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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, December 6, 2013 at 7:00 AM

It was supposed to be Alabama vs. Georgia in a rematch from last season. Or, maybe Alabama/South Carolina if Georgia stubbed its toe. Maybe Alabama/Florida if the Gators caught a few breaks. If Alabama got stunned somewhere along the way…then it would be LSU or Texas A&M representing the West. But…before the 2013 college football season started…no one…literally NO ONE in the world thought we’d be watching Missouri play Auburn for the SEC Championship in Atlanta.

Missouri was supposed to be down near the bottom of the SEC East, still outclassed in their transition from the finesse style of football in the Big 12 to the SEC’s smashmouth varsity. Auburn had a chance to matter NEXT year…after new head coach Gus Malzahn had some time to truly impact the fading program.

The players and the coaches truly rose to the occasion…and in the case of the SEC East…many contenders completely fell apart under pressure while dealing with injuries…so we have a challenge for handicappers that nobody imagined was possible as recently as early October.

Both teams were tested by difficult schedules, earning their shot at glory. Let’s review how both Auburn and Missouri have fared vs. bowl eligible opposition this season…

 

AUBURN vs. BOWL ELIGIBLE TEAMS

Auburn (-14) beat Washington State 31-24 (losing yardage 393-464)

Auburn (-13) beat Arkansas State 38-9 (winning yardage 468-422)

Auburn (-6) beat Mississippi State 24-20 (winning yardage 459-415)

Auburn (+17) lost to LSU 35-21 (losing yardage 393-464)

Auburn (+3) beat Mississippi 30-22 (losing yardage 393-464)

Auburn (+12) won at Texas A&M 45-41 (winning yardage 615-602)

Auburn (-24) beat Florida Atlantic 45-10 (winning yardage 627-247)

Auburn (-3) beat Georgia 43-38 (winning yardage 566-532)

Auburn (+11) beat Alabama 34-28 (losing yardage 393-464)

Yes, including Arkansas State and Florida Atlantic is borderline because those aren’t big time schools. They did earn bowl eligibility though…and Auburn beat them by a combined 83-19 score. The biggest wins were obviously Texas A&M and Alabama. It is worth noting though that…if wins were based on yardage…Auburn only would have gone 5-4 in those nine games. And, that’s 3-4 if you throw out Arkansas State and FAU! Even after really finding their form midseason, they were still very lucky to beat Georgia on a miracle Hail Mary, and then Alabama on a Fail Mary when Alabama missed a field goal and couldn’t tackle the return man.

Bottom line…Auburn is talented and capable of beating anyone. But, they’re not yet a superpower given those yardage numbers.

 

MISSOURI vs. BOWL ELIGIBLE TEAMS

Missouri (-14) beat Toledo 38-23 (losing yardage 384-389)

Missouri (-21) beat Arkansas State 41-19 (winning yardage 495-425)

Missouri (-3) won at Vanderbilt 51-28 (winning yardage 523-468)

Missouri (+7) won at Georgia 41-26 (losing yardage 375-454)

Missouri (-3) lost to South Carolina 27-24 in overtime (losing yardage 404-498)

Missouri (-2) won at Ole Miss 24-10 (winning yardage 485-378)

Missouri (-4) beat Texas A&M 28-21 (winning yardage 463-379)

Only seven games against bowl eligible teams for Missouri, who played in the lesser of the two divisions this year. But, they were truly impressive statistically and on the scoreboard against SEC West teams Ole Miss and Texas A&M in finishing out their season. They were a bit fortunate to catch Georgia injured and mistake-prone in Athens. And, they were outgained by almost 100 yards by South Carolina! So…again we have a talented team that kept finding ways to win…even if they’re not truly a superpower just yet.

Very similar teams…and two teams who had to win high pressure spots last week to qualify for this game. If fatigue is a factor…they’re BOTH tired. Both are in letdown spots. Maybe Auburn is in a tougher spot because they were beating a hated rival as a big underdog. Yet, you can see in the current pointspread that it’s Auburn who’s getting more respect.

 

Current Vegas Line: Auburn by 2, total of 58


Do the numbers above suggest that Auburn is the better side? They earned the bigger scalp last week, and come from the tougher division. Is that enough to make them a favorite? Or, has the market overreacted to last week’s scoreboard without properly adjusting for recent statistical indicators?

JIM HURLEY has been studying the possibilities here since late last Saturday Night. If a meaningful edge is in place, his clients will get a major release in this game. If not, there are plenty of other championship possibilities (in the Big 10, Pac 12, and elsewhere) and potential blockbusters from the main board (like Oklahoma/Oklahoma State and Texas/Baylor) on the Saturday slate. You’ll be able to purchase the final word early Saturday right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call our handicapping office during normal business hours at 1-888-777-4155.

We’ll finish up our series of championship previews tomorrow with a look at the prime time battle between Ohio State and Michigan State in the Big 10. Then, it’s back to the NFL for prime time showdowns Sunday and Monday with Carolina/New Orleans and Dallas/Chicago respectively.

Championship Week is now just hours away from kicking off. WHEN CHAMPIONSHIPS ARE ON THE LINE, you need WORLD CHAMPION HANDICAPPER JIM HURLEY!

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