Here’s what we know: James Franklin is close to returning. Really close. What we don’t know is if really close is this week against Kentucky or in two weeks against Ole Miss. Gary Pinkel says it’s not up to him.
Pinkel reiterates that Franklin is practicing and medical staff will make decision on his availability later this week. #Mizzou
— Tod Palmer (@todpalmer) November 6, 2013
It is believed Franklin was available as the backup last week against Tennessee, so Franklin’s availability may not necessarily be as the starter for Saturday.
There are three trains of thought here of what to do with Franklin should he be cleared to play.
1) James Franklin plays against Kentucky to shake off the rust before the bye week so he is ready for the final two games of the season.
If he’s available to play, start him. What is the point of having him on the bench when he needs the reps to regain his timing with his receivers?
2) James Franklin sits so as to get the extra two weeks to get healthier and stronger.
Another injury to Franklin may doom Missouri’s season, so risking that injury happening against Kentucky – a team Maty Mauk can beat – would seem rather foolish. Start Mauk, get the win, and play a fully healthy Franklin at Ole Miss.
3) James Franklin starts in order to get some work in, but is relieved by Maty Mauk around halftime in order to keep Franklin healthy.
This option seems most likely if only because Missouri is probably going to be routing Kentucky by halftime anyway. What’s the point in playing any starter, let alone Franklin, very much in the second half in that situation? Missouri would get the best of both worlds in terms of getting some work in for Franklin, but also keeping him as healthy as possible heading into the bye week.
Franklin is going need some kind of playing time just to get back into rhythm. It is better for Franklin to experience that adjustment against Kentucky as opposed to Ole Miss.