There will be Tigers running amok as the Missouri Tigers invade Alabama to take on the Auburn Tigers in SEC action. Missouri comes into this matchup at 2-1 as they begin conference play. Auburn is also 2-1 after getting hammered at home by Penn State last week. The opening kick is slated for 12pmET on Saturday.
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Taming These TigersThe Missouri Tigers come into this game 2-1, sandwiching two home wins against lesser opponents around a blowout loss on the road at Kansas State. The Tigers won their second-straight home game on Saturday with a 34-17 win over Abilene Christian catapulted by two long first-quarter touchdowns. The Tigers scored on a 78-yard punt return from Luther Burden as well as a 79-yard touchdown pass from Brady Cook to Dominic Lovett to cruise to victory.
"The good news is we got the win," Head coach Eli Drinkwitz said. "That's the goal every week, and we've got an opportunity to continue to get better. And so that's what we're gonna do. To start with Luther, to return that for a touchdown, the crowd was into it, our students were really loud," Drinkwitz went on to add. "Really appreciate our fans."
Quarterback Brady Cook finished 22-of-31 for 297 yards and three touchdowns in the win. Mizzou ran the ball 41 times for 215 yards with an average of 4.8 yards per carry. Eight different players had rushing attempts in the game. Lovett was the top receiver with seven catches for 132 yards and two touchdowns on the day. Overall, the Tigers had 487 yards of total offense and turned the ball over once.
Defensively, Mizzou held ACU to 308 yards of total offense, including just 199 through the air. They had one interception on the day and held ACU to just 3-of-14 on third down conversions. The Tigers had three tackles for loss but didn't record a sack in the win.
Mizzou has scored an average of nearly 33 points per game but has given up 27 per contest. They are averaging nearly 220 yards per game passing the ball but have been careless, with five interceptions on the season already. Overall, the Tigers have committed seven turnovers through three games and have a -1 turnover differential. The Tigers have also been rather sloppy with 27 penalties already this season compared with just 18 for the opposition. They will need to protect the ball and cut down on the penalties if they want to hang with Auburn in a hostile environment on Saturday.
Licking their WoundsAfter a 2-0 start against two lower-tier teams at home this season, the Auburn Tigers got a wake-up call last Saturday in a 41-12 home loss to Penn State. Auburn was outscored 27-6 in the second half turning a fairly close game into a blowout loss.
"Penn State did a really good job," Auburn coach Bryan Harsin said. "I thought our crowd was fantastic. We're disappointed in the performance, we're disappointed in the loss. I've got to do a better job, we all do as coaches, to get these guys prepared to play against really good football teams."
Auburn was able to move the ball, gaining 415 total yards including 296 through the air. Starting quarterback TJ Finley was just 11-of-19 for 152 yards with an interception before being replaced by redshirt freshman Robby Ashford, who was 10-of-19 for 144 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Reports have surfaced that Finley may have hurt his shoulder and will not dress vs. Mizzou. Ashford led the Tigers with 51 yards rushing on the day while Finley added 47 before leaving the game with an apparent injury.
The story of the day for Auburn's defense was the unit's difficulty in the red zone. Penn State went five-for-five in the red zone on the day. They also allowed Penn State to convert on 5-of-11 third-down chances and gave up a total of 477 yards including 254 on the ground to the newly revamped Penn State ground attack.
Auburn has nearly doubled the opposition on the ground this season with over 600 yards rushing while holding their first three opponents to 373 yards in total with an average of 3.8 yards per carry. The Tigers will likely run even more if Ashford is in the game exclusively as he has more than doubled his rushing yards of Finley this season. Unlike Mizzou, Auburn has not been penalized frequently this season with just 19 penalties thus far compared with 27 for their opponents. Auburn is an unsightly -8 in turnover differential thus far and has fumbled the ball seven times already, luckily losing just two. Despite being a run-first team, Auburn is losing the time of possession battle by 28 minutes compared to nearly 32 minutes for their opposition.
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Full-Game Side Bet
Despite likely being without Finley in this matchup, the line has actually shifted a point and a half in the favor of Auburn. The reason seems to be simple, Auburn likes to run the ball and Mizzou is awful against the run. In its lone game against a quality opponent, Mizzou coughed up 235 yards on the ground to Kansas State in a blowout loss. With Ashford likely at the helm at quarterback for the entire game, Auburn will certainly look to run early and often and will have the more nimble of their two quarterbacks in the game. The objective for Auburn will be to protect the football as they are unlikely to cause many turnovers given their current track record. They will benefit from Missouri's sloppy play and propensity for penalties in this one as Mizzou has 27 penalties already this season. Missouri has also done much better on the ground but that plays right into Auburn's strengths on defense. Through the air, Mizzou averages a modest 218 yards per game. In their SEC opener, I look for Auburn to come out fast and run the ball down Mizzou's throat in a double-touchdown victory.
Lay the points and go with Auburn.
Full-Game Total Pick
Auburn's defense allowed a perfect 5-for-5 red zone scores against Penn State. On the season, they have allowed 12-of-13 red zone scores. They have yet to get a turnover this season and are vulnerable to the pass. Mizzou will make some connections down the field and get some points against Auburn's marginal defense. On the other hand, Mizzou may not be able to stop the Auburn ground game at all in this game. Auburn should pile up the yardage and hit on a few big RPO plays from Ashford when they crowd the box. Neither of these teams will finish in the upper tier of the SEC but Auburn has a deeper team and more playmakers. Neither defense will shine in this one.
Take the over, 51.5 points.