these Tigers deep, they also have performed the most consistently as one of only four schools ranked in the top 15 in offensive scoring and defensive scoring. If not for one quarter of poor play against South Carolina, Missouri would be an unblemished 12-0 coming into this game.
Missouri’s Tigers Win If…
Auburn runs the football nearly 70% of the time with their most effective plays coming out of the zone-read game. QB Nick Marshall masterfully reads the outside contain defender while riding the dive man to determine whether to hand it off or keep it for himself on the run. This is a very difficult offense to stop with a quarterback that is as athletic and adept at reading his keys as Marshall is. In order to slow down the Auburn ground game, which is averaging over 318 yards per game, Mizzou must get their athletic defensive line to penetrate and disrupt the mesh point between Marshall and RB Tre Mason. This disruption can muddy the reads for Marshall, lead to tackles for loss, and, most importantly, cause fumbles and create opportunities for takeaways for the Missouri defense. Best case scenario is that you get the ball back to a fairly potent offensive unit of your own. Worst case is you put Auburn into uncomfortable down and distances where they have to throw the ball, something that the jury is still out on in respect to Marshall’s accuracy and decision making.
Auburn Scouting Report:
Auburn too suffered through a forgettable 2012 season in which they went 3-9 overall and were winless in the SEC. But the return of Gus Malzahn in his first year as head coach has created belief amongst a roster that he helped build during his stint as offensive coordinator from 2009-2011. This never-say-die mentality has led to two of the most amazing and improbable last-second victories in back-to-back wins over Georgia and Alabama. The Tigers’ resurgence can be attributed to an offense that is scoring over 49 points per contest and which is led by QB Nick Marshall. Marshall has accounted for 231 yards per game in total offense, while RB Tre Mason has rushed for over 1,300 yards this year. Defensively, the Tigers are led by a defensive line that rotates 13 players in with 11 of them accounting for at least one sack. Senior Dee Ford has tallied eight sacks himself and commands attention from opposing offensive lines, which frees up guys like Montravious Adams and Carl Lawson to help contribute to a defensive line that has racked up 55 tackles for loss.
Auburn’s Tigers Win If…
The matchup that I feel Missouri has a decided advantage in is with their wide receivers versus the secondary of Auburn. The last thing that Auburn wants to do is to see their corners go one-on-one on the outside against the big, physical wideouts that Missouri will roll out there. It is going to be imperative that Auburn gets pressure on QB James Franklin with their front four to eliminate the need to bring blitzes, which could leave their secondary exposed for the big play in the passing game on the outside. Look for Auburn’s defensive line to rush with discipline in their rush lanes to prevent Franklin from escaping out of the pocket, where he can be very dangerous with his legs. If Auburn can create consistent pressure with only their front four they can have the luxury of playing with two safeties over the top and potentially pick off an arrant Franklin pass in the secondary.
– Chris Doering
Chris Doering will be patrolling the sidelines Saturday for WestwoodOne. You’ll be able to listen to SEC Championship Game right here on WestwoodOneSports.com at 3:30 PM Eastern.