James Franklin

1. Oklahoma State
The Cowboys were victim to a classic case of overlooking an opponent when Iowa State defeated them in overtime last week. Brandon Weeden threw three costly interceptions as the Pokes lost their first game of the season at maybe the most inopportune time. With several other big upsets last weekend, the Cowboys still have a chance at a big-time bowl, but they’ll need to bring their best against Oklahoma in two weeks. Despite the loss, the Cowboys still are a legitimate team and will test any team they face in a bowl.

2. Kansas State
Head coach Bill Snyder’s dominance over the Longhorns continued last week as the Wildcats were able to eke out a win in Austin. Quarterback Collin Klein was kept under wraps for the majority of the game, but once again he was able to lead his team to victory. The Wildcat defense keyed on the young quarterbacks and forced the Longhorns into some tough situations on offense. The Wildcats will be in search of their 10th win of the year when they take on Iowa State in two weeks.

3. Baylor
In what may prove to be his last year as a Bear, quarterback Robert Griffin III notched the most important win of his career over Oklahoma last Saturday. He once again broke a school record for passing yards (479) and threw a spectacular go-ahead touchdown late against the Sooners. It was the first time the Bears had defeated the Sooners in 20 tries. The Bears now stand at 7-3 on the season and will face a struggling Texas Tech team this week to keep their hopes of a 10-win season alive.

4. Oklahoma
The Sooners find themselves out of the top-10 in the polls once again after losing a tough game to the Bears. Defensively, the Sooners were unable to defend against Robert Griffin III as he tossed four more touchdowns and didn’t turn the ball over. Quarterback Landry Jones was supplanted by freshman Blake Bell on goal-line situations and Bell responded by rushing for four scores. The Sooners’ defense will have to fix things quickly as BCS-buster Iowa State is next on the schedule this week.

5. Missouri
A favorable bowl could be in the cards for the Tigers after all. With their 31-27 win over the Red Raiders last week the Tigers became bowl eligible. They were able to stifle Red Raiders’ quarterback Seth Doege and ran the ball well in the absence of the injured Henry Josey. Tigers’ quarterback James Franklin ran for two touchdowns and added another pair of scores through the air. He’s becoming a nice player in the twilight of his first season and will only continue to improve. The Tigers will have a chance to improve their bowl credentials this week against Kansas.

6. Texas
The Longhorns’ offensive woes befell them once again as they were unable to get any significant production from either of their young quarterbacks. The running game saw a slight boost with the return of injury-hampered freshman Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron, but the pair only combined for 73 yards on 20 carries. If there’s one bright spot on this team it’s the defense. They have kept the Longhorns in each of the past two games but the offense has failed to match their efforts. It’s a short turnaround this week with Texas facing the Aggies on Thanksgiving Day for the last time in a while.

7. Texas A&M
After three consecutive conference losses the Aggies got back on track in a big way with a 61-7 beatdown of Kansas. The win makes the Aggies bowl eligible, albeit most of the Aggies faithful would have rather not waited quite so long. Running back Cyrus Gray and receiver Ryan Swope are still potent offensive weapons and will surely be discussed ad nauseam this week in the Texas defense’s film room. There’s no question the Aggies will be ready for the Thanksgiving night matchup with the Longhorns after the kind of season they have had. A win over the Longhorns could soothe the pain of a disappointing season.

8. Iowa State
That was a Cyclone, all right. In one of the most shocking upsets all year the Cyclones topped Oklahoma State in overtime to officially cause chaos within the BCS top-10. It was the school’s first ever win over a top-two team. Head coach Paul Rhoads has done an excellent job this year and it seems as if his players and coaching staff are buying into him as the future of the program. Oklahoma hosts the Cyclones this week and can’t be pleased with losing to Baylor last weekend. Expect the Sooners to be prepared this time out.

9. Texas Tech
Another tough loss for the Red Raiders as they dropped their fourth consecutive conference game against Missouri last week. This time out the Red Raiders kept it close, but James Franklin and the Tigers were just too much. The Red Raiders remain at five wins, and are in jeopardy of being left out of a bowl game. They will face Baylor this week in their season finale. One more shot for head coach Tommy Tuberville to get Raider Nation into a bowl. Good luck, RG3 has shown time after time that he can’t be stopped.

