Prior to the start of the 2013 college football seasons, Alabama and Georgia were projected to meet in the SEC Championship Game. Instead, two teams that were picked to finish at the bottom of the conference will face off in the contest.
No.3 Auburn and No.5 Missouri will bring their 11-1 records into the matchup with a chance of winning and going on to play in the BCS National Championship Game. The two teams have had very comparable seasons, far exceeding expectations.
"We're playing a very good Missouri team that's very similar to us," Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn said. "I think about both teams being very hungry. We were both kind of down at the bottom at the start of the year. But we've improved. I feel like we've improved each game. They would probably say the same thing."
Offensively, Auburn and Missouri are very much the same. Auburn ranks 18th in the country, putting up 38.6 points per game. Missouri is just ahead of them, averaging 38.8 points. Both teams move the ball on the strength of their running game, as well. Auburn is fifth in the nation in rushing yards, while Missouri comes in at No.18.
Missouri has a strong ground game, but quarterback James Franklin has had a few big games through the air, including the last contest against Texas A&M. Three of his wide receivers have at least 44 catches on the year, including L’Damian Washington who leads the team with 824 yards. Auburn, though, is very reliant on their rushing attack. In their victory over Alabama, quarterback Nick Marshall ran for 99 yards, while passing for just 97. The team racked up 296 rushing yards, which was still short of their season’s average of 318.3.
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Despite his propensity to use his legs, Marshall can make the necessary throws. The junior made the biggest pass of the game against Alabama, completing a 39-yard score to Sammie Coates with 32 seconds remaining. Two weeks prior, Marshall hit Ricardo Louis off a deflected pass for a 73-yard touchdown that helped the program shock Georgia.
"He is making good decisions on when to not throw it, when to throw it away and when to take off," Malzahn said via al.com. "That is a sign of experience and a sign of a good quarterback."
Player To Watch: Nick Marshall
Time: 4:00 p.m. Saturday
Place: Georgia Dome
Online Stream: CBS Sports
Updated Betting Odds: Auburn by 1
Prediction: Auburn over Missouri, 34-31