JOE BIDDLE: Auburn runs roughshod through Missouri defense - WKRN News 2

JOE BIDDLE: Auburn runs roughshod through Missouri defense

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I don't know about you, but it was nice to see some fresh young blood in the SEC Championship Game.

Don't dare pretend it wasn't entertaining. So what if Auburn and Missouri left their defenses at home? It quickly turned into a track meet in football cleats. It was classic can't miss TV.

There hasn't been a shootout like this since Gen. Sherman's team burned down the town. When the final seconds ticked down, Auburn was on top, 59-42.

Who would have dreamed these two teams would be playing for all the SEC marbles? Certainly not the 243 preseason media know-it-alls at SEC Media Days that predicted Missouri to finish 6th in the East and Auburn to wind up 5th in the West. I guess that's what they mean when they say, don't believe all you read.

After all, Auburn was coming off a 3-9 season, going winless in eight SEC games.

Four months later in the Georgia Dome, the media looked pretty inept. They were not alone.

It was a game where these two teams simply could not stop one another. Auburn ran the football up the gut, leaving Missouri defenders grasping at straws. Missouri quarterback James Franklin chose to travel through the air, primarily because Auburn's secondary couldn't be located with a search and rescue team.

On the other hand, Mizzou receivers had a distinct height advantage that allowed them to keep nipping at Auburn's heels.

Their defense finally wore down, resorting to arm-tackling in the decisive fourth quarter. It took more than that to stop Auburn running back Tre Mason and Friends. Mason, chosen the game's MVP, put up 304 yards on Missouri and crossed the opponent's goal four times. He heads to a BCS bowl game with 1,621 yards.

Auburn outscored Missouri 14-0 in the fourth quarter to seal the deal.

Missouri Coach Gary Pinkel's worst fears about Auburn's explosive ground game proved on target.

"It's an offense and they have skilled people, and they have a lot of cylinders,'' Pinkel said. "I think as the tempo kept cranking up, we probably didn't handle that very well, either.''

Pinkel knew he wasn't the only coach in the game that has had trouble slowing down Auburn's offense.

"Everybody has problems with it. You know what, I'm the wrong person to ask because I'd have stopped it if I could have,'' Pinkel said. "Gus does a great job with it and has a great quarterback. … They have a lot of talent. You put that with a good scheme and you've got problems.''   

Purists will scoff at the score at will style used by both teams. But it could not be topped for entertainment value. You can keep those 9-6 games.     

These two teams combined for 1,211 yards, Auburn accounting for 677 of them. Auburn is a team that has progressively grown stronger, owning a win over former No. 1 Alabama in the Iron Bowl. Gus Malzahn has to be considered National Coach of the Year for bringing his team from the SEC ruins to the top in one season with a 12-1 record.

It appears that for the second time in the BCS history, an Auburn team will not get a chance to play for the BCS national championship. In 2004, Tommy Turberville's Tigers went undefeated only to see Oklahoma play Southern Cal, a team that left many wondering how the Sooners got in the championship game without buying a ticket.

The debates will start in earnest if Florida State and Ohio State finish off undefeated seasons. Maybe this Auburn team was born too soon because they would definitely be part of a four-team playoff if it were next season.

"We're the SEC champ,'' Malzahn said. "I believe (SEC) won it the last seven years. We play the toughest schedule of any of the teams there and we're playing our best football.

"A lot of teams aren't getting better each week. This team is.''

They did send a message that they can play with anyone, be it SEC or a non-conference team. Missouri has also shown they can compete in the country's top conference. The New Kids on the Block have proven they belong.

Contact wkrn.com Sports Columnist Joe Biddle at joebiddle11@gmail.com.

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