In each of the past seven years, the winner of the SEC Championship game has gone on to win the BCS title. On Saturday, Auburn and Missouri will compete for the conference championship, and a possible spot in the biggest college football game of the season.
Both clubs are currently on the outside looking in of the national title picture. As the only remaining undefeated BCS teams, Florida State and Ohio State, sit atop the rankings. With one loss each, Auburn and Missouri come in at No.3 and No.5, respectively. The Alabama Crimson Tide are in between them at No.4, despite their most recent loss.
A loss for Florida State or Ohio State in the conference title games would almost guarantee the SEC winner a shot at the national title. The Seminoles are not expected to falter, considering they are a 29-point favorite over Duke. The Buckeyes, though, are giving Michigan State just 5.5 points. It’s possible, but very unlikely, that the voters could favor a one-loss SEC winner over an undefeated Buckeyes team that faced a much easier schedule.
Entering the year, Auburn and Missouri were predicted by many experts to not even make a bowl game, let alone finish first in the best conference in the sport. Auburn, coming off a 3-9 2012 campaign, were picked to finish fifth in the Western Division. Missouri went 5-7 last year and finished sixth in the Eastern Division in the preseason media poll.
Gus Malzahn's squad has been a lot less dominant than most of the teams near the top of the polls, but they’ve gotten the job done against almost every team they faced. Other than their loss to then-No.6 LSU, Auburn succeeded in holding off four ranked opponents. Six of their 11 wins have come by just one score, including three that saw them take the lead in the final 30 seconds. Their last victory, which fits into both categories, was the biggest of 2013 when they defeated Alabama, who had been No.1 all season long.
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Missouri’s journey to an 11-1 mark may be even more surprising. Gary Pinkell's squad has won most of their games by at least two touchdowns, and they narrowly missed going undefeated. The only loss came in double-overtime against now-No.8 South Carolina.
Both teams have made it to this point, in spite of uncertainty at times to their quarterbacks. Auburn’s Nick Marshall injured his shoulder in late October, but continued to play, even though his ability to throw was limited. He also missed a game earlier in the season because of a knee issue. Missouri played without starter James Franklin for four games, all of which came against SEC opponents. As a result, freshman Maty Mauk has thrown for over 1,000 yards on the season.
On Saturday, the game is expected to be highly contested. The betting line at most Las Vegas casinos has Auburn listed as slight favorites, giving two points to Missouri.
Mizzou may be underdogs, but they stand alone as the best team against the point spread in college football this season at 10-1-1.
Betting Odds: Auburn -2, 59
Prediction: Auburn over Missouri, 34-31