Coming off a shaky start to the season for Auburn’s offense, the blue and orange Tigers travel to Columbia, Missouri to face the Missouri Tigers. The contest will be the first contest in program history that Auburn will play in the state.
For Missouri, a showdown with Auburn will be the last of a four game homestand to start the season.
Auburn and Missouri have not met in the regular season since Missouri joined the SEC in 2012. The only time they have played while Missouri has been a SEC member was when Auburn won 59-42 in the 2013 SEC Championship.
Both teams are looking to find their footing and gain some momentum for the remainder of SEC play. Missouri is coming off an ugly performance against an improving Purdue team, while Auburn turned the ball over five times last week and defeated FCS Mercer by only 14.
Barry Odom is in his second year as Missouri’s head coach and the results thus far are not indicative of his program heading in the right direction.
Missouri fired their defensive coordinator, DeMontie Cross, after two games this season. Odom is a former defensive coordinator and has taken over the defense since Cross’s firing. They gave up 43 points and 492 yards to FCS Missouri State in Week 1. Missouri’s offense hasn’t fared much better.
The offense padded their stats against Missouri State in which they gained an outrageous 815 yards of total offense and scored 72 points. They scored only 13 points against South Carolina and managed only a field goal against Purdue.
Auburn’s defense is statistically the best that Missouri has faced. Auburn is allowing only 10.3 points per game, and they are second nationally in yards allowed per game at 201. Tigers defensive line anchor Marlon Davidson, who sat out against Mercer, will return just in time for SEC play to lead the defensive front's charge against the Missouri offense.
“We expect Marlon to play,” Malzahn said Thursday night on his weekly Tiger Talk radio show. “He’s one of our best players. He’s an impact player. When he’s out there, it really helps.”
Drew Lock, a third-year starting quarterback for Missouri, will have his work cut out for him this weekend. Lock has thrown for tons of yards against below-average competition, but has struggled mightily against SEC and Power 5 teams.
“I think Missouri throws the ball 60 percent of the time or something like that,” Auburn junior linebacker Deshaun Davis said. “We know we’ve got our hands full. They want to hit a lot of deep passes, so we’ve got to keep the top on the coverage.
“When I saw [Missouri], the first thing that came to my mind was last season against Ole Miss. They slung the ball pretty well against us.”
Lock threw for over 500 yards against Missouri State but only averaged 189 yards passing against South Carolina and Purdue. Lock is completing a sub-par 50 percent of his passes this season.
“He throws a deep ball a long way, and he’s accurate with it,” Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele said. “Make no mistake about it, when you watch them, they are a drop-back team to a certain degree but they’re also a lot of play-action stuff. They have a lot of RPOs. They have a lot of play-action."
The key matchup to watch this week will be in the trenches. On offense for Auburn, quarterback Jarrett Stidham has been sacked an average of five times per game, which is ranked 126th nationally.
Missouri has sacked opposing quarterbacks eight times, including 24 tackles for loss, revealing that the team's strength lies in the defensive line.
Terry Beckner Jr., a former five-star recruit, anchors the inside of Missouri’s defensive line. Auburn’s offensive line has struggled to run and pass block early in the season, evidenced by the number of sacks they have allowed.
Missouri is 98th in the nation in pass defense, allowing 270 yards per game passing. Stidham is coming off a historically great performance against Mercer after struggling against Clemson in Death Valley.
A conference opponent with less than desirable defensive ranks looks to be an opportunity for No. 15 Auburn to pick themselves up and gain momentum, considering Nick Fitzgerald and the surging Mississippi State Bulldogs will come to town next Saturday.