Mauk and Franklin are both effective through the air and on the ground. Franklin, because of his experience as a three-year starter, makes better decisions and is more poised in the pocket. He is the better passer of the two (has completed 68 percent of his passes versus Mauk’s 52 percent). Franklin is physically much more capable of taking the ball himself. At 6’2 230lbs he’s able to power through defensive players. Mauk, who is not as much of a physical force as Franklin, relies on big lanes opened up by the offensive line to make plays with his feet. Mauk exudes confidence, has a type of inexplicable swagger that can get a freshman to successfully handle the baptism by fire that he’s experienced this season.
2. What has been Mauk’s response to returning to the back-up role after going 3-1 as the starter?
Mauk seemed fine at media day Monday. He admitted although it’s tough returning to his backup role after succeeding the way he did as a starter, he realizes he has another three years to start, whereas Franklin only has a few games left in his college career.
3. Can you give an example of how the size of Missouri’s receivers has been an advantage against opposing defensive backs?
While most defensive backs in this league are under six feet tall, the bulk of Missouri’s receiving corps is 6’4 or taller. This obviously poses as a physical mismatch. The most recent example I can give is Dorial Green-Beckham (6’6, quick with long arms) against Kentucky’s secondary. The highlight of Green-Beckham’s four touchdown day was when he caught a touchdown while the helmet of Kentucky’s Nate Willis plunged into his stomach.
L’Damian Washington (6’4) had a really athletic catch in the end zone to conclude Missouri’s fourth quarter double pass play at Georgia. Aside from the fact that the pass was sloppy and practically uncatchable, Shaq Wiggins (5’10) was all over Washington on that play. Washington had just enough arm length and height to catch the ball over Wiggins’ head.
4. What makes Michael Sam so effective on the edge? Have any teams had success with different strategies in trying to slow him down?
Michael Sam has been so effective this year because of his ability to get to the quarterback. He’s quick off the line and uncharacteristically fast for a defensive lineman. Sam has the speed to get past o-linemen and put pressure on the quarterback, force turnovers, and stop the run. Part of his success comes from having a productive supporting cast–Missouri’s defensive line as a whole. Georgia, Kentucky and Tennessee all had success in containing Sam, but slowing him down gave other ends like Kony Ealy and Markus Golden opportunities to put pressure on the quarterback. If Michael Sam doesn’t get to the quarterback it’s almost guaranteed Golden or Ealy will. Starters AND backups on both ends have had a lot of success putting pressure on the pass game, evidence as to why Missouri leads the SEC in sacks and take-aways.
5. Gary Pinkel’s name was mentioned with a couple of “hot seat” references back in August. Was that justified?
I always thought the idea of Pinkel being on the “hot seat” was a little ridiculous. It’s hard to believe that a school would oust the man who essentially turned the entire football program around, who dedicated thirteen years of his life to make Missouri football into what it is today. Prior to the 2012 season, Pinkel took Mizzou to seven straight bowl games and today is still one of the winningest active FBS coaches. With the success of this season, Pinkel is three wins away from being the winningest coach in Mizzou history. The man who currently holds the record has a statue in front of the stadium and a football field named after him, Don Faurot.
6. Does the fan base have confidence in this team to close the deal and win the East?
Missouri’s fan base has been jaded by a series of very unfortunate events that have taken place in the school’s athletic history. I really don’t think the fan base has much confidence in Missouri to win the East. There seemed to be a lot of deflation from Missouri fans on social media, upset because South Carolina ended up defeating Florida and Georgia lost to Auburn. Leaving Missouri to ‘control its own destiny’ seems to be a task Missouri fans don’t trust the football program to complete. Fans were actually surprised to see Missouri as a three point favorite at Ole Miss this weekend. Missouri has had terrible luck in its athletic history, from the notorious 5th down play against Colorado in 1990 to being a top seed in the 2012 NCAA men’s basketball tournament and blowing the first game against a low-seeded Norfolk State.