Three things to watch in Mizzou-Auburn matchup
ST. LOUIS — It has been a wild ride for the Missouri
football team these last few months, but here we are in early December
and the Tigers going to play Auburn in the Southeastern Conference
What?!? Who would have predicted
Not the media members who voted for the SEC
preseason polls in July, that’s for sure.
coming off a 5-7 campaign a year ago, was picked to finish sixth out of
seven teams in the SEC East. Auburn, which went 3-9 in 2012 and fired
its coach, was picked to finish fifth in the SEC West.
Missouri already has an SEC East Division
championship but Gary Pinkel’s squad isn’t ready to stop there. These
Tigers have answered the call down the stretch, including wins over
ranked Ole Miss and Texas A&M the past two weeks, to earn their
invite to Atlanta.
Here are three things to watch as
No. 5 Mizzou (11-1, 7-1 SEC) meets No. 3 Auburn (11-1, 7-1 SEC) on
Saturday at the Georgia Dome:
Auburn have a lot of similarities.
Mizzou is 15th
among FBS schools in points per game (38.8) and 13th in points against
(19.4), while Auburn is 18th in points per game (38.6) and 31st in
points against (22.5).
While both squads have strong
running games, Auburn has an edge — statistically-speaking. The West
Division champs average 318.3 yards rushing per contest, which ranks
first in the SEC and fifth among FBS schools.
“Their offensive scheme is really good,”
Pinkel said. “Their quarterback is a great player. You have a
quarterback like a Brad Smith-type athlete right there. They run forms
of the triple option with the same principles as the wishbone in a lot
of respects. They have a great offensive scheme, and they are very good
at it. They have a talented tailback, and some other great players. They
present a lot of problems. They have a lot of motioning, especially at
the quarterback position. You aren’t going to stop them, instead you
will have to contain them the best you can.”
Mason, a 205-pound junior running back, leads Auburn with 1,317 yards
rushing and 18 touchdowns. Quarterback Nick Marshall has run for 922
yards and 10 scores. Corey Grant, a junior who transferred from Alabama,
is averaging 9.8 yards per carry on 60
Auburn is averaging 6.3 yards per carry as a
team and has scored 39 rushing touchdowns.
tough task,” Mizzou linebacker Donovan Bonner. “It’s a big challenge.
They are very diverse and dynamic in what they do with the run. They
don’t just line up and run. They can do so much stuff off of the run —
quarterback keep, handoff to the wide receivers, zone-read, pop pass.
There’s a lot of things that goes into that.”
collection of physically imposing wide receivers has earned plenty of
attention this season.
Even St. Louis Rams coach
Jeff Fisher, whose son Trent is a junior reserve safety at Auburn,
mentioned the size of Mizzou’s wide receivers when he was asked about
the matchup this week.
L’Damian Washington, a
6-foot-4 redshirt senior, and Dorial Green-Beckham, a 6-5 sophomore, and
6-5 senior Marcus Lucas have led the Missouri receiving corps this
Washington has 44 catches for a team-high
824 yards, which ranks sixth in the SEC, and 10 touchdowns.
Green-Beckham has 49 catches for 686 yards and 10 touchdowns. Lucas has a
team-high 50 receptions, which ranks 10th in the SEC, to go along with
596 yards and two touchdowns.
“You feel like if you
get one-on-one matchups you’re going to be able to win those matchups,”
Mizzou offensive coordinator Josh Henson said of his team’s size
advantage on the perimeter. “It doesn’t concern you as much with man
coverage and some of those things. People are going to commit to playing
man coverage and stack the box on you and give you some problems in the
run game, and when you get to that point you have to be able to win
one-on-one on the edge. That’s the way it is. When you get into those
situations you feel like you have some weapons to do
Missouri is deep as well. Backups Bud Sasser,
Jimmie Hunt, Jaleel Clark and Darius White have combined for 57 catches,
695 yards and three scores.
Auburn has a
slight edge, statistically-speaking, in both red zone offense and red
Auburn and Missouri rank third and
fourth, respectively, in the SEC in red zone offense.
Auburn has scored on 88 percent of its red zone
opportunities (44 of 50), with 35 touchdowns (29 rushing, six passing)
and nine field goals in 10 tries.
meanwhile, has scored on 87.5 percent of its chances in the red zone (49
of 56), with 40 touchdowns (24 rushing, 16 passing) and nine field
goals in 13 attempts.
Defensively, Auburn also has a
slight edge in red zone defense.
have scored on 70.5 percent of their red zone opportunities (31 of 44),
which ranks second in the SEC behind only Alabama (63.6). Auburn’s
opponents have 21 touchdowns and 10 field goals in the red
Missouri ranks fourth in the SEC in red zone
defense, with its opponents having scored on 81.1 percent of their red
zone chances (30 of 37) with 19 touchdowns and 11 field goals.
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