Missouri's debut season in the SEC hasn't quite gone as planned: a blowout home loss to Georgia, followed by a blowout road loss to South Carolina, followed by a knee injury to starting quarterback James Franklin early in Saturday's home contest against Vanderbilt and a stunning 19-15 loss to the Commodores.
Gary Pinkel said in the immediate aftermath of the defeat that Franklin -- who already missed the Tigers' Week 3 win over Arizona State with a shoulder problem -- had strained his medial collateral ligament and would miss two weeks. The two days between Saturday and Monday apparently did nothing to change that prognosis; though Pinkel did not speak to the press on Monday, per the Columbia Daily Tribune, the Tigers issued a depth chart for this Saturday's game with backup Corbin Berkstresser as the starter and true freshman Maty Mauk as his backup.
After the Vandy loss, missing Franklin would be worrying no matter who the Tigers' upcoming opponent was. Here's the kicker: Faurot Field will be hosting reigning national champion and No. 1 Alabama in this week's SEC on CBS spotlight game. The Tide will come to Columbia with the nation's No. 1 defense in both total defense and yards-per-play allowed.
That's not good news at all for Berkstresser, who completed just nine of 30 passes against the Commodores and posted a QB rating of just 93.92. That was still a higher rating than his performance vs. the Sun Devils -- though the redshirt freshman completed 21-of-41, he averaged just 4.8 yards an attempt and didn't throw a touchdown.
Things might be even worse, however, if Berkstresser also goes down with an injury. Mauk has never taken a college snap and is scheduled to be redshirted. The Daily Tribune reported that offensive coordinator David Yost said this week that Mauk would play in the event of a Berkstresser injury, but that "depending on the timing and situation" the Tigers might snap the ball directly to wideout T.J. Moe or tailback Kendial Lawrence.
The good news for Missouri, such as it is, is that they have a bye week on Oct. 20, giving Franklin an extra week to heal before their following game vs. Kentucky. Trainer Rex Sharp told the Tribune on Monday that Franklin would be ready to return and face the Wildcats.
But between now and then, the burden is on Berkstresser's shoulders -- and given the competition, it's a very heavy burden indeed.