If any member of the SEC was curious about what Missouri would bring to the conference next season, they don’t have to look anymore. James Franklin is going to be the name to watch and plan for next season when any team faces Missouri. That much was clear last night as Mizzou head coach Gary Pinkel did his best to place his most dynamic offensive player on a pedestal for all to see as the Tigers, led by Franklin’s three touchdowns, dominated the North Carolina Tar Heels 41-24 in the 2011 Independence Bowl.
Now that the Tigers are headed to the SEC, the competition will become more formidable at the top. While some cupcakes abound in every conference, the Tigers will likely have to face a few elite level programs each season that will force them to recruit and plan better than ever if they hope to be ranked alongside them. That said, the SEC has been known to give way to dual threat quarterbacks like Franklin.
Tim Tebow took the Florida Gators to two national championships with his ability to run and throw. Cam Newton took the honor as well with Auburn and defenses had to respect his ability to also hurt a defense in multiple ways. Franklin is not on that level, so comparisons should be made lightly, but it’s hard to ignore 18 carries for 142 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns — from your quarterback.
Missouri is going to lose a significant amount of senior leadership and ability next season, so the replacements are going to have to be good along the lines. Also, Michael Egnew will leave a void at the tight end position. However, if the Tigers can sign Dorial Green-Beckham, for example, the impact of another dynamic playmaker on the outside could open up things for Franklin and the rest of Mizzou in ways that few can keep up with.
If anything, the Independence Bowl gave Missouri a chance to showcase its wares and Pinkel did just that. James Franklin, the player not the Vanderbilt coach, has now served notice to the SEC and you’d better believe they were paying attention to a performance that great.