SEC Championship Preview capsule: No. 3 Auburn vs. No. 5 Missou - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

SEC Championship Preview capsule: No. 3 Auburn vs. No. 5 Missouri

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(AP Photo/Dave Martin, File) (AP Photo/Dave Martin, File)

SEC Championship Matchup:  No. 3 Auburn (11-1, 7-1 SEC) vs. No. 5 Missouri (11-1, 7-1)

Time: 3 p.m. (CBS)

Line: Auburn by 2.

Series record: Missouri 1-0.

WHAT'S AT STAKE

The Southeastern Conference title and a likely shot at the national championship for the winner if either Ohio State or Florida State loses in their own league championship games.

KEY MATCHUP

Auburn's running game versus Missouri's defense. Auburn, winner of the SEC West after last week's thrilling 34-28 victory over Alabama, ranks rank fifth nationally in rushing at 318.3 yards per game out of coach Gus Malzahn's hurry-up, spread offense. Auburn put up 296 yards on the ground against the Crimson Tide, one of the nation's top defenses. Missouri ranks second in the SEC behind Alabama in rushing defense with a 119.1-yard average, so it will be interesting to see if the East Division champs have better success slowing Auburn.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Missouri: DE Michael Sam. A finalist for the Hendricks, Nagurski and Lombardi awards, Sam is one of the nation's most disruptive players on defense. He leads the SEC with 10.5 sacks and 18 tackles behind the line of scrimmage. Missouri needs him to create plenty of havoc against Auburn's high-powered offense.

Auburn: QB Nick Marshall. After starting his college career as a defensive back at Georgia, Marshall has blossomed on the offensive side of the ball at Auburn. He is a dual threat, rushing for 922 yards and 10 touchdowns, while showing an ability to hit the big pass when needed. Against Alabama, he fooled the Crimson Tide with a play that looked like a run, pulling up just short of the line of scrimmage to toss a tying 39-yard touchdown pass to Sammie Coates with 32 seconds remaining.

FACTS AND FIGURES

In the only other meeting between the teams, Missouri won 34-17 in the 1973 Sun Bowl. ... Auburn registered the biggest turnaround in the nation after going 3-9 last season, and the biggest reversal in SEC history with seven more conference wins that a year ago. ... Missouri reached the SEC title game in just its second year in the league. Auburn will be making its fifth appearance in the championship, its last coming in 2010 with Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton at quarterback. ... Missouri's Gary Pinkel is tied with Don Faurot as the winningest coach in school history with a record of 101-62. ... Auburn RB Tre Mason has rushed for a touchdown in nine straight games. ... Missouri is going for the second 12-win season in school history (the other was in 2007) and its first outright conference title since winning the Big Eight in 1960.

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