Both the Auburn and Missouri Tigers were overlooked all season long and sought to prove their legitimacy in the SEC title from the jump.
Missouri's underrated pass rush was on display almost immediately. After they punted on the opening drive, Kony Ealy forced a fumble from Nick Marshall that resulted in a field goal. Game on.
Though the Tigers turned heavily to the run game, they were hardly rattled by Mizzou's pressure. Marshall threw a 38-yard gem off a fake while avoiding that same pass rush that a leaping Sammie Coates hauled in for a touchdown.
But Missouri was up to the task. James Franklin and Dorial Green-Beckham matched Marshall and Coates' brilliance with another fantastic pitch-and-catch from 28 yards for Beckham's third catch on the drive.
Auburn got the message. Coates took a screen pass 54 yards down the field, and after Tre Mason–who racked up a ridiculous 304 yards on 46 carries with four touchdowns–got the Tigers within 10 yards, Marshall took care of the rest, running for a touchdown.
Auburn then recovered an onside kick. Though the resulting drive ended with a missed field-goal, the tone for the rest of the game was set. Both teams drove on each other at will in a back-and-forth heavyweight slugfest.
Gary Pinkell and Gus Malzahn pulled everything out of their playbooks, with option plays, screen plays, running plays, crossing routes–whatever they could think of to keep the defenses guessing. The only semblance of defense were made by individuals making great plays, including two forced fumbles by Missouri and an interception by Auburn. Other than that, the offenses pretty much ran wild.
Auburn totaled 677 yards to Missouri's 534, but the difference in the game was Auburn's unstoppable running attack. They gained more rushing yards than Missouri did total yards with 545. They struck quickly while the clock kept ticking.
Ultimately, Missouri couldn't keep up in their first trip to the SEC Championship, in just their second season in the conference. Auburn forced a punt then two turnovers on downs, including on their on 13 yard line. Auburn took over and Mason did what he did all night, cutting straight through the Missouri defense for a 13-yard touchdown for a 59-42 lead, locking up the SEC title.
Though Missouri earned their respect, Auburn has been down that road before. They overcame the odds all year long, and wouldn't even be in this game without two ridiculous game-wining plays in their last two games.
Call it luck or call it perseverance, the Tigers were on a roll once Marshall and Mason got into a groove this season. Though their one loss to LSU in week four might prevent them from heading to the BCS National Championship, depending on what happens in the ACC and Big Ten title games, they've been a dominant force on a roll since they picked up an L.
Whether it will be enough remains to be seen, in what will be a fitting ending to the BCS era.