The Return of James Franklin

After missing the last four games with a shoulder injury, James Franklin returns to Missouri’s starting lineup this Saturday at Ole Miss (7:45 ET on ESPN). While Maty Mauk was very effective in his place, Franklin’s ability to keep the offense in manageable down-and-distances could be vital in keeping Missouri on the path to the SEC championship game.

Keeping Missouri on schedule

Franklin has been very good on early downs, posting an 82 Total QBR on first and second downs, best among qualified SEC quarterbacks.

In six games this season, Franklin completed 69 percent of his passes on first and second down, tending to throw shorter passes that kept Missouri’s offense out of third-and-long situations.

James Franklin vs Maty Mauk - On First And Second Down

Without Franklin, Missouri faced more difficult third downs. Despite playing in 15 percent more plays, Franklin had just 13 dropbacks on third downs needing eight yards or more. Mauk had 21 dropbacks in those situations.

In Missouri’s only loss against South Carolina, the Tigers faced an average third-down distance of 9.1 yards, a season high.

On pass plays (including sacks), Ole Miss allows opponents to convert 45 percent of third downs of seven yards or fewer, fourth-worst in the SEC. On third downs of eight yards or more, opponents convert just 16 percent of third downs on dropbacks, second-best in the SEC.

Struggling under pressure

Franklin has struggled to deal with pressure on third-and-long situations. When needing at least six yards, he has more sacks (seven) than first downs (six).

Overall on third down, he has been sacked eight times in 40 dropbacks. His 20 percent sack rate is third-worst among qualified FBS quarterbacks.

Franklin On Third Down

By Distance To First Down

He has not converted on third down all season when under duress. In 13 dropbacks when hurried or knocked down, he has completed one pass while being sacked eight times. He is the only quarterback in the SEC not to convert a single first down in such situations (minimum 10 dropbacks).

In two SEC games while Franklin was healthy, he was sacked on six of 10 dropbacks when pressured, including three of four times on third down.

When Franklin has not been under duress, he has converted 48 percent of his third-down dropbacks into first downs, tied for third-best in the conference.

First real test

Ole Miss will be Franklin's first real test of the season. In Franklin’s previous starts he faced one FCS team (Murray State) and five FBS teams that had an average defensive FPI rank of 78.

In Mauk’s four starts, he faced teams with an average defensive FPI rank of 44.