Midseason report: Missouri

At the midway point of the college football season, there are only two undefeated teams left in the SEC. Alabama, the defending national champions, should come as no surprise, but raise your hand if you thought Missouri would be the other.

The Tigers are legit, though. They’ve won back-to-back SEC road games, including a 41-26 victory at No. 7 Georgia on Saturday. Similar to what fellow newcomer Texas A&M did a year ago, Missouri has taken the conference by storm. The Tigers are finally starting to get the respect they deserve from those who thought they had no business being in the league.

There’s just one problem. Quarterback James Franklin separated his shoulder Saturday and is expected to miss the next 3-to-5 weeks. Initially, the injury was supposed to keep him out for the remainder of the regular season, but Missouri coach Gary Pinkel is optimistic his star player can return before then.

In the meantime, the Tigers will turn the offense over to redshirt freshman Maty Mauk. The former four-star signal caller filled in admirably for Franklin down the stretch against Georgia, but he’ll be tested right away this weekend with a visit from Florida and the league’s No. 1 defense.

It will be Missouri’s defense, ranked 2nd in the SEC with 17 sacks, that will be asked to step up in Franklin’s absence. But regardless of the quarterback situation, the Tigers are 6-0 and still control their own destiny in the East.

Offensive MVP: James Franklin. It’s bittersweet because of the injury, but no one is more deserving of this than the Missouri quarterback. Through the first six games, Franklin threw for 1,577 yards with 14 touchdowns and just three interceptions. He also rushed for 290 yards and three scores. Even before he got hurt Saturday, he had accounted for nearly 200 yards and two touchdowns against Georgia. The senior has been the stabilizing force behind this offense for the last three seasons, and though injuries have taken their toll, he’s hoping to recover in time to finish what he started.

Defensive MVP: Michael Sam. When thinking about great pass rushers in the SEC, Sam’s name probably didn’t come to mind, but the senior has emerged as one of the top defensive ends in the conference. He won the SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week award two weeks in a row for his performances against Arkansas State and Vanderbilt. He recorded three sacks in each game. He’s currently the league leader in sacks (6) and tackles for loss (10). Against Georgia, he recovered an Aaron Murray fumble and returned it 21 yards for a touchdown to put Missouri ahead, 28-10.