The Missouri Tigers (6-0, 2-0) are the new beast in the SEC East, but last week’s 41-26 win at Georgia came at an extremely high cost. Star QB James Franklin left the game in the fourth quarter with a separated shoulder that will keep him out of action for three-to-five weeks.
But at least the win earned Missouri some respect among its peers.
“I just think we earned a little more respect,” Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel said. “The respect level just went up a couple notches.”
Or did it?
Not according to the opening line for this week’s game at Florida. The Tigers are 3.5-point underdogs to a team that has two more losses and is ranked eight spots lower in the polls.
So, not only did the win come with a hefty price tag, it also didn’t seem to earn the Tigers nearly as much respect as a road win against a top-10 SEC team usually does. Maybe it’s because Missouri beat an injury-riddled shell of the Georgia Bulldogs, or maybe it’s just that the loss of Franklin drastically changes folks’ opinions of this team.
According to Sporting News report Monday, had the senior been available, the Tigers would have opened as 1-point favorites, said John Avello, executive director of the Wynn Las Vegas sports book.
Whatever the reason, the Tigers aren’t being treated like the new divisional leader in the toughest conference in college football. The good news is Franklin should now miss less time than initially expected – it was originally estimated he would miss at least six weeks.
What to look for in Week 8: Unfortunately, this week’s game against Florida is the first of two-consecutive contests – both of which Franklin will miss – that will likely determine Missouri’s fate in the SEC East race. After the trip to Gainesville, the Tigers host No. 11 South Carolina.
The obvious question this week (and each subsequent one without Franklin): Can freshman Maty Mauk keep the Tigers winning? He filled in nicely against Georgia, going 3-of-3 for 20 yards and leading Missouri to two scores. But Florida’s defense presents a much tougher challenge than the Bulldogs. Not to mention, the Gators will be game planning for Mauk and not Franklin.