Auburn’s unique offense and the staggering numbers it has produced, especially during its eight-game winning streak, has generated plenty of headlines.
Certainly, rolling up 296 rushing yards against Alabama was noteworthy, but there will be two offenses on the field Saturday in the SEC championship game at the Georgia Dome, and No. 5 Missouri has an attack every bit as potent.
While No. 3 Auburn relies on a devastating read-option run game, which ranks fifth in the nation in rushing at 318.2 yards per game, Missouri opts for a balanced approach.
Still, the stats paint a nearly identical picture with respect to effectiveness.
Missouri scored 465 points during the regular season, two more than Auburn.
Missouri averaged 489.5 yards, 1 1/2 fewer than Auburn.
Missouri’s pass efficiency rating is 150.32, two points better than Auburn’s.
While Missouri’s offense may not be getting as much buzz, it might actually be every bit as difficult to game-plan for as Auburn’s.
“We’re not necessarily too concerned about it, because from the beginning of the season we’ve never had any respect, and we’ve continued to win,” said senior quarterback James Franklin, who has thrown for 16 touchdowns and just four interceptions this season.
Auburn has to make a choice against a Missouri offense that averages 236.9 yards rushing and 252.6 yards passing.
It can commit to stopping the run and take the chance that Franklin and Missouri’s tall, speedy wide receivers — led by seniors L’Damian Washington and Marcus Lucas, and sophomore Dorial Green-Beckham — won’t carve up a suspect secondary.
Or Auburn can sit back and hope that its front seven — a group Missouri says is as good as any it’s faced this season — doesn’t get manhandled in the run game.
“They’ve got a great run game,” Auburn senior defensive tackle Nosa Eguae said, “but they’re really balanced. … For us, it’s about first and second down, and controlling the line up front. If we can handle it up front, then we’ll get in opportune situations on third down, and that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to go out there and play our game on first and second down and have some fun on third down.”
The key for Missouri’s offense, which stalled in the first half against Texas A&M last Saturday against the backdrop of an emotional senior night, is two-fold: protect the defense by avoiding three-and-outs and don’t waste opportunities when they come.
“The defense has given us some opportunities,” Missouri offensive coordinator Josh Henson said. “We had another one with a turnover, I believe that was a special-teams turnover the other night (against the Aggies), but we didn’t do anything with it. … When we get those opportunities against good teams like we’re getting ready to play this weekend, we’ve got to take advantage of it.”
So, if the lack of attention signals a lack of respect, Missouri simply doesn’t care.
“We prefer it,” Lucas said. “We’ve been the underdog all season, so if they want to look over us, that’s better for us.”
At the end of the day, the game won’t be decided by the pregame buzz generated by either offense.
“The important thing is that we remain focused on us and our technique and how we exercise our craft,” senior left guard Max Copeland said. “That’s what’s important. It’s not other people. It’s not who’s in the stands or all these reputations. It’s just going to be about us and how well we exercise our craft that’s going to be important in this game. That needs to remain our central focus.”