Missouri and Auburn met in the 2013 SEC Championship Game. Nine years later, both teams are struggling under embattled coaches with fan bases wondering when their programs are ever going to get better.
By Matt Zemek
Progress and prosperity seem far away for these two teams. Missouri is immersed in frustration over the inability to thrive in the SEC. The good news is that their Week 4 opponent is not faring any better than they are. Mizzou, for all of its flaws, could legitimately win this game. Here are the three keys to Eli Drinkwitz and Mizzou toppling Bryan Harsin’s Auburn squad.
1 If Auburn wants to make mistakes, let it happen
Auburn has been catastrophically awful in 2022. Mizzou has to gain a foothold in this game, and the path to that goal is to let Auburn beat itself. Make the routine plays, show defensive discipline, and force Auburn to make ambitious, aggressive plays which have a low percentage chance of succeeding. Allow Auburn to be impatient and play into Mizzou’s hands. The Auburn Tigers look extremely disinterested on a week-to-week basis this season, under a lame-duck coach who will certainly be fired before 2022 comes to an end. It’s just a matter of when, not if. T.J. Finley, Auburn’s quarterback, has thrown four interceptions to only one touchdown on the year. He has taken so much physical punishment that he’s out for the game against Mizzou. His backup, Robby Ashford, isn’t much better with a negative TD-INT differential. This Auburn team is largely adrift and seems to have checked out on its coach. It is a team which tends to make mistakes. It is to Mizzou’s benefit to let Auburn make continual mistakes. Don’t overextend or try to force plays early; let Auburn do that, and collect the rewards.
2 Stopping the Auburn running game
Given the fact that Auburn can’t protect its quarterback, the best way for Mizzou to help its own cause is by loading up to stop the AU run game and force the Plainsmen into second and long and third and long. Missouri can shoehorn Auburn into predictable passing situations, get after the passer, and put the clamps on a weak offense which can’t be allowed to generate any confidence.
3 Brady Cook has an arm; let him use it
Brady Cook won’t win any awards, but he certainly has an arm capable enough of getting Mizzou through its daunting schedule. Through three games this year, Cook has 626 passing yards, completing 64.7% of his passes and posting 7.4 yards per attempt on each throw. This is hardly special, to be sure, but it is better than what MU’s second-string quarterback offers, and Jack Abraham is a senior. The worst thing that could happen here is the Tigers find out more about Cook’s capabilities heading into the SEC portion of their schedule in October. This game needs to unearth more information about Cook. Testing him to see what he can do is an important part of this game, especially since Auburn’s offense won’t pose that much of a threat.