Friday, November 23, 2012
Pac-12: Who will transform tomorrow?
By Kevin Gemmell
The Mayor. The Jet. Whatever nickname you have for UCLA running back Johnathan Franklin, one thing we can all agree on is when you need him to step up, he does.
And the Bruins need him in a big way with one of the top defenses in the country coming to town for a non-divisional season finale that has a significant bearing on next week's conference championship.
Three times the Bruins have played teams ranked in the AP top 25 this year, and Franklin has excelled in all three of those games. Against the three top-25 teams he's faced (Nebraska, Arizona and USC) Franklin is averaging 183.3 yards per game. Against unranked teams, that number drops to 111.4.
Stanford is ranked No. 11 in the AP poll and No. 8 in the BCS standings, so if recent statistical trends have anything to say about it, Franklin will have a big game. Against ranked teams, Franklin averages 26 carries, compared to 19 versus unranked. He averages more than a touchdown per game and his average yards after contact balloons from 37 yards against unranked teams to 91 yards against ranked teams.
And as the game goes on, he gets stronger. Per ESPN Stats & Information, Franklin has averaged 11.3 yards per carry in the fourth quarter against ranked teams and more than 64 percent of his yards come after contact.
This makes for an interesting matchup, because Stanford ranks first in FBS in yards allowed per carry in the fourth quarter. The Cardinal yield just .89 yards in the fourth quarter or overtime.
Expect the Cardinal to try to keep Franklin and quarterback Brett Hundley funneled inside the tackles. When the two get outside of the tackles, they average seven yards per carry and have a combined nine touchdowns and 11 carries of 20 yards or more.
Stanford, the only team to slow down Oregon's rushing attack, is holding opponents to no gain or negative yards 37.4 percent of the time. This poses a great strength vs. strength matchup between a Doak Walker Award finalist and one of the country's premier rush defenses.