December 1, 2013

Continued climb


AUBURN | Gus Malzahn broke from personal protocol Saturday night by flashing a smile and appearing to revel, at least momentarily, in the Tigers' stunning win against Alabama.

He went back to work in a matter of hours.

The head coach spent part of his night Saturday reviewing footage of Missouri, which beat Texas A&M to earn the right to face Auburn in the Southeastern Conference championship game. There was no time for Waffle House -- or anything else.

"Anytime you're playing for a championship, there's no time to relax," Malzahn said. "We felt like we needed to get a head start on them. They're a very good football team."

Missouri (11-1) is a lot like Auburn. It was picked to finish next-to-last in the Eastern Division, ahead of Kentucky, and instead emerged as one of the nation's surprise teams. The two Tigers have produced a nearly identical statistical profile -- nearly even in scoring, scoring defense and total yards.

Yet coach Gary Pinkel's team operates a little differently on offense, using the pass game as something more than a token diversion. Quarterback James Franklin was gaining some Heisman Trophy hype in September before a separated shoulder sidelined him for a month.

Still, he has completed 67 percent of his passes, thrown for 14 touchdowns against four interceptions and has above-average mobility. He has three primary receivers -- and they're all at least 6-foot-4.

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