10. Kansas
A 61-7 loss to the Aggies last weekend makes nine straight losses for the Jayhawks. They’re 0-8 in conference play and some weeks I wonder if they ever even make it to the game. The Jayhawks have shown (minimal) flashes of brilliance, but none substantial enough to earn a win. With the addition of Texas Christian and West Virginia to the ranks of the Big 12 on the horizon, it seems as if the Jayhawks will revel in mediocrity for the foreseeable future. Don’t be surprised if the entire Jayhawks’ coaching staff gets the boot at season’s end.

Linemen Ashton Dorsey (85) and Alex Okafor (80) celebrate a defensive stop. Texas has held its last two opponents to 28 yards on the ground.

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

The Longhorns can run the ball. That much is clear. But can they defend it?

While Texas’ run defense has improved its national ranking over the last two weeks, the results speak more about the teams the Longhorns played.

UT held woeful Kansas to -2 yards rushing, then limited Texas Tech to 30 yards on the ground. But the lowly Jayhawks have one of the worst offenses in the country and the Red Raiders are a pass-heavy team. Sacks count against a team’s rushing yards, and Texas totaled seven sacks in those contests.

The Longhorns will have a clearer view of where their run defense stands after Saturday’s game against Missouri, though. The Tigers’ run game is second in the Big 12 behind Texas, and they are 12th in the nation with over 244 rushing yards per game.

“It’s they type of game where you want to be physical, but there’s going to be more too it than that,” said defensive coordinator Manny Diaz. “You have to be tough and physical and disciplined to stop their running game.”

Henry Josey leads the Tiger’s attack and is the top rusher in the Big 12 (127.7 yards per game). Mizzou’s quarterback, freshman James Franklin, is also a running threat and leads the team with 10 rushing touchdowns. Franklin is the No. 11 rusher in the conference and No. 81 in the nation.

The Tigers present the most dynamic run game the Longhorns have seen all season. Texas can’t simply focus on Josey, the defense must also be aware of Franklin.

“Any time a guy is in the top 100 in the country in rushing as a quarterback, and can get it done through the air, it’s one more thing you have to worry about as a defense,” said senior safety Blake Gideon. “That’s going to be a stress for us this week, to contain him and keep him corralled.”

But the Longhorns are better equipped to stop the run this season than they’ve been in a while.

For several years, the defense saw nothing but passes in practice. But with the offense harkening back to the old days of power football, the defense has gotten a leg up.

“I like the fact that we are running it in practice so the defense is actually taking on the running game every day,” said head coach Mack Brown. “That wasn’t the case for three years and it was tough for our defense because they didn’t see double teams and they didn’t see power and they didn’t see pulls. These guys are getting after each other in the running game, so it will not be like we haven’t seen it.”

Still, the Longhorns haven’t seen a running attack quite like Missouri’s.

The Tigers utilize a spread offense, but balance the run and pass well. They average 11 yards more through the air than on the ground. They rely on the big play and Josey leads the country with 43 rushes of 10-plus yards.

Texas was victimized by long scoring runs against Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, and must limit those defensive letdowns in this game.

“When we don’t allow explosive runs, we’re generally happy at the end of the night,” Diaz said. “But they are really good at creating explosive runs. That’s a big challenge for us.”

Fortunately for Texas, the defense has improved in recent weeks and Diaz’s new scheme is finally clicking.

“We’ve gotten better an better as the year’s gone on because we’ve gotten more comfortable with how we play the run,” Diaz said. “It is hard to be unsure and aggressive at the same time. The more you get into the season and see it at game speed, by nature you get it and then you become more aggressive.”

They will need that aggression if they want to become a dominant run defense.

So could Diaz’s crew hold its own against Texas’ bruising running game?

“I know this, we are happy that we don’t play Texas,” he joked.

Missouri isn’t happy either.  

Jackson Jeffcoat (44) stretches to pull down Texas Tech quarterback Seth Doege. Jeffcoat and the rest of the defensive corps have played exceptionally well in their last two games, but they will have their hands full against Tiger's Henry Josey and James Franklin.

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

Jackson Jeffocat’s dad was right. The sacks came and they came in bunches.

