Oklahoma Sooners: James Franklin

Big 12 position rankings: Quarterback

January, 25, 2012
Today, we'll kick off a look at the postseason rankings for each position in the Big 12. Here's a look back on where our first position, quarterback, stood in the preseason.

Quarterbacks' rushing talents are factored into these rankings. As such, it's tough to figure out how to weigh that vs. passing acumen. Ultimately, teams ranked 4-7 were really, really close.

In these position rankings, we take into account backups, though that impact is minimal at the quarterback spot.

1. Baylor

If your quarterback wins the Heisman, you're not finishing below No. 1 on this list. Robert Griffin IIIlit up defenses and broke the NCAA record for passing efficiency, even though Wisconsin's Russell Wilson did the same this year, and finished higher than RG3. Even when RG3 suffered concussion-like symptoms against Texas Tech, backup Nick Florencecame in and burned Texas Tech's defense in a 66-42 win. Griffin finished with as many touchdowns as Brandon Weeden (37), but threw as few interceptions as Collin Klein (6), despite throwing the ball 121 more times than Klein.

2. Oklahoma State

Brandon Weeden is a solid second place in this ranking, and backup Colton Chelflooked good in lots of mop-up duty, too. Weeden was the star, putting together an All-Big 12 caliber season, though Griffin's otherworldly performance in 2011 knocked him off his first-team perch from 2010. He led the league with 4,727 yards and 37 touchdowns. He also had the second-most pass attempts in the league, with 564.

3. Oklahoma

Landry Jones got some help late in the season when Blake Bell's BellDozer racked up a team-high 13 touchdowns. Jones wasn't outstanding late in the season after Ryan Broyles' knee injury, but his receivers didn't help him much, either. The dropsies seemed to infect everybody after Broyles' college career ended. Jones finished with 4,463 yards passing, second most in the Big 12. He also added 29 touchdowns but must improve on his 15 interceptions, a regression back to freshman-year Jones.

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Here's what I'm keeping an eye on in this week's games.

1. Kansas State's secondary. The Wildcats failed their big test last week against Oklahoma and it gets just as difficult, if not more so, this week in Stillwater. And time it's on the road. OSU's running game is better than Oklahoma's, and its passing game is just as difficult to cover. Brandon Weeden has been sharp, and the task ahead of Nigel Malone and David Garrett is enormous. This matchup will decide the game.

[+] EnlargeJames Franklin
Sarah Glenn/Getty ImagesMissouri QB James Franklin should give SEC defenses cause for concern next season.
2. Baylor's front seven. The Bears are giving up almost 250 yards on the ground in conference play, and Missouri fields a two-headed rushing attack with James Franklin and Henry Josey, who both torched a solid Texas A&M front seven last week. These guys have to play well to give Robert Griffin III and the Bears a chance, or Missouri will control possession and the game.

3. Oklahoma's home prowess. The home streak is gone, but did the mystique follow Texas Tech out of the building? Badly beating a good Texas A&M team would be a nice start for the Sooners, but Texas A&M has to be significantly less intimidated by a) seeing that result and b) beating Oklahoma last season. So which is it?

4. Texas QB(s)? Texas continues to list Case McCoy and David Ash as co-starters when the playing time looks like there's nothing "co" about it. Does McCoy still have a future on the field, or has the true freshman, Ash, taken over a full-time role? My guess is the latter, but Texas Tech will be a real test, unlike Kansas. The Red Raiders could be revealing.

5. Kansas ... offense? Prove to us that this offense really is better. Iowa State's defense doesn't really scare many folks across the Big 12, but KU had just three first downs against Texas last week and 46 total yards in a 43-0 loss. Part of that was the Longhorns eliminating the Jayhawks' running game, but can the offense help the Jayhawks get their first conference win?

6. Missouri's secondary. E.J. Gaines & Co. have stepped up their play in recent weeks, but this week will be a tough test for the Tigers. Griffin III endured a frustrating outing against Oklahoma State last week and will be back at home, where he's been dominant all season. Are the Tigers up to the task? They're dealing with one of the best receiving corps in the league, and a quarterback that would love nothing more than to beat them over the top.

