Not even two weeks into the season, Missouri sophomore quarterback James Franklin already is facing multiple daunting challenges.
For example, he faces the great expectations of perhaps a spoiled fandom that has watched future NFL players Brad Smith, Chase Daniel and Blaine Gabbert lead the high-scoring Tigers' offense the past six seasons.
So, when Franklin passed for just 129 yards in a 17-6 season-opening victory over Miami of Ohio - a team the Tigers trounced 51-13 a year ago - the critics were bound to come out.
"I probably failed the test. Maybe a 'D'," he said when asked to grade his performance. "I want to be positive. Maybe a C-minus."
But Missouri coach Gary Pinkel has a not-so-subtle message for Franklin's critics: You don't know what you're talking about.
"Everybody's going to point at the quarterback because most people don't know what's going on," Pinkel said.
There was a poorly-run route by wide receiver T.J. Moe that led to an interception. There were drive-killing penalties, bad snaps and missed blocking assignments. None of those were Franklin's fault.
"I thought [Franklin] did a lot of good things," Pinkel said. "He made some good throws. He missed some throws, but that happens. He's a talented player. My concern is not for him. We had a lot of breakdowns. When players make mistakes here and there, offensive football doesn't look good."
Franklin has to hope his teammates have his back because he's facing another daunting challenge in the form of a tough, aggressive Arizona State defense this week. ASU had five sacks in a blowout of FCS member UC Davis last week, and linebacker Vontaze Burfict had three of them.
Missouri has some injury issues on offense. Center Travis Ruth will miss the game, and tackle Elvis Fisher was lost for the season during summer. Starting tailback Kendial Lawrence is out with a fractured leg suffered in practice.
Fortunately, Franklin is an effective runner. He actually led the Tigers with 72 rushing yards last week. That included a 17-yard gain and a 5-yard touchdown run.
If Burfict, end Junior Onyeali, tackle Will Sutton or any Sun Devils defender applies pressure, Franklin has the ability to escape. But Pinkel doesn't want Franklin running too often.
"We'll utilize his abilities," Pinkel said. "We're not going to run him 15-20 times a game. That's not going to happen. That's not the kind of quarterback he is."
Perhaps not. But if the rebuilt line continues to have breakdowns last week, Franklin might not have a choice. And that won't be his fault, either.
BEST MATCHUP: Missouri offensive line vs. Arizona State defensive front seven. The Tigers' offensive line looked to be one of the best in the nation before Fisher, who would've been a four-year starter, was lost for the season during fall drills. It's still a good group, with T Dan Hoch the standout. It's vital that the Tigers have some semblance of a running game against Arizona State; Mizzou coaches don't want to put the game entirely in the hands of Franklin, who will be making just his second career start. Arizona State's offensive line against Missouri's defensive line also bears watching. The Tigers' front four was dominant in last week's victory over Miami of Ohio, but they will face a stiffer challenge against Arizona State's offensive line.
PLAYER ON THE SPOT: Oklahoma State FS Daytawion Lowe. Lowe, a sophomore, made his first career start last week in place of suspended Johnny Thomas ; it was announced Tuesday that Thomas is out for the season. Lowe did fine against Louisiana-Lafayette, but faces a much greater test against Arizona, which has a productive passing game with QB Nick Foles and WRs Juron Criner and David Roberts. Last week, the Wildcats passed for 412 yards.
KEEP AN EYE ON: Texas RB Malcolm Brown. Brown, the No. 1 running back nationally in the 2011 recruiting class, rushed for 86 yards on 16 carries (all in the second half) in last week's victory over Rice. He had 68 yards in the fourth quarter, including carries of 20 and 17 yards. He figures to get more chances in this week's game against BYU, but the yardage won't come easily. BYU held Ole Miss to 64 rushing yards last week.
NUMBERS GAME: Baylor entered the AP poll at No. 20, marking the first time the Bears have been in the top 20 since Nov. 11, 1991. It's also the earliest the Bears have shown up in the poll since Sept. 7, 1993, when there were ranked 24th. Last season, Baylor was ranked for the first time in 17 years.
" I don't think it's necessary. No one wants to hear that, but life changes. If it changes, you have to change with it, to whatever degree." - Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, on whether the annual Red River Rivalry game with Texas will continue if the Big 12 breaks up
"I don't feel like I'm the same guy I was over the last six or seven games last year. Hopefully, I can prepare better, watch more film and get there." - Texas A&M RB Cyrus Gray, who rushed for 132 yards against SMU
POLL WATCH: Six Big 12 teams are ranked in the latest AP poll, including Baylor, which is 20th - its highest ranking in more than a decade. The Bears figure to stay there a while with Stephen F. Austin, Rice, Kansas State and Iowa State next on the schedule. Indeed, Baylor has a great shot of being unbeaten when it faces Texas A&M on Oct. 15. A&M is No. 7 and Oklahoma remains No. 1. Both are off this week. The other teams face tough challenges this week. No. 9 Oklahoma State faces Arizona, No. 21 Missouri travels to face Arizona State and No. 24 Texas plays BYU.
ETC:. The decisive field goal by Aaron Jones in Baylor's 50-48 victory over TCU was the Bears' first game-winning kick since a triple-overtime win over Colorado in 2006. And the 50 points were Baylor's most ever against a ranked opponent. ... Missouri WR Jerrell Jackson (hamstring), DE Jacquies Smith (elbow) and LB Will Ebner (high ankle sprain) won't play against Arizona State. CB Kip Edwards will be back after missing the opener. With Ebner out, OLB Andrew Wilson will move to the middle. ... Texas Tech DE Leon Mackey, a touted JC transfer, is out indefinitely after sustaining a collapsed lung on a hard hit to the chest against Texas State. ... Kansas posted three sacks against McNeese State last week. The Jayhawks managed just 14 all of last season. ... Last week's victory over Eastern Kentucky was K-State coach Bill Snyder's 150th of his career. ... Although Oklahoma walk-on RB Dominique Whaley scored four touchdowns against Tulsa, coaches said the Sooners have not abandoned their tailback-by-committee approach. ... For only the third time in school history Oklahoma State had a 100-yard rusher (Joseph Randle), two 100-yard receivers (Justin Blackmon and Tracy Moore) and a 300-yard passer (Brandon Weeden) in its game against Louisiana-Lafayette. ... Texas junior WR Marquise Goodwin, who had planned to redshirt while focusing on making the U.S. Olympic team in the long jump, has changed his mind and announced he'll return to the football team. Last season, Goodwin caught 31 passes for 324 yards and a touchdown. ... Texas A&M's Gray has a streak of eight consecutive 100-yard rushing performances. He needs two more to equal the school record. ... OU QB Landry Jones tied a school record with his 14th career 300-yard passing game. ... Iowa State LB Jake Knott has recorded double-digit tackle totals in each of his past five games. He was credited with 15 against Northern Iowa. ... A&M's Tony Jerod-Eddie had three sacks against SMU. He had two in his previous three seasons combined. ... A week ago Iowa State was without DT Cleyon Laing, LB Matt Tau'fo'ou, WR Darius Darks and OL Hayworth Hicks, who were suspended. In addition, LB C.J. Morgan was ejected from the game against Northern Iowa. All will play against Iowa on Saturday. OT Kelechi Osemele has a sprained ankle but said he will play against the Hawkeyes. DE Roosevelt Maggitt (knee) is out. ... Kansas' JaCorey Shepherd (107 yards) was the first Jayhawks freshman with a 100-yard receiving game since 1997.