Former Dallas Cowboys defensive end and current San Jose State defensive line coach Jim Jeffocat was confident his son would start racking up sacks. It was just a matter of time. His prediction came to fruition as Jeffocat piled up three sacks in his last two games, his first three of the season. The sophomore has also notched six of his 10 tackles for loss in the past two weeks.

“He just told me to patient,” Jeffcoat said. “It feels good. I knew they’d come.”

Missouri’s James Franklin, however, is going to be a lot harder to bring down than Kansas’ Jordan Webb or Texas Tech’s Seth Doege. The last two quarterbacks the Longhorns have been pocket passers but Franklin can hurt a defense with both his arms and legs. The sophomore has close to 2800 yards and 26 touchdowns on the season, with around 600 of those yards and 10 of the touchdowns coming on the ground.

“You can’t run by the guy,” said Jeffcoat. “It’s fun to have a challenge like that with someone that gets out of the pocket and moves around. It gets them off their feet if you can move them out of the pocket not throwing like they normally do.”

But Franklin won’t be the last dual-threat man behind center Texas faces this year. In fact, the last three of the Longhorns’ opponents all have mobile quarterbacks. Kansas State’s Collin Klein, Texas A&M’s Ryan Tannehill, and Baylor’s Robert Griffin III have combined to run for more than 1,500 yards, with over 900 coming from Klein. Tannehill is a former wide receiver and Griffin broke state records as a high school track star. Both are from Texas, along with Franklin.

“This is where everybody comes to mine their talent,” said defensive coordinator Manny Diaz. “The passing game is so well-coached in this state. This state produces good quarterbacks, unfortunately. And, unfortunately, they come to the schools that play Texas.”

The Big 12 has certainly developed a knack producing prolific passers, boasting five of the country’s nine most productive quarterbacks. While not known for its running backs, the Big 12 has a few good ones, the best being Missouri’s Henry Josey, who has ran for 1,149 yards this year.

“He might be the most explosive back we’ve seen so far in terms of his ability to go all the way,” Diaz said. “He’s averaging nine yards a carry. That’s almost hard to say.”

Jeffcoat and the rest of the Texas defense will have their hands full trying to slow down Franklin and Josie this week. But it’s possible, especially with fellow starting defensive end Alex Okafor on the opposite side of the defensive line. Okafor has had three of his five sacks in the last two contests.

“He’s playing great,” Jeffcoat said. “He’s getting off the ball and getting in the backfield, making tackles for loss.”

Apart from senior Kheeston Randall, the guys between Jeffcoat and Okafor were a question mark coming into the season. After Randall, Texas didn’t have much depth at defensive tackle. But sophomores Calvin Howell and Ashton Dorsey, the co-starters alongside Randall are coming along. Chris Whaley, one of the most highly-touted running backs coming out of high school, is making progress transitioning to his new position at defensive tackle, as evidenced by a sack made against Kansas.

“Quarterbacks hate inside pressure because that’s when they can’t finish their throws,” Diaz said. “We always joke that the defensive tackle is the closest to the quarterback. You can be a defensive end thinking that’s the glamour pass rush position but you’re way out there. We’ve had some good pressure up the middle this year.”

One of Missouri’s defensive tackles, Sheldon Richardson, made headlines this week with his comments, saying how he hates people from Texas, thinks the football in the state is overrated and was not impressed when playing against its best recruits.

The Longhorns’ defensive line, on the other hand, is going to try to let is play speak for itself Saturday. If Jeffcoat and Okafor perform the way they have the last two weeks, their play will be deafening.

James Franklin, sophomore Quarterback:

In recent years, Missouri has produced quality quarterbacks starting with Brad Smith who played from 2002 to 2005, Chase Daniel in 2006 and Blaine Gabbert who followed him. With all those players in the NFL, James Franklin has taken over the position with high expectations. Franklin is much more of a dual-threat passer in the mold of Smith. He is averaging almost 67 yards per game on the ground, with a 100-yard game against Oklahoma. He is averaging 243 yards per game passing with 16 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Most of those interceptions came in a three-game span against Kansas State, Iowa State and Oklahoma State. In three losses to Oklahoma, Kansas State and Oklahoma State, he completed less than 55 percent of his passes and threw five interceptions. Franklin is a dangerous player who can be effective in a variety of ways and can thrive in an offensive shootout.

