by Jack Kerwin | firstname.lastname@example.org
Maybe it is time to move on.
For all the good he has done in Happy Valley, stabilizing Penn State’s football program and returning it to national relevance, if not prominence – at times, at least – in the last eight years, James Franklin, perhaps, would be wise to seriously consider overtures from the University of Southern California and Louisiana State University to take over the head-coaching reins at either school.
Penn State fans have been trying to push him out the door for several years. So why not give them what they want?
With 50 fast approaching in February, and his (for now) No. 7 Nittany Lions fresh off a 20-18 loss to lowly Illinois on Saturday afternoon in front of a Homecoming crowd at Beaver Stadium, it almost seems appropriate that he’d pivot his mindset from enjoying (or, say, enduring) a lifetime stay in State College to starting fresh in Los Angeles or Baton Rouge.
You know, contingent on approval from his wife and two girls.
Truth is, despite his success, Franklin has never really gotten the Lions over the hump to being elite – like, say, a consistent top-five to top-eight program. In today’s world, the standard of greatness is reaching the College Football Playoff and Franklin and Co. have yet to make an appearance in one.
But the guy does have three 11-win seasons, three top-10 finishes and a Big Ten championship in his eight years at Penn State – which would match what Joe Paterno did in his final eight years at Penn State and surpass what Paterno did in the eight years prior to that.
That’s not exactly chump-change stuff for a coach, especially a coach with a commanding presence and star quality that allows him to recruit with anyone in the country.
Put it this way, one game, especially with playing a banged-up starting quarterback, that takes nine overtimes to result in defeat is not going to deter schools such as USC and LSU from pursuing him hard.
And the reaction Franklin has received from Nittany Nation after that game may make it easy to leave.
- Navy, despite just having one win all season, appears to be the litmus test for the top teams in the American. No. 23 Southern Methodist and Houston both passed, barely, earlier this season. Both, also, were far more impressive in surviving than No. 2 Cincinnati was in Annapolis on Saturday. The Bearcats, looking as mild as former No. 2 Iowa did before finally falling to its own conference rival in Purdue, got pushed around, outgained and seemed confused throughout before prevailing by a single score – just like SMU and Houston did. Only they finished plus-160 and plus-90, respectively, in the yardage department. Cincy didn’t even reach 300 for the game in finishing minus-40.
- Would love to hype Pitt QB Kenny Pickett for the Heisman after yet another masterful performance that saw the Panthers completely shut the door on Clemson’s dominance in the ACC for now, but, man, Pitt’s uniforms outshone him. That mustard gold and royal blue pairing, with white trims, wow – it all makes for the sharpest look in the sport. (Please, no ridiculous Oregon comments.)
- Kidding aside, it’s kinda hard to go too crazy over Pickett’s 302-yard, two-TD passing day when a pair of QBs from fellow ACC schools went completely off: Sam Hartman went 23-for-29 passing for 458 yards and five TDs for undefeated No. 16 Wake Forest, and ran for a sixth score, while season-long stat monster Brennan Armstrong threw for 396 yards and four TDs and ran for another 99 and two to help Virginia reach 6-2 on the season.
- Yet another ACC signal-caller had himself a day as Garrett Shrader, in leading Syracuse to victory at Virginia Tech, threw for 234 yards and two scores and ran for 176 and three more.
- Not sure all the luster is off Iowa State coach Matt Campbell. His Cyclones just dropped No. 8 Oklahoma State from the ranks of the unbeaten and they are 5-2, with losses against ranked teams.
For all the hyperbole – pro and con – about the new overtime rules that got put on full display at Penn State with nine mind-numbing sessions of mostly futility and young men walking from one end zone to another, the most telling part of the game was the Fighting Illini’s clear dominance in the trenches. Which, frankly, was shocking to see against a top-10 team, especially after their coach, Bret Bielema, had just ripped the offensive line and the recruiting efforts made there by the previous coaching staff headed by Lovie Smith a few days prior to the game.
Bielema backtracked a day later, of course, but the point was made … and either his guys responded to the challenge or Penn State’s players believed him.
Illinois RBs Chase Brown (33 carries, 233 yards, TD) and Josh McCray (24 carries, 142 yards) accounted for 148 more yards than Penn State’s entire offense just by themselves.
We may wanna chill out there on all the "epic-ness" – and newness and rareness – of that nine-OT opus between the Illini and Lions. Princeton beat Harvard on Saturday in five extra sessions to cap an 18-16 inept-fest that, amazingly, was played more poorly than what transpired in State College.
Next up for the rules committee: Should rock-paper-scissors be added to overtime?