The Tigers are SEC champions. But which Tigers will it be?
The Missouri Tigers booked their spot with the Auburn Tigers in the SEC Championship game on Saturday night with a 28-21 over Texas A&M.
Yes, this is the title game that no one predicted before the season. But it's no fluke.
The Missouri defense stifled Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel and Mike Evans and fittingly it was Henry Josey who scored the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter on a 57-yard scamper.
The running back tore the ACL, MCL and PCL in his left knee in 2011 against Texas, Missouri's final year of the Big 12. It was a knee injury that was called "one-in-a-million" by the Missouri team doctor. It was that vicious.
Josey missed all of 2012 with the injury. Missouri went 5-7 in its first season in the SEC. Now, with Josey back in the fold and a healthy offensive line, Missouri has the second best rushing attack in the SEC. Behind Auburn, of course.
That ground game is what got Missouri back into the football game too. Mizzou trailed at the half 14-7, but scored touchdowns on its first two drives of the third quarter to take a 21-14 lead. 60 of the yards on those drives came via the run.
A&M tied it up with 10:43 to go in the fourth quarter and had two possessions before Josey's touchdown. However, each time the Aggies had the ball, A&M went three and out. Both third downs failed on incomplete passes to Evans. The consensus All-American receiver finished with four catches for eight yards. That's not a misprint.
Take away Evans, and you take away Manziel? Johnny Football wound up with 24 completions on 35 attempts for 195 yards and a touchdown with just 21 yards rushing. The Mizzou defensive line, perhaps the best in the SEC and the best in the country, visibly stopped their rush short of the corners to contain Manziel in the pocket. And it worked. Manziel wasn't able to break contain very often.
Will a similar approach work against Auburn's read option, which is designed on reading the commitment of an opposing team's defensive ends? We'll find on on Saturday. Just like we were not anticipating in July.
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