James Franklin

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New contract could be coming for James Franklin at Penn State

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Now that we can put those ideas of James Franklin leaving Penn State for USC to rest (for now), it seems as though a new contract at Penn State could be coming soon for Franklin. A meeting of the Penn State Board of Trustees’ compensation committee is currently scheduled for Friday to discuss what is being listed as a “personnel matter.” Go ahead and jump to your own conclusions here.

Franklin is still under contract at Penn State through 2022, but his name never seems to be too far from some of the coaching rumors and outlooks when notable vacancies open around college football, and even when vacancies don’t open up. Whether inspired by the annual bout of rumors or not, now seems like an appropriate time for a re-worked contract for Franklin in Happy Valley. Penn State has wrapped up a 10-2 regular season and awaits to learn its bowl destination, which could range from a New Years Six bowl to the Outback Bowl. This is the third time in four seasons under Franklin Penn State has reached double-digit wins, which has been done just once by the Nittany Lions since the school joined the Big Ten in 1993.

On Wednesday, USC athletics director Mike Bohn was “pleased” to announce Clay Helton will remain the head coach of the Trojans in 2020. Franklin also reportedly had contact with Florida State regarding its vacancy after the dismissal of Wille Taggart. Asked about his own future last week, Franklin hinted at having a reason to put that conversation to rest soon.

Penn State’s compensation committee is scheduled for a Friday afternoon meeting. As noted by Ben Jones of StateCollege.com, the sudden scheduling of a meeting for the compensation committee seems to suggest a new contract will be on the table, as similarly scheduled meetings have preceded a handful of other contract updates for other coaches within the athletics department.

Florida State reportedly makes contact with Penn State’s James Franklin

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With Florida State looking to come to a relatively quick resolution on its job search, Penn State’s James Franklin has reportedly been contacted by the Seminoles. According to a report from Brendan Sonnone of 247 Sports, Franklin is being considered a top target to fill the vacancy in Tallahassee to lead the Florida State football program.

Franklin has Penn State currently in a position to play ina third New Years Six bowl game under his leadership in Happy Valley, a tenure that includes one victory in the Big Ten championship game and a Fiesta Bowl victory over Washington. Penn State will have a chance to go 10-2 this season on Saturday with a win over Rutgers. There are plenty of reasons to suspect Franklin would be an ideal candidate for Florida State given his ability to recruit talent to a program, of which Florida State could quickly turn things around and begin to close the gap on Clemson in the ACC. However, this could also be a strategy to ink a contract extension at Penn State, a practice that is not at all uncommon this time of the year.

Franklin is no stranger to hearing his name tied to various coaching rumors. It’s been a few years seeing Franklin having his name attached to any potential opening at USC if and when the Trojans move on from Clay Helton (a coaching change that could potentially be on hold for at least one more season at this point). Franklin would surely be a good hire by USC or Florida State, if he ultimately decides to move on from his current position at Penn State, which is a pretty good one itself.

Florida State reportedly has some other candidates on its list of potential targets as well, including Minnesota head coach PJ Fleck, Memphis head coach Mike Norvell and Iowa State’s Matt Campbell.

Franklin has not commented on this latest news regarding the Florida State opening, but expect some questions to fly around the postgame press conference on Saturday after Penn State closes out the regular season against Rutgers.

No. 7 Penn State exhales after holding off No. 16 Michigan, 28-21

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Recent history has seen Penn State fail to finish off a game despite carrying a double-digit lead int he fourth quarter, but Saturday night was a different story for the Nittany Lions. No. 7 Penn State (7-0, 4-0 Big Ten) had to sweat a bit against No. 16 Michigan (5-2, 3-2 Big Ten) after jumping all over the visitors early on, but a 28-21 victory was one of the gutsiest wins of the James Franklin era in Happy Valley.

Penn State jumped out to a 21-0 lead on the Wolverines in the first quarter but then went flat on offense. Credit Michigan’s defense for hanging in there through a rough start and regaining their confidence, and hand out some blame for Penn State’s playcalling once again going timid and going off the mark. Michigan dominated the second half in time of possession as Penn State was unable to manage much offense. that gave Michigan’s offense an opportunity to grind away at the Penn State defense, which paid off in a big way after halftime.

Zach Charbonnet brought the Wolverines with one score with a 12-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, but the Michigan defense got bit on Penn State’s ensuing possession. After KJ Hamler picked up a big catch for a first down on a 3rd-and-5 with Michigan blitzing Sean Clifford, Clifford went deep to a streaking Hamler on the very next play for a 53-yard touchdown to energize Beaver Stadium.

The comfort of a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter was short-lived because Michigan answered in the most Big Ten way possible; a scrum at the goal line with Shea Patterson getting the ball just across the goal line.

With Michigan once again working their way deep into Penn State territory, the Wolverines were faced with a fourth-and-goal from the Penn State three-yard line with 2:01 to play. Patterson got the pass to his receiver in the end zone, but a dropped pass by Ronnie Bell resulted in a turnover on downs.

Still in need a first down, Penn State put the ball in the hands of Hamler to pick up a hard-fought first down. The play ended with Hamler being helped off the field after getting banged up on the play. Hamler had six catches for 108 yards and two touchdowns, but his four-yard run in the final minutes to keep the clock rolling after Michigan had burned two timeouts may have been the clutch play of the day for the speedy receiver.

Penn State won its second game against a top 25 team in as many weeks, helping to keep the Nittany Lions in stride in the Big Ten East standings with Ohio State. The Nittany Lions and Buckeyes are the only undefeated teams in the division and won’t play until the next-to-last game of the regular season. Both teams have some work to do before the focus can shift on to a potential division-deciding game. Michigan suffering its second loss in big Ten play really hurts Michigan’s chances for an elusive division crown.

