Missouri is a BCS-caliber team, and it's because of James Franklin. He gives them a shot to beat anyone in the country, and they should prove that over the Tigers' final few games of the season.
The return of James Franklin plus the missed opportunities inside the red zone for Ole Miss was the difference tonight. Mizzou is for real!— Tim Brando (@TimBrando) November 24, 2013
Franklin has shown that he can adjust from the Big 12 to the SEC very effectively. The senior from Corinth, Texas, has been able to carry the Missouri Tigers to a 7-0 (4-0 SEC) record this season in games that he's started.
While wins aren't solely on the quarterback, the offense does better with Franklin than it did with Maty Mauk this season. Mauk played slightly better competition and still did well, but Franklin gives the offense an added edge that they don't have with Mauk in there.
|Quarterback||Passing (Yds/G)||Rushing (Yds/G)||Total (Yds/G)||Points|
As you can see by the table above, Franklin gives the offense 42 more yards per game because of his passing ability and crisper throws. He's a better manager of the offense because he understands where his guys are going to be and how to get them the ball. As a result, they score eight more points per game.
He's doing it with essentially the same running game as well. The only difference between his run support and Mauk's run support is each player's individual contributions. Getting help from the running game is huge in the SEC where you have to be balanced in order to win games.
Their 238 yards per game average on the ground does open up the passing lanes and play actions for Franklin and Mauk. But Franklin being able to use weapons that can blow the top off of the defense allows him to improve the rushing lanes due to the passing threat. It works both ways.
Missouri also isn't doing all of this against the have-nots in the SEC either. They have just one loss and that's a ridiculous comeback from South Carolina—a fellow top-10 team—when Franklin was out. Put the senior leader into that game, and it's a completely different result.
Where will Missouri end up for their Bowl?
With that different result, we're talking about a Missouri team that could be in legitimate national title contention. But, it's not just on the Tigers' offense and Franklin. They have a top-notch defense as well.
Their defense allows just 19.3 points per game. It was a top-20 scoring defense coming into the game versus Ole Miss and should move up. Missouri has proven that they can play in the SEC with their defense, not just because they can score a ton on offense.
And because of all of this, they are a legitimate BCS-caliber team. With Franklin leading the charge, they may even be a legitimate national championship-caliber team. Depending on the result of the SEC title game and the Alabama-Auburn game, Missouri could end up in the Sugar Bowl.
But at worst, they have proven they deserve the No. 3 bowl selection in the SEC. That's not bad for a team who was 5-7 (2-6 SEC) just one season ago.
Scott Carasik is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He covers the Atlanta Falcons, NFL and NFL draft. He also runs DraftFalcons.com.