SEC Championship Game: Tigers to watch (on both sides)

rblack@ledger-enquirer.comDecember 6, 2013 

Editor's note: Saturday's SEC Championship between No. 3 Auburn and No. 5 game is littered with talented players. To pare things down a bit, Auburn beat writer Ryan Black highlights six players (three for each team) that will likely play the largest role in the outcome of Saturday's SEC Championship game.

AUBURN

NICK MARSHALL

Pos.: Quarterback

Ht.: 6-foot-1

Wt: 210 pounds

Class: Junior

Stats (in 11 games): 119-for-201 (59.2 percent), 1,627 yards, 11 touchdowns, 5 interceptions; Rushing: 140 carries, 922 yards (eighth-most in SEC), 10 touchdowns (tied for ninth-most in SEC)

His impact on the game will be: continuing to run the Tigers’ read-option scheme with masterful precision. The Georgia native has scored five rushing touchdowns in the past three games, but has proven he’s every bit as lethal with his arm — when it’s needed, anyway. Given Missouri’s talented and well-rounded defense, Marshall will likely need to make plays with both his arm and his feet to give Auburn’s offense the chance to work in space.

TRE MASON

Pos.: Running back

Ht.: 5-foot-10

Wt: 205

Class: Junior

Stats: 237 carries (most in SEC), 1,317 rushing yards (most in SEC), 18 rushing touchdowns (most in SEC)

His impact on the game will be: attempting to soften up Missouri’s defense up the middle to open up perimeter running lanes for Marshall and Corey Grant. No player has been more consistent than Mason during Auburn’s eight-game winning streak, averaging 122.4 rushing yards and scoring at least one touchdown in each game (14 in all) of that stretch.

DEE FORD

Pos.: Defensive end

Ht.: 6-foot-2

Wt: 240 pounds

Class: Senior

Stats (in 10 games): 23 tackles, 12 tackles for loss (fifth-most in SEC), 8 sacks (fourth-most in SEC), 2 forced fumbles

His impact on the game will be: making himself a nuisance for Missouri quarterback James Franklin. The senior defensive end has made a habit out of that this season; what’s more, he seems to always find his way to the into the backfield when it matters most. Twice this season, he has sealed victories for the Tigers — against Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel and Georgia’s Aaron Murray, respectively — by leveling the quarterback on the opponent’s final snap.

***

MISSOURI

JAMES FRANKLIN

Pos.: Quarterback

Ht.: 6-foot-2

Wt: 230 pounds

Class: Senior

Stats (in nine games): 162-for-242 (66.9 percent), 1,952 yards, 16 touchdowns, 4 interceptions; Rushing: 91 carries, 412 yards, 4 touchdowns

His impact on the game will be: keeping Auburn’s defense off-balance with his dual-threat capabilities. No, Franklin doesn’t have the shiftiness or pure speed of a Johnny Manziel, but he bears a striking resemblance to Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott, who shares the same height/weight attributes at 6-foot-2 and 230 pounds. Franklin just hopes he can match the numbers Prescott put up in his Sept. 14 matchup against Auburn: 133 rushing yards and two touchdowns along with 213 passing yards.

DORIAL GREEN-BECKHAM

Pos.: Wide receiver

Ht.: 6-foot-6

Wt: 225 pounds

Class: Sophomore

Stats: 49 receptions, 686 receiving yards, 10 touchdown receptions

His impact on the game will be: trying to replicate the performance Texas A&M’s Mike Evans had against Auburn. Back on Oct. 12, Evans reeled in four touchdowns and a school-record 287 receiving yards. Green-Beckham, standing an inch taller than the 6-foot-5 Evans, can pose similar problems for an Auburn defense that has struggled to defend the pass all year.

MICHAEL SAM

Pos.: Defensive end

Ht.: 6-foot-2

Wt: 255 pounds

Class: Senior

Stats: 37 tackles, 18 tackles for loss (most in SEC), 10.5 sacks (most in SEC)

His impact on the game will be: forcing Auburn’s offensive line to pay special attention to him. Sam’s tackle for loss and sack totals speak for themselves: he’s a disruptive force that must be accounted for, lest Auburn wants its offense to face third-and-long situations with regularity.

Ledger-Enquirer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service