CAMPUS CORNER — Dave Matter of the Columbia Daily Tribune was kind enough to field some questions about Missouri. We’ll all learn more about the Tigers as a result.
1. A lot of people, myself included, see that eye-popping game and those stats for Henry Josey and wonder if he is the real deal. (Important question: I picked him up on my college fantasy team.)
A. First, Western Illinois was really bad. Josey was rarely breathed on, much less touched on most of those runs. He could have gone for 600 had the coaches not sat him the second half. I took more away from his game at Arizona State (94 rushing yards on nine carries, 51 yards on two catches) against a pretty good Pac-12 defense. He’s the fastest back Missouri’s had in years and, from the coaches say, has great timing on zone-read option runs. He’s not very big, so Missouri doesn’t want to expose him to too many hits, but he’s really their only healthy scholarship back with extensive experience.
2. What was it like to cover a game in which the opponent picked up ONE first down? Seriously, is there a point to even playing games like that? Just don’t get hurt?
A. That game became more meaningless by the minute. First quarter, it just looked like Missouri was playing pretty well on both sides of the ball. By the third quarter, it was obvious how overmatched Western Illinois was. It’s one of those games where you guard against drawing any conclusions. The Missouri players and coaches almost seemed embarrassed that the score got so out of hand. Missouri could have easily scored 120 points if it tried. I hate the concept of playing FCS teams. I understand why teams do it, but it’s such a farce.
3. Give us the scouting report on James Franklin. He did a little bit in the game a year ago. Where is he now as a sophomore? What’s he do well? What’s he need to do better? What’s this offense look like with Franklin, compared to Blaine Gabbert?
A. Franklin doesn’t seem to do any one thing particularly well, but he doesn’t have an obvious weakness either. Not very fast but he’s quick and physical when he runs. He has a good feel for running in traffic. As a thrower, he doesn’t put a lot of velocity on the ball like Gabbert, but he’s got a nice touch on the shorter, more intermediate passes. He’s still developing confidence in his arm and his accuracy is still a work in progress. I’ve been impressed with his poise. He’s kind of a goofy kid, easily the most polite and bubbly college player I’ve ever covered – to the point where you initially wonder if he’s got a killer instinct. But he was the toughest player on the field for Missouri at Arizona State and didn’t seem to let a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter in a hostile environment ever rattle him. Plus, he took a beating from the ASU defense.
As for the offense being different, the zone-read is more of a weapon now and MU seems content to be more balanced in the run-pass ratio. Gabbert was actually faster in a 40-yard dash than Franklin, but he was never comfortable running some of the option plays they called for him. With Franklin, it’s a more useful option, no pun. If anything, he might be able to keep defenses honest because they’ll have to respect his running ability more than they did Gabbert.
4. Not to delve into conference stuff, but I’m curious what fans at Missouri want. I don’t think I’ve heard much about that. At OU, fans would like the SEC, even though Stoops and the administration are not all that interested and never have been. What’s the attitude there?
A. Fans here have embraced the SEC, at least when given the choice between the SEC and the Big 12. About two weeks ago I put a poll on Twitter and asked people to vote between the Big Ten, SEC and Big East for their preferred conference for Missouri. The Big Ten won overwhelmingly, with about 75 percent of the vote. SEC picked up about 20 percent, with a few stragglers going with the Big East. I’m not convinced Missouri fans want the SEC as much as they want out of the Big 12. I think they realize how grueling the SEC schedule will be – at least I hope they’re prepared for that reality – but it’s not like Missouri is winning championships in the Big 12. I think fans here would gladly take the tougher schedule and the more appealing opponents and road trips over the Big 12′s bickering and endless drama.
Dave’s Prediction: OU 34, Missouri 17. I’m not sold on Missouri’s defense. The effort at Arizona State didn’t inspire much confidence that MU can keep the Sooners within striking distance. And I think OU’s front seven takes away MU’s running game and makes the offense too one-dimensional for its own good.