Penn State will head to East Lansing next week to take on Michigan State (4-3). Michigan State has frustrated the Nittany Lions each of the last two years with stunning victories that have essentially dealt fatal blows to nay longshot playoff opportunities for Penn State on top of taking them out of the running for a trip to the Big Ten championship game. The Spartans were off this week.

Things won’t get any easier for Michigan next week, although they will be home to host No. 8 Notre Dame. The Irish took last year’s game in South Bend, 24-17, in the season opener. Michigan won the last meeting with the Fighting Irish in Ann Arbor in 2013, 41-30. Next week’s game will likely be much more low scoring.

No. 10 Penn State swarms No. 17 Iowa, 17-12, to remain undefeated

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A night game in Kinnick stadium is not supposed to be easy for visitors, but No. 10 Penn State (6-0, 3-0 Big Ten) won their second consecutive night game in Iowa City in three years Saturday night. In a defensive battle, Sean Clifford and a strong display by the Penn State defense held off No. 17 Iowa (4-2, 1-2 Big Ten) to remain undefeated. The game was put out of reach with a 17-6 score when Noah Cain took a pitch to the left side of the field for a touchdown. Penn State went on to win 17-12.

This was a tough defensive battle form the start. Clifford had a rough start to the game before he settled in during the second quarter. A.J. Epenesa of Iowa was in his face for much of the night, but the Nittany Lions protected the ball well and went 60 minutes without a turnover. Iowa, on the other hand, could not do the same in a game where possessions came at a premium.

Penn State appeared to take advantage of the first turnover of the game when Clifford connected with tight end Pat Freiermuth for a touchdown over the middle of the Hawkeyes defense late in the third quarter. But a video replay review ultimately overturned the call on the field and marked the ball shy of the end zone. Penn State would still manage to tack on a field goal, but the decision by the replay officials seemed to puzzle many watching the game.

According to David Jones of The Patriot News, the official word in the press box regarding the video replay ruling was it was a judgment call.

Penn State later picked off Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley, which setup Cain to give Penn State some much-needed breathing room in the fourth quarter. After not throwing an interception in Iowa’s first four games of the season, Stanley has now thrown four in the last two games as Iowa’s offense continues to struggle against good defenses. They’ll have some time to figure that out before a road trip to Wisconsin in what should be a big game in the Big Ten West, although Iowa is already two games behind the Badgers in the loss column.

Stanley did give Iowa some late life though when he fumbled a snap and recovered for a first down and then tossed a deep ball to Brandon Smith for a remarkable touchdown catch (which was upheld by video review).

Penn State was able to run the clock out after recovering Iowa’s onside kick attempt. Cain picked up some big yardage in crucial situations to help milk the clock as he climbed over 100 rushing yards against a stingy Iowa defense. And in doing so, Penn State secured the first road win against a ranked opponent in the career of James Franklin. Franklin was 0-11 on the road against ranked teams in his career dating back to his time at Vanderbilt, and Penn State was 0-6 in those situations under their head coach.

Penn State will return home for what could be another tough defensive battle. The Nittany Lions host Michigan next weekend in a primetime showdown in front of a whiteout crowd. the game will carry a lot of weight in the Big Ten East as Michigan has already suffered one conference loss and Ohio State is leading the pace in the Big Ten. Iowa will stay home next week for their own division matchup with Purdue.

Pat Narduzzi surprised nobody asks him about James Franklin’s comment about sign stealing

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Earlier this week, Penn State head coach James Franklin noted the Nittany Lions had changed up some of their signals for plays this season because a former player is now on the opposing sideline. That opposing player is John Petrishen, who plays for the Pitt Panthers. No big deal, right? Of course not, but Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi wasn’t about to let that comment go without a response.

While meeting with the media on Thursday, Narduzzi was probably hoping somebody would bring the subject up to him. After nobody did, Narduzzi prompted the discussion himself.

“We haven’t been thieves, I guess,” Narduzzi said. “But usually the people who are paranoid are the people stealing them.”

Before we go any further, let’s just agree that it is perfectly acceptable to steal an opposing team’s signs if it gives your team an advantage. It is on your coaching staff and players to modify any signals the moment you feel they have been figured out by the team on the other side of the field. There is nothing wrong with it, and teams should be doing what they can to steal signals as much as possible. With that out of the way, Narduzzi seems to feel Franklin was suggesting the Panthers would use the intelligence that came from a former Penn State player to their advantage (again, there is nothing wrong with doing that, nor is there anything wrong with trying to counteract that scenario).

Narduzzi made it a point to note Penn State has a former Pitt football staffer on the Penn State staff now (Eric Thatcher).

“I haven’t said anything about [that],” Narduzzi said, according to Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “He sat in the defensive meeting rooms for two years. Did you guys know that? Eric Thatcher’s in recruiting, and I’m sure he’s a ball coach this week trying to fill them in on what we do. A 35-year-old guy or a 21-year-old guy that’s been playing one position, I don’t think [Petrishen is] worried about offensive signals or defensive signals. … It’s a funny subject.”

It is a funny subject. It is so ridiculous, there is a reason nobody felt the need to bring it up to Narduzzi, perhaps.

“Our eyes are on our kids,” Narduzzi said. “Signals, I mean, I could have their notebook. If I had their notebook sitting right here, which, maybe I do. I don’t know. I could have their notebook, but that ain’t gonna help me win a football game. I can promise you that. OK? Defensively, your hands are tied. You can’t steal signals. That’s me. Maybe I’m just a dumb defensive coach. OK?”

Well, if that doesn’t open up a can of worms, what will?

Penn State and Pitt resume their petty rivalry this Saturday in Happy Valley. It will be the 100th all time meeting between the two schools and there is no telling when the in-state rivals will meet again with no future dates locked in against each other.