Mizzou junior quarterback James Franklin has been through the meat-grinder this season, both in the figurative and loosely literal sense of the word. Franklin injured his shoulder during spring practice and it was worried that he may miss extended time during the regular season. Then, Franklin took the brunt of an offensive line that was decimated by injury midway through the season, injuring his planting knee (Here's Will McAvoy to explain).
Either way, Mizzou fans took out their frustrations of a disappointing season on the injured Franklin, when all Gary Pinkel and his staff could do was try to tailor the offense to the banged up quarterback, which meant a lot of run plays with just five linemen down, which in the SEC isn't a very good idea. That's another conversation for another day.
There's a been a long-standing debate this season on whether or not Franklin has been the cause of the Tigers' 5-5 record. A few completed passes downfield against Florida and the Tigers may have notched an even bigger signature win than what they got in Knoxville against Tennessee last week. People were screaming (foolishly) for Maty Mauk's redshirt to be burned in an attempt to "save" the Tigers season. I'm here to remind people that Mauk, while highly regarded by nearly everyone, comes from Class 3 Ohio ball. Not exactly a league that produces SEC QBs on a year-to-year basis. Mauk's best place for now is on the sidelines, holding clipboards and learning the offense. As for Corbin Berkstresser...ah, nevermind.
Now, Mizzou sits just one win away from its eighth consecutive bowl berth and ninth in the last 10 seasons. A win against the Syracuse Orange Saturday and Missouri will go bowling once again, albeit to a insanely mediocre bowl in either Birmingham, Shreveport (god forbid) or Memphis (please be Memphis, please be Memphis, please be Memphis). The merits of making a bowl (especially the ones that Mizzou is looking at this year) are debatable, but missing a bowl game in your first SEC season certainly wouldn't help recruiting efforts, obviously.
After being doubted for a majority of the season, Franklin now has the opportunity to endear himself to Mizzou fans and give fans hope heading into 2013. By the way, have you guys seen how Mizzou's schedule sets up next year? Only one tough road game at UGA. No matter, the focus remains on this year and Missouri's quarterback.
Franklin is set up for two potentially outstanding QB duels against two of the most surprising quarterbacks in the nation this season. 'Cuse's Ryan Nassib has some folks debating on whether or not he could possibly be drafted in the first round of the NFL draft after upsetting then-unbeaten Louisville at the Carrier Dome last week. It will no doubt be a challenge for Mizzou's secondary and defensive front, especially with unconfirmed reports that Sheldon Richardson may be suspended for Saturday due to academic issues. A horrifying thought. Hopefully, Kony Ealy, Matt Hoch, Michael Sam and Brad Madison will be able to step up in Richardson's stead (sorry, I've been watching a lot of Game of Thrones lately). Hopefully, Mizzou fans slow their roll on chalking this game up as an automatic-win for the Tigs.
Looking a bit down the road, Franklin has a chance to put himself on the national radar for 2013 with what should be an awesome showdown with Johnny "Football" Manziel and try to get the Tigers' THIRD CONSECUTIVE WIN AT KYLE FIELD. That's impressive. Kyle Field is notoriously one of, if not the most difficult places to play in the country and with the kickoff for that game scheduled for 6pm, the 12th Man is sure to ignite under the lights for what may be Johnny Football's last chance to impress Heisman Trophy voters.
The table is set for Franklin to prove all of his doubters wrong, that's for sure. Two games against BCS schools and one good and one great quarterback. There's plenty on the line for both the Tigers and their quarterback as this season wraps up.