On Saturday, Dec. 7, the Georgia Dome in Atlanta will host an improbable SEC Championship Game. The matchup will feature the Auburn Tigers of the West and the Missouri Tigers of the East.
This matchup was nearly unforeseeable in August. Entering the season, many pundits expected Auburn and Missouri to finish near the bottom of their respective divisions.
Even in November, the matchup was difficult to peg. Auburn, while good, had too many obstacles with back-to-back rivalry games against Georgia and Alabama. As for Missouri, some writers were foolish enough to excoriate members of the press for prematurely exalting the Tigers.
Now, in the first week of December, Auburn rides to Atlanta on the back of two miracle finishes. Missouri, on the other hand, systematically dispatched of competitive Ole Miss and Texas A&M squads to reach the championship game.
Let’s take a look at some keys to the game.
In terms of points and yardage, these two teams are nearly identical. Missouri has scored two more points on the season than Auburn; War Eagle holds a slight edge with 1.5 more yards per game. Each team averages just under 40 points per game, so this has the potential to be a shootout.
Missouri and Auburn share five common opponents on the year, to which they own a combined 10-0 record. Missouri had an 86-point differential over the teams; Auburn had a 78-point differential. The Tigers nearly beat their shared opponents by the same amount of points.
Defense Wins Championships
Continuing the similarities, both teams rank in the bottom half of the conference in yards allowed; however, they each rank in the top five in points allowed. Essentially, both clubs play stout bend-but-don’t-break defense.
The resemblance between Auburn and Missouri goes well beyond the teams’ mascots. They each have potent offenses, which are anchored by dynamic rushing attacks. On the defensive side of the ball, each team gives up ground between the 20s. However, they tighten up in the red zone and force opponents into field goals.
Will Auburn’s guardian angel travel east to Atlanta? Can Missouri’s stud linebacker, the aptly named Michael Sam, contain Auburn’s spread rushing attack? For two teams not expected to make it to the Georgia Dome, they could present a championship game equal to last year’s classic.
It’s time to settle it. Who takes the SEC crown?