PHOTO: USA Today Sports
Yesterday, we took a look at the roads that Auburn and Missouri traveled to get to the SEC Championship Game. Today, we look at the key players for each team that will have the biggest impact on the outcome of this game. When you get to a championship game like this, it's very important to have key leadership in your upper-classmen. With our key players, we feature three seniors and one junior who will have great impact on the outcome of this SEC Championship Game.
Key Defensive Player, Auburn: Dee Ford. Sometimes with defensive players, statistics don't tell the entire story. Even though he does have great stats, Auburn's Dee Ford is one of these players. With Ford on the field, Auburn's defense is a completely different unit than with him off the field (watch the Georgia game for direct evidence of this). In ten games, Ford is fourth in the SEC with 8 sacks and he's fifth with 12 tackles for loss. Ford also has recorded 16 QB hurries (comparatively, Georgia's Jarvis Jones had 20 last year in 12 games) and has caused 2 fumbles. Those are great stats, but they don't tell the true impact that Ford can have on the game. Missouri's James Franklin will have to account for Ford on every play.
Key Defensive Player, Missouri: Michael Sam. Much like Auburn's Ford, Sam is a DE that can and will impact this game. Missouri's defensive line was lacking last season and Sam's emergence (as well as the emergence of his ensemble cast along the line) has been crucial for Mizzou. Sam leads the SEC with 10.5 sacks and 18 tackles for loss. He has also recorded five QB hurries, forced one fumble and he even returned a fumble for a TD against Georgia.
Key Offensive Player, Auburn: Tre Mason. Last year, Auburn averaged 148 yards rushing per game and 4.07 yards per carry. This season, they are averaging 318 yards per game and 6.34 yards per carry. One constant Auburn has had from year to year is Tre Mason. Last season, Mason averaged 83 yards per game and this season he's averaging 109 yards and has increased his TD output from 8 in 2012 to 18 in 2013. Mason is Auburn's feature RB and it is crucial for them to get him going so that they can run their offense off of him.
Key Offensive Player, Missouri: James Franklin. Franklin has really elevated his play from last season. In 2012, Franklin completed 59.4% of his passes, this season he's at 66.9%. In 2012, he threw 10 TD against 7 INT. In 2013, he has 16 TDs and only 4 INT. He's throwing for about 70 more yards per game. He's been a more effective runner with a 4.53 ypc average this season versus a 1.39 ypc average in 2012. Franklin's leadership and ability on the field will be a big reason Missouri wins or losses this game.