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Top performers: Iron Bowl matches strength vs. strength

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Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron leads his team into the Iron Bowl chasing a third consecutive national championship and the Heisman Trophy. (Source: Alabama Athletics) Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron leads his team into the Iron Bowl chasing a third consecutive national championship and the Heisman Trophy. (Source: Alabama Athletics)
Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall will try to lead the resurgent Tigers and their No. 2 rushing offense against Alabama's top-ranked scoring defense. (Source: Todd van Emst/Auburn University) Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall will try to lead the resurgent Tigers and their No. 2 rushing offense against Alabama's top-ranked scoring defense. (Source: Todd van Emst/Auburn University)
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(RNN) – Here's a weekly look at five of the SEC's top performers in Week 13 and who to watch in Week 14.

Week 13 top performers:

1. Terrence Magee, RB, LSU – Against Texas A&M's SEC-worst rushing defense, LSU used four running backs and ran for 324 yards in a 34-10 dismantling of the Aggies (8-3, 4-3). Magee split carries evenly with Jeremy Hill and Alfred Blue, but turned in the biggest game with 149 yards, including a 65-yard scamper, and a touchdown and was named the SEC's offensive player of the week.

LSU (8-3, 4-3) closes its season Friday against Arkansas. With the SEC a virtual lock to have two teams in the BCS, a win for the Tigers could set up a berth in either the Cotton Bowl or the Outback Bowl.

2. Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia – Murray's career at Georgia is over after he suffered a torn ACL, and while his stellar tenure as the Bulldogs' signal caller ended in disappointing fashion, he had an excellent final game.

Murray threw for 183 yards and four touchdowns in a 59-17 win over Kentucky. Murray will be replaced by Hutson Mason in the season finale against Georgia Tech and what will likely be a disappointing trip to the Music City Bowl for the Bulldogs (7-4, 5-3).

3. Chase Garnham, LB, Vanderbilt – A career-high 10 tackles earned Garnham the SEC's defensive player of the week honor and the 14-10 win over Tennessee has the Commodores (7-4, 4-4) in position to make a trip to either the Liberty Bowl or Music City Bowl.

Tennessee's 10 points were the fewest the Vols (4-7, 1-6) have scored against Vanderbilt since 1968 and marked the first time Vandy notched consecutive wins over their in-state foe since the 1920s.

4. Harrold Brantley, DT, Missouri – James Franklin's return to action drew the headlines, but Brantley helped the Tigers (10-1, 6-1) stay on the road to the SEC championship game. Brantley blocked a punt and ran 26 yards on a fake punt to help Missouri down Ole Miss 24-10. The effort earned him the SEC's special teams player of the week nod.

5. Jamari Smith, RB, South Carolina – With Mike Davis sidelined with an injury, Smith picked up 103 yards and a touchdown in the Gamecocks' 70-10 win against overmatched Coastal Carolina. The Gamecocks (9-2, 6-2) had seven rushing touchdowns by six players, and five players attempted at least one pass.

Who to watch in Week 14:

1. Nick Marshall, QB, Auburn – The storyline of this year's Iron Bowl is the winner will advance to the SEC championship game and be set up for an appearance in the BCS national championship game, but the story of the game itself will likely hinge on Auburn's offensive performance.

The Tigers (10-1, 6-1) have the No. 2 rushing offense in the nation, a mere 10 yards per game behind triple-option Army. Alabama's defense is No. 4 in the nation against the run, holding teams to 91 yards per game – 230 yards less than Auburn has been averaging.

Tre Mason is the SEC's leading rusher, so he'll be the primary concern for the Crimson Tide, but no team has beaten the Tide in recent years without being able to throw consistently and stretch the field vertically.

That's where Auburn could run into a major problem. Alabama is seventh nationally against the pass, allowing 172 yards per game, while Auburn is 104th nationally in passing, averaging 179 yards per game. But perhaps the most concerning stat for the Tigers is they are 30th nationally in red zone scoring and Alabama's defense is tied for second.

2. AJ McCarron, QB, Alabama – When Alabama gets the ball, the numbers don't paint nearly as great a collision as when Auburn will be on the attack.

McCarron is chasing his third national championship as the Tide's quarterback, which would make him the first quarterback in college football history to accomplish that feat, and a chance to win the Heisman Trophy. McCarron is an outside shot to receive the award, but his chances have been getting better and better each week.

Standing in his way is an Auburn secondary that has been vulnerable all season. The Tigers are 98th nationally and second-to-last in the SEC allowing 254 yards per game through the air. The irony of that number is that Alabama's offense averages less than that, ranking 63rd nationally (eighth in the SEC) with 233 yards per game.

Alabama is 40th in total offense and Auburn is 69th in total defense. The difference could come in the red zone, where Alabama is 42nd nationally on offense and Auburn is 14th on defense.

3. Michael Sam, DE, Missouri – While the Iron Bowl pits strength on strength, Missouri's clash with Texas A&M is the total opposite. Missouri has the SEC's second-best rushing offense (18th nationally) gaining 238 yards a game. Texas A&M has the SEC's worst rushing defense (107th nationally), allowing 221 yards a game.

Inversely, the Aggies are the best passing team in the SEC (sixth nationally) gaining 365 yards per game while Missouri's defense allows 272 passing yards per game, which is last in the SEC (113th nationally).

It looks like a classic shootout, and could come down to which defense makes a crucial stop in the fourth quarter. Sam looks like the most likely candidate to come through in that moment. He leads the SEC in sacks with 10.

A win puts Missouri in the SEC championship game against the Iron Bowl winner. A loss sends South Carolina to face that formidable opponent.

4. Mike Davis, RB, South Carolina – The Gamecocks' potential SEC championship berth is out of their hands, but getting a win over rival Clemson is, in some ways, more important.

South Carolina has won four straight against the Tigers (10-1, 7-1) and could win a fifth straight for the first time in series history. Clemson owns a 65-41-4 lead in the series and has the longest winning streak at seven games from 1934-40.

Davis is nursing an ankle injury, but he's the SEC's second-leading rusher with 1,112 yards. South Carolina is 25th nationally in rushing, averaging 211 yards per game. Clemson is 53rd nationally in rushing defense, allowing 153 yards per game.

5. Tyler Russell, QB, Mississippi State – With Dak Prescott sidelined, the Bulldogs (5-6, 2-5) will be trying to gain bowl eligibility without their leading passer and rusher. The responsibility will fall to Russell, who has been inconsistent when he has played.

The year's Egg Bowl will be played Thanksgiving night and Ole Miss leads the series 61-42-6. But the Bulldogs have won three or the last four, four straight at home and six of the last seven meetings in Starkville.

Copyright 2013 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.

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  • Who will win the Iron Bowl?

  • Thank you for participating in our poll. Here are the results so far:

    No. 1 Alabama
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    366 votes
    No. 4 Auburn
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    205 votes
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