Posted: Dec 7, 2013 6:45 AM by Mark Kim, KOMU 8 Sports Columnist
Updated: Dec 7, 2013 12:12 PM
After playing in one of its biggest games in school history, the Missouri Tigers will follow up last week's win over Texas A&M with another high-pressure matchup against the Auburn Tigers. The winner of the game will be in contention to play for the BCS Championship game.
The Auburn Tigers won't be an easy foe. They beat the No. 1 ranked Alabama Crimson Tide last week and a big reason for this is the running attack. Auburn is fifth in the nation in rushing yards as they have Heisman candidate Tre Mason in the backfield and speedy quarterback Nick Marshall under the helm. If there's one thing Auburn can do, it's utilize the option. The entire Auburn offense is centered on the ability to utilize the option play. If there's any team in the nation with the potential to stop them, it's Missouri with its front four: Kony Ealy, Markus Golden, Michael Sam and Matt Hoch. A four man rush and a lineback in a quarterback spy should try to ease the high octane run offense of Auburn.
The key for Missouri is to force Auburn to pass. That being said, it's also Missouri's biggest weakness. Missouri needs to know when Auburn is going to throw the ball instead of being surprised when it does. As previously mentioned, Auburn enjoys running the option. The play action pass is one of Auburn's biggest weapons and they can be seen faking the option the sucker in the defense.
Auburn doesn't usually pass the ball, but when they do, Missouri needs to be ready. Especially with a pass defense as suspect as Missouri's, they need to make the most of the passes and try to force turnovers.
Like Missouri, Auburn is prone in their pass defense. They've given up massive passing yards to quarterbacks such as A.J McCarron, Aaron Murray, Johnny Manziel and Bo Wallace. This week should be no different. James Franklin has shaken off the rust he had after sitting four games due to injury and now looks like the same healthy quarterback that led Missouri to a 6-0 record to start the season. Expect Missouri to air out the ball a lot to their giant receivers.
Now Auburn has a decent run defense. Yes, they did give up 141 rushing yards up to Alabama's T.J Yeldon, but let's remember he's a Heisman caliber running back. Henry Josey is good, but he's no Yeldon. I can see Missouri utilizing all three backs in order to catch the defense off guard with their different run styles. Expect a sub-par to decent performance for Missouri's running backs.
I can see Missouri taking the game. Missouri's defensive line should give Tre Mason a hard time and while the Tigers' pass defense may be bad, Auburn's is even worse. Combine that with Missouri's big receivers, and the team's aerial assault will be lethal. This game will still be close, but Auburn's defense will be the reason for their downfall.