7. Seth Doege's accuracy. Iowa State didn't blitz Tech much in last week's 41-7 win, but Doege wasn't sharp and the Red Raiders paid the price with a nonsensical loss. Doege's been outstanding, but can he bounce back this week? I expect him to, but Texas' secondary is one of the league's best, and the Longhorns will harass him and make him hurry throws at corners Quandre Diggs and Carrington Byndom.

8. Texas A&M's second half. It has to be said, does it not? Texas A&M has been the league's most odd team this year, only a few plays away from being in the top 3, instead of Oklahoma State. But alas, here they are, with losses to three teams after possessing double-digit halftime leads. Second halves haven't been the issue on the whole for this team, but they've been more evident in the losses. What's in store this week at Oklahoma?

9. Iowa State's identity. Who are these Cyclones? Was last week a statement of how good they can be? Or did Texas Tech lay an egg? I don't know how much Kansas can answer that question this week, but the Cyclones would be well-served to be the next team to blow out the Jayhawks, but Kansas could reach up and do to Iowa State what the Cyclones did to Tech. Should be an interesting matchup.

10. Oklahoma State's yes, focus. We've seen it the past two weeks. Oklahoma, then Texas Tech. If Oklahoma State isn't sharp, K-State will make it pay for dropped passes and poorly-timed three-and-outs. The ranking beside K-State's name should help the Cowboys perk up, but seeing last week's blowout loss to Oklahoma might inspire a bit of complacency. Or will it? OSU's stayed pretty loose this week, and this will be one of the toughest tests left before the showdown with Oklahoma.

Predictions: Big 12 Week 7

October, 13, 2011
I failed to record a perfect week of picks all last season. This year, I've already had two, thanks to a perfect 5-0 week last week. I also went 10-0 in Week 3.

Needless to say, I'm pretty excited about this development. I'll be in College Station, Texas, for a third time this season to see the Aggies and Bears tangle in the Litigation Bowl.

On to the picks!

Last week: 5-0 (1.000)

Overall: 31-9 (.775)

No. 21 Texas A&M 41, No. 20 Baylor 38: This is my Pick of the Week. I'll have a video later Thursday explaining it.

Missouri 37, Iowa State 27: Missouri gets back over the hump and back into the win column for the first time in a month against an Iowa State defense that has struggled with dynamic offenses. James Franklin outdoes Steele Jantz in a dual-threat battle and the Tigers earn a much-needed win.

No. 6 Oklahoma State 41, Texas 27: Simply put, Texas doesn't have enough offense to hang and Oklahoma State is going to throw a ton of points on the board against everybody. Brandon Weeden tops 400 yards through the air.

No. 17 Kansas State 30, Texas Tech 27: I'm a believer in the K-State defense, and without Eric Stephens, Texas Tech will look lost a bit. The Wildcats will take advantage, and Bill Snyder's run and one of his best coaching jobs continues.

No. 3 Oklahoma 59, Kansas 17: Ugh. Turner Gill may turn it around at some point, but his Jayhawks won't be taking any steps forward this weekend. Oklahoma's not done scoring defensive touchdowns.

Matchups to Watch: Oklahoma-Missouri

September, 23, 2011
Oklahoma CBs Demontre Hurst and Jamell Fleming vs. Missouri WRs T.J. Moe and Wes Kemp

Hurst and Fleming are the unsung heroes of the Sooners’ defense. Their ability to hold their own in man-to-man coverage allows defensive coordinator Brent Venables to blitz at will. If Hurst and Fleming continue to consistently win their one-on-one battles, quarterback James Franklin could have a long night.

Moe and Kemp have combined for 26 catches for 286 yards and three touchdowns this season. Moe is one of the Big 12‘s best slot receivers, and Kemp, at 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, has the size advantage over Hurst and Fleming.

