Every SEC Championship Game pairing in the current scheduling system will have at least four common opponents: each team's two cross-division matchups. As luck would have it, Auburn and Missouri have five. Let's run them down, shall we?
|Date of Game||Sept. 7||Sept. 28|
There isn't a whole lot to be learned from this one. Arkansas State is an overmatched Sun Belt outfit that couldn't hang with either team in the end. Plus, as I mentioned in this week's score projections post, Auburn in September is a very different team than the Auburn of right now. Mizzou had the better game overall even if the score margin was a little closer. Let's just move on.
|Date of Game||Nov. 16||Oct. 12|
Auburn got the worse of these two games, as UGA had healed up a bit by then compared to its October injury plague. In any event, it's worth noting that the Bulldogs had a better yards per play rate in both of these games. Both teams also took big leads early that they squandered away in the second half.
Missouri's defense easily had the better day of the two, but Auburn's offense easily had the better day of the two. What helped Missouri a lot to open up that scoring margin despite the yards per play deficit was the fact that turnovers went the Tigers' way four to zero. Mizzou was able to get a couple of scores late to pull away and make the final look nicer; Auburn, of course, needed a miracle to survive. Both teams took a big shot from Georgia, but both were able to come away with the victory in the end.
|Date of Game||Oct. 5||Nov. 23|
As with the Georgia games, these two matchups with Ole Miss went fairly similarly. Both Auburn and Mizzou built up early leads and held the Rebels at arms length for most of the rest of the way. The main difference is that Ole Miss was able to get an extra score late against AU to pull a bit closer while it had no such success late against Missouri.
Other than the final score, the biggest difference here was in passing. Missouri had a far better day throwing the ball than Auburn did, while MU stopped the pass at a better rate than AU did. Auburn did run it better, but not by as big a margin as the difference in passing.
|Date of Game||Nov. 9||Nov. 2|
Tennessee didn't really have a shot against either, did it? You can go ahead an ignore Auburn's passing mark for the most part, as Nick Marshall only attempted seven passes the whole game. This game was a tour de force for the AU rushing attack. Missouri didn't run it at quite as high a rate, but well over six yards per carry is nothing to scoff at. The Tigers from Columbia made up for it with a superior run defense number anyway.
It's probably best not to take too much from this one. Blowouts can only tell you so much.
|Date of Game||Oct. 19||Nov. 30|
Now this is a contrast. The other four games were fairly same-y, but this is not. Missouri's game with A&M was a somewhat controlled contest, close throughout with the better team taking the win at the end. Auburn's game was a wild shootout that only went the Plainsmen's way thanks to some heroics from Dee Ford on the Aggies' final drive.
All of the numbers except for yards per rush allowed are lower in the Missouri column. Auburn didn't quite have that good a day against the run, mind you. I didn't take out sacks, and when you do, that figure jumps to 4.76 yards per rush for A&M (5.9 allowed for Mizzou, net of sacks). In any event, look at those passing figures. Hitting at nine and a half yards per pass is great, but goodness gracious is allowing over 11 yards per pass terrible.
|Turnover Margin||+1 (7-6)||+8 (10-2)|
The general impression that you get from these teams is true when it comes to the common opponents. Auburn's side is inflated in comparison, or Missouri's is more muted depending on your perspective. War Eagle scores more, but it allows more too. It gains more yards per play, but it gives up more too.
The biggest thing that I wasn't aware of ahead of time was Missouri's greater success in the turnover department. Indeed, Mizzou leads the SEC in overall turnover margin at +15 on the season. Auburn is right in the middle of the pack at +1. The large discrepancy is less about lost turnovers, as MU has lost just four fewer than AU has, but rather it's in forced turnovers. Missouri has forced 27 on the season, while Auburn has forced only 17.
Is it a big factor for this game? Maybe not as much as you'd think. The primary difference in the forced turnovers is interceptions, not fumbles. Mizzou has 18 of those, twice as many as it has recovered opponent fumbles. Auburn, however, just don't throw the ball much. It has thrown just 247 passes on the year, last in the SEC by a mile behind Arkansas's 301 attempts. Its passes make up just 29.1% of its total plays run, again, a mile behind Arkansas's 38.8%.
Can Missouri find some way, any way, to force Auburn to pass the ball more than it wants to? If so, that might just be the deciding factor in the game.