Henry Josey, sophomore Running back

Josey is fifth in the country in rushing, and is the leading rusher in the Big 12 this season by a wide margin, averaging 127 yards per game this season. The next closest runner is Oklahoma States Joseph Randle with just more than 100 yards per game. He has rushed for more than 100 yards in all but three games, with a 263-yard game against Western Illinois. Kansas State is the only team in conference play to hold him to less than 100 yards. He is averaging 8.5 yards per carry this season, and has had at least one 20-yard run in the last eight games. At 5-foot-10 and 190 pounds, he is more of a speed runner who will be getting his yards in space and off the edge.

Brad Madison, Junior Defensive End

A preseason All-Conference selection, Madison had his biggest game this season against Western Illinois where he posted four tackles, three tackles for loss, a forced fumble, a sack and a quarterback hurry. He had his best in-conference game against Iowa State, where he recorded five tackles with a tackle for loss, a quarterback hurry, a sack and even an interception. He has had some positive numbers in their wins, but he needs to be able to apply pressure against higher quality teams if the Tigers are going to win and become bowl eligible. Against a running team like Texas, he will have to be able to get penetration to keep the runs contained in the middle and take advantage against the few times that Texas drops back to pass.

Redshirt freshman James Franklin (1) runs the ball in a recent game against Oklahoma State. (Photo Courtesy of L.G. Patterson)

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

James Franklin had thrown a total of 14 passes in his one season of collegiate play when he was handed the reins to the Missouri Tigers offense this season and asked to live up to his most recent predecessors: Blaine Gabbert, Chase Daniel and Brad Smith.

Charged with stepping into the position previously held by three now-NFL quarterbacks, the 6-foot-2 sophomore out of Lake Dallas High School in Corinth replaced Gabbert — the No. 10 overall pick to the Jacksonville Jaguars in the 2011 NFL Draft — at the helm of the Tigers’ offense this season and has led Missouri to a 4-4 record.

“This guy has a chance to be special,” said Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel. “He is further ahead at this time in his career than the three quarterbacks who preceded him.”

So far this season Franklin has thrown for 1,870 yards and 13 touchdowns with a completion percentage of more than 60 percent. Additionally, Franklin, who was ranked out of high school as the nation’s number four dual-threat quarterback by Rivals.com in 2010, is second on the Tigers’ roster for rushing yards with more than 540.

Despite what appear to be solid numbers, prior to Missouri’s come from behind overtime victory over Texas A&M on Saturday, Franklin was on the hot seat after struggling in previous games and committing four turnovers in the second half during a 45-24 loss to Oklahoma State the previous week.

“I think every quarterback goes through tough games. Certainly, especially for a young quarterback, you are always concerned about them not taking on too much themselves,” Pinkel said. “[Franklin’s] the kind of guy that would do that because that’s the type of person he is, so we’ve got to help him through that.”

Whatever Pinkel and the Missouri coaching staff did to get Franklin through the rough patch worked as he throw for 198 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 97 yards and two TDs against the Aggies.

“[Against A&M] you saw a player that said he was going to do everything he could to win the game,” said Pinkel about Franklin’s performance. “When you have a player like that that is your leader, and he’s throwing his body up a little bit, I think there is no question it has a huge impact on your team. I know our players responded in a very positive way.”

Despite praise from his coach, Franklin said he has a long way to go to reach the playing level of
his predecessors.

“I wouldn’t say [the A&M game] was my best performance because I didn’t do the best passing wise and didn’t have too many passing yards,” Franklin said. “I think I would have been a little more pleased if those were higher than they were. I think it was a pretty good performance for the most part.”

While Franklin is eager to match the performances of Gabbert, Daniel and Smith, Missouri offensive coordinator Dave Yost knows it will take time.

“We’re constantly working on building his confidence up, but he knows he’s capable of everything we ask him to do,” Yost said. “It’s just a matter of him going out and doing it and the guys around him helping him as much as they can. It’s not a one-man show by any stretch.”

Franklin will try to build his confidence at QB up more as he and the rest of the Tigers follow up their overtime victory with a matchup against Robert Griffin III and Baylor in Waco.

“He’s not Chase [Daniel], he’s not Blaine [Gabbert], he’s not Brad [Smith],” Yost said. “He has bits and pieces of all their games and what we need to do is use those to his advantages and within our offense to mold it to kind of fit him.”