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James Franklin is underrated as a head coach

James Franklin took Penn State football from sanctions to the top-10. He is one of the most underrated coaches in college football.



Oct 19, 2019; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin looks on against the Michigan Wolverines during the third quarter at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Penn State football has seen its ups and downs since 2014 — the year that James Franklin was hired. Still, some forget where the Nittany Lions’ program was, and how far it has come since the NCAA handed it a death sentence in 2012.

Since the sanctions were lifted in 2016, James Franklin has won 11 games in four of his seven seasons, a Big Ten Championship, and three New Year’s Six bowls — not just anyone can accomplish these feats. At the same time, PSU has seemingly fallen short a number of times despite its success. Nonetheless, James Franklin gets far too much hate and has become one of college football’s most underrated head coaches.

Franklin turns Penn State around

When James Franklin initially arrived in State College, the Nittany Lions were coming off of two-straight years of NCAA sanctions. Penn State football was not allowed to see postseason play (despite its winning records) and was striped of a large number of scholarships.

The Penn State brand that many have come to know and love was tarnished by the Sandusky scandal — to say it was a hard recruiting pitch to sell would be an understatement. Yet, Franklin came in and changed things from the start. In year one (2014) Penn State football was finally allowed back into bowl season — the Nittany Lions’ 6-6 finish was good enough for PSU to earn a bid to the Pinstripe Bowl.

It didn’t seem like much for a program that has historically been among the football giants; however, for Penn State it was a big deal. Baby steps are still steps in the right direction. The Nittany Lions went on to knock off Boston College in a thrilling overtime matchup — PSU walked away with a 31-30 win.

In 2015, PSU saw a better regular season (7-5) yet failed to overcome Georgia in the TaxSlayer Bowl. Penn State’s sanctioned teams held a record of 14-12 overall under Franklin (1-1 bowl games) — Penn State fans were beginning to become disgruntled with Franklin’s hardly .500 record despite the cards he was playing with.

2016 changes the Franklin era

In 2016 — after starting the season 2-2 with losses to Pitt and Michigan — the Nittany Lions upset No. 2 Ohio State at home. Penn State’s upset win over the Buckeyes in the White Out game got PSU back into the top-25, and kicked off a massive winning streak.

James Franklin went on to lead Penn State to a 10-2 finish (7-1 Big Ten) which was good enough to claim an East Division title and head to the Big Ten Championship game against No. 6 Wisconsin. Despite going down early (28-7) the Nittany Lions managed to come back and win a thriller, 38-31 over the Badgers.

2016 marked Penn State’s first 11-win season since 2009 and its first Big Ten Championship since 2008. Additionally, it was the Nittany Lions’ first outright Big Ten title since 1994.

2017-2019: Penn State keeps winning

After Penn State’s magical 11-3 Big Ten title season in 2016, the Nittany Lions started 2017 with a 7-0 record. Despite taking a large lead over Ohio State, Penn State seemingly choked it away in Columbus and eventually fell by one single point. The following week, the Nittany Lions fell to a mediocre Michigan State team on the road again.

PSU managed to win out following its two midseason losses; however, the damaged was done and Penn State football missed out on the College Football Playoff. Still, PSU held some impressive victories — such as a 42-13 win over No. 19 Michigan in the White Out game — and earned a Fiesta Bowl bid vs. No. 12 Washington. Once again, James Franklin made Penn State history.

Penn State’s 35-28 win over Washington in the 2017 Fiesta Bowl was the Nittany Lions’ first New Year’s Six win since 2005 when Joe Paterno led PSU to a win over Florida State in the Orange Bowl. Additionally, it was Penn State’s first back-to-back 11-win seasons and top-10 finishes since 2008-09.

In 2018, Penn State came into the year with incredibly high expectations, yet fell short of its goals. Still, despite falling short of a NY6, the Playoff, etc., James Franklin and Co. still managed to finish 9-3 overall before losing to Kentucky in the Citrus Bowl. Regardless, the Nittany Lions finished ranked (No. 17