Franklin not shying away from all the Johnny Football hoopla
Franklin appreciates Manziel's talents, and the pressure is on to show his own skills against Texas A&M
By JEFFREY FLANAGAN FS Midwest
COLUMBIA, Mo. -- It might be OK for someone in Missouri senior quarterback James Franklin's position to simply ignore all the attention being showered on Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.
It might even be best to go with the head-in-the-sand philosophy regarding Manziel.
But Franklin isn't ignoring the pregame talk, nor is he dismissive of Manziel's talents. In fact, Franklin dutifully recorded last week's LSU-A&M game and watched it just to get a peek at his opposing quarterback this week.
"Sure, I watched it," Franklin said. "It's cool to watch."
And what are Franklin's impressions of last year's Heisman winner?
"He's just a playmaker," Franklin said. "He can do a lot of things. He can scramble around in the backfield and then find guys open. It's pretty cool."
It might not be so cool for Missouri's defense, but then again, A&M is bound to have its own issues trying to contain Franklin, who bounced back from a long layoff because of a shoulder strain to lead the Tigers to a 24-10 road win over Mississippi last weekend.
Save for a handful of snaps against Kentucky, Franklin hadn't played since Oct. 12 against Georgia, but he looked sharp, passing for 142 yards and rushing for another 42 against the Rebels.
"I felt great," he said. "No problems."
Not that Mizzou coach Gary Pinkel expected any. He said Monday that Franklin had been throwing for three weeks and had warmed up prior to the last two games. It was just a matter of making sure Franklin's shoulder had healed enough to sustain some hard tackles.
"He looked like he didn't miss a beat," Pinkel said.
And now comes one of the more intriguing matchups of the season, matching Franklin's athletic skills against Johnny Football's. But Franklin isn't taking the bait on that comparison and instead says he's focusing on what is at stake for the Tigers -- a trip to the SEC title game with a win.
The pressure is on, and Franklin knows it.
"I am sure there is a little bit of pressure, but we just need to try our best and not think about it," Franklin said. "We need to focus on playing football and doing what we have done well all season. Hopefully, we won't let the outside stuff affect us."
But some of the outside attention is a blessing after last year's disappointing season.
"It's not something that is a total surprise to a lot of us, that we are where we are," Franklin said, "but it's definitely a good feeling after last season."
Which makes some of that building pressure welcome. The Tigers, after all, have not only SEC title visions, but BCS dreams as well.
"We have a lot of opportunities, and it's OK to think about them," Franklin said. "But we really have to focus in on how to get there. That's what we're doing. It's hard not to think about those things but you still have to focus on what is in front of you.
"I think it's more fun because of the pressure. You try not to get caught up in all the hoopla, but it's still fun. This is still one football game and you can't try to think this game is any more important than the other ones we played."
But it is. And it also will be Senior Night on Saturday at Faurot Field, ending a home career for Franklin.
"I've thought about that a lot," he said. "After all the adversity I've gone through, it's taught me a lot. Taught me a lot of life lessons that I can apply later on in life. But for now, I'm just trying to enjoy the moment."
You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflangankc or email firstname.lastname@example.org.