Mizzou coach Gary Pinkel said Wednesday that the quality and depth of the Southeastern Conference has been no “different than what I expected,” but he added, “I didn't expect a lot of the issues that we've been having.”
As he spoke on the weekly SEC media briefing, Pinkel most specifically was referring to injuries on the offensive line and to quarterback James Franklin, who will start Saturday at No. 8 Florida (7-1 overall, 6-1 SEC) but has missed two complete games and played only in a quarter of two others.
“Does that affect your team? There's no question about it," said Pinkel, who was quick to add his familiar line about there being no excuses. "Bottom line is you've got to go play, and you've got to go win."
Last season as a sophomore, Franklin didn't miss a play to injury, said Pinkel, who made it a point to call Franklin "a battler" after comments earlier this season that implied he was questioning Franklin's toughness.
And the healthier Franklin had the fourth-most prolific total offense season in Mizzou history, threw for 21 touchdowns and ran for 15.
Through eight games a year ago, Franklin had thrown for 1,870 yards and 13 touchdowns and rushed for 542 and 10.
Through eight games this season for the Tigers, Franklin has passed for 821 yards and four touchdowns and rushed for 75 yards (after deducting 101 yards for sacks) and no touchdowns.
Despite the whopping difference in productivity, Mizzou was 4-4 at each juncture.
The injuries, Pinkel said, also make it difficult for Mizzou to “have a really good evaluation” yet of whether the very structure of its spread offense is the key issue with its anemic production (109th in the nation in total offense, 317.38 yards a game).
But he stressed that MU constantly studies its systems and suggested it will look under the hood more after the season.
That might sound different than his mantra about Mizzou not changing anything in its program, but Pinkel generally means that point in a bigger-picture context.
“We will certainly look and analyze everything, and we will always make the appropriate judgments … (in an effort to) make ourselves better,” he said.