Missouri senior quarterback James Franklin will return to the starting lineup Saturday when the eighth-ranked Tigers take on No. 24 Mississippi, a game that kicks off at 6:45 p.m. on ESPN from Oxford, Miss.
Redshirt freshman Maty Mauk played well in Franklin’s stead. He led Missouri to victory in three of his four starts, throwing 10 touchdowns and only two interceptions.
Some have suggested Mauk should remain the starter even though Franklin is healthy, but such a move doesn’t jibe with Missouri coach Gary Pinkel’s philosophy.
“Our general rule for a starter is, if a backup player comes in and plays better than the starter — consistently better than — we’ll consider keeping him in that spot,” Pinkel said. “If he doesn’t, the starter just goes right back into that spot.”
As well as Mauk played, he wasn’t consistently better than Franklin. There’s simply no debating that.
This isn’tTom Brady taking over for Drew Bledsoe in September 2001 and forever changing the course of NFL history
Mauk showed an uncanny ability for extending plays and saving Missouri from negative downs with his scrambling ability.
Of course, Franklin brings that same ability, but he also brings superior command of the offense and better accuracy, especially on the short to intermediate throws.
Mauk only completed more than 50 percent of his passes in one of his four starts, and half of his 10 touchdowns came in a record-tying performance against an overmatched Kentucky team.
Franklin, who hasn’t completed fewer than 64 percent of his throws in any game this season, deserves the chance to finish what he started and craft a lasting legacy in black and gold.
That said, Mauk’s performance on third down and in the red zone — arguably the time and the place that demand the most precision from a quarterback — compares favorably with Franklin.
In fact, Mauk has been better on third down this season, completing 20 of 33 passes for 331 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions — a 174.86 rating.
Franklin’s third-down numbers are 19 of 32 for 133 yards with one touchdown and one interception, a 124.60 rating.
Those numbers flip a bit in the red zone, where Franklin is 14 of 31 for 133 yards with nine touchdowns and no picks, which is good for a 177.01 rating.
Meanwhile, Mauk is eight of 20 for 72 yards with six scores and no interceptions, a 169.24 rating.
Add it all up, it’s hard to argue Mauk was better than Franklin — probably not even completely equal to — but it’s not a runaway for the incumbent either.
While Mauk seems destined for a fantastic career with the Tigers, it’s just not quite his time.