For Auburn to Win SEC Championship Game, It Must Continue to Own Its Identity

Barrett SalleeSEC Football Lead WriterDecember 2, 2013

Auburn RB Tre Mason
Auburn RB Tre MasonShanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

Aside from the first drive against Tennessee in early November, when Auburn called four straight pass plays on its first drive of the game, the 2013 Tigers have owned their own identity and, as a result, own the SEC West title.

Did Auburn—which boasts the best rushing offense in the SEC—try to mix things up against the conference's best rush defense in Alabama last weekend? Not at all.

All the Tigers did against the Crimson Tide was rush for 296 yards, 5.7 per attempt and score twice on the ground in the 34-28 win over previous No. 1 Alabama.

Auburn QB Nick Marshall
Auburn QB Nick MarshallJohn Reed-USA TODAY Sports

"They are a great run defense, but we felt like for us to win we had to run it," head coach Gus Malzahn said after the game. "Our mindset was to run the football. I didn't want to change anything. I wanted to do what got us here. If they were good enough to stop it, so be it, but that's what we are good at."

That mindset can't change this Saturday night in the SEC Championship Game.

Tale of the Tape: Auburn Rush O vs. Missouri Rush D
StatAuburn Rushing OffenseMissouri Rushing Defense
Rushing TDs3911
Rushing Plays of 10+ Yds12142

While Alabama's prowess against the run is well-documented, SEC East champ Missouri is no slouch either. The fifth-ranked Tigers rank second in the SEC in rush defense with 119.08 yards per game—only 10.75 yards per game more than Alabama. 

Not too shabby.

"It's going to be about discipline," Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel said. "It's going to be physical. But it's going to be assignment football also. Hopefully we can get our scheme down and give our best efforts."

Now's not the time for Auburn to get fancy. It knows what it is, it owns what it is and it excels at what it is. There's no reason to mess with success.

Auburn unfairly gets labeled as a one-dimensional team. By the strictest definition, that's probably right. But it is very multidimensional within the running game, which is a big reason why it's been so successful.

Auburn RB Tre Mason
Auburn RB Tre MasonKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

"Well, at this point in the season, you got to have confidence in what you do," Malzahn said. "Our guys, I feel like they've improved each week. They're playing very physical. We're going to have to do that again this week."

Fullback Jay Prosch echoed Malzahn's sentiments.

"We're just going to have to continue being physical up front," he said. "That's one of our main strengths is that we're just a physical bunch of guys. We get after it on the field."

Missouri knows that, even if it knows what's coming, this offense is very difficult to defend.

"It's very difficult. It's not an easy offense to stop. They do a lot of motion," said linebacker Donovan Bonner. "Especially at my position at linebacker, you have to focus on looking at your keys and what's going on instead of looking at the fly motion and zone reads where they can pull it out with the quarterback and raise up and pass it."

Auburn's path to success is predictable, efficient and has proven to be both effective and dominant. If Malzahn changes that on championship week, it will cost the Tigers.

But judging how the stretch run of this season has gone on the Plains, he won't mess with success.


*Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.