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[+] Team Summaries

Thursday, December 5, 2013

SEC Championship Preview

11-1 Missouri vs. 11-1 Auburn
Saturday, 4:00, CBS

What they do well

There's plenty that Missouri does well.  They rank in the top 25 offensively in points per possession (2.92), EP3 & EP3+ (1.31; 1.25), yards per possession (38.6), starting field position (67.7), turnover avoidance (7.1%), and points per red zone trip (5.47), among other things.  Their defense has quietly been great as well, ranking in the top 25 in points per possession (1.38), EP3+ (1.03), starting field position (72.9), turnover rate (17.4%), and avoiding TDs and points in the red zone (only 50% TDs, 4.28 points per trip).  This is a great all-around team with very few holes.

Auburn is solid across the board as well, though not quite as accomplished as Missouri.  Top 25 offensively in points per possession (2.91), EP3+ (1.28), yards per possession (39.3), and drives ending in touchdowns (38%).  Defensively, the War Damn Tigers rank in the top 25  in EP3+ (.70), starting field position (73.2), and limiting points in the red zone (3.99 per trip). 

What they don't do well

There's really not much in the manner of weaknesses for Missouri.  It's nitpicking, but I suppose I could point out that the Missouri D occasionally is susceptible to long drives (5.77 plays per possession, 133 seconds per possession), but even then, I'm not sure it's much of a weakness.

Auburn's issues are slightly more glaring.  Offensively, they tend to be boom or bust; despite their healthy offensive statistics, they don't average a lot of plays per drive, turn the ball over more than you'd like, and occasionally leave the red zone with nothing to show for it.  Defensively, they give up long drives, ranking 78th in both plays per possession and yards per possession.  Auburn ranks just 74th in defensive turnover rate.  

EPA+ Matchup

Missouri rush O (.22) vs. Auburn rush D (.07)
Missouri pass O (.23) vs. Auburn pass D (.15)
Auburn rush O (.21) vs. Missouri rush D (.16)
Auburn pass O (.16) vs. Missouri pass D (.20)

The mismatch of the day is Missouri's rushing offense against Auburn's rush defense, where Missouri holds a significant edge.  They also should do well throwing the ball.  Auburn's offense, especially lately, has been phenomenal, with the passing game coming along, but this Missouri defense is stout.  Just a week ago, they held Johnny Manziel to just 216 total yards of offense.  EPA+ suggests that Missouri has the edge.

Pick

When Missouri beat Texas A&M 28-21 last week, it joined the double overtime loss to South Carolina as only the second time any team stayed within a single score of Missouri this season.  Auburn, on the other hand, just hasn't been as consistently impressive.  They lost by two touchdowns to LSU.  Washington State, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Texas A&M, Georgia, and Alabama all nearly beat them.  Whether by divine providence or a relentless avoidance of natural regression to the mean, it's clear that Auburn is a charmed team.  They'll need that luck to continue to beat Missouri.  Whether it will or not just adds to the appeal of this game.  

As for my pick, I'll go with the better team: Missouri. 

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