Oklahoma DEs Ronnell Lewis and Frank Alexander vs. Missouri OTs Justin Britt and Dan Hoch

The Tigers suffered a huge blow to their offensive line when standout left tackle Elvis Fisher was lost for the season during preseason camp. Britt, a sophomore, is replacing Fisher and could have his hands full with Lewis and Alexander. Hoch was a second-team All-Big 12 member in 2010, so don’t be surprised if the Sooners prefer to attack Britt’s side of the offensive line.

Lewis is off to a great start this season with 15 tackles, including four tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks, and Alexander is playing arguably his best football as a Sooner with nine tackles and 1.5 sacks in two games.

Oklahoma C Ben Habern vs. Missouri DT Dominique Hamilton

Habern, a preseason All-Big 12 center, has been a key to OU’s improved offensive line this season, along with guards Tyler Evans and Gabe Ikard. The Sooners did a good job controlling the trenches against Tulsa and Florida State. Winning this battle could be a major key for OU.

After suffering a season-ending injury against OU last season, Hamilton has returned with a vengeance, recording 13 tackles this season. Considered a run-stuffer, Hamilton provides a strong interior presence for the Tigers’ defense.

First Glance: Breaking down Missouri

September, 19, 2011
Record: 2-1
Sept. 3: Miami (Ohio), 17-6 (W)
Sept. 9: at Arizona State, 37-30 (L)
Sept. 17: Western Illinois, 69-0 (W)

Previous outing: Missouri led Western Illinois 42-0 at the half and finished off the Leathernecks 69-0 Saturday. The Tigers set a school record with 744 yards of offense and tied a school record for most points scored. Henry Josey led Missouri with 263 rushing yards — his previous career high was 112 — and scored three touchdowns. Quarterback James Franklin threw for 246 yards and three touchdowns.

OU’s record against Missouri: 65-25-5

Last meeting: OU debuted at No. 1 in the first BCS Standings last year. But that lasted only a few days, as Missouri toppled the Sooners 36-27 in Columbia. Sooners quarterback Landry Jones had his worst game of the season, failing to complete a pass in the fourth quarter. Behind QB Blaine Gabbert, who completed 30 of 42 passes, Missouri scored 16 points in the fourth quarter to put the game away.

Key player: Gabbert is gone, and Franklin beat out Blaine's brother, Tyler Gabbert, in the spring for the starting job. Franklin has played well so far, completing 66 percent of his passes with 694 passing yards, six touchdowns and only one interception. The dual-threat Franklin also has rushed for 157 yards and two scores.

Mark J. Rebilas/US Presswire
Missouri quarterback James Franklin has passed for 694 yards, six touchdowns and only one interception this season.

"He's a guy that's got excellent size and can run but also does an excellent job throwing the football," OU coach Bob Stoops said this morning. "He's another one of those guys. I said the same thing a week ago about (Florida State quarterback) E.J. Manuel. A big strong guy [that] can run and throw the football. I'm going to say all the same things about him this week. And it's true. He's a really good player."

Why Missouri could win: OU has struggled with Missouri dual-threat QBs before (Brad Smith), and Franklin has more weapons at his disposal than Smith did with slot receiver T.J. Moe and tight end Michael Egnew. The defense got torched by Arizona State but still has the ability to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks with ends Jacquies Smith and Brad Madison.

Why Missouri could lose: Because the Sooners don’t lose in Norman. OU owns the nation’s longest home winning streak at 37 games, and has revenge on its mind after getting thumped the by the Tigers last season.

What Missouri coach Gary Pinkel is saying about the Sooners: "You've got to play well against those guys. You've got to play very, very physical. Obviously our players have great respect for them. In our team meeting yesterday there has been no discussion of last year. This is a different year. Last year was lat year. Now we've got a great opportunity to play a great team. We'll see where it goes."

"They're a great team. But they've had a bunch of great teams since I've been here. They've had not too many average teams. They've had no average teams. We're talking about the excellent of the excellent. I see them being pretty much flawless. I don’t see a weakness on this football team. But rarely do they have any. Bob's done a great job with this program."


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Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops sits down with Gene Wojciechowski to discuss his team's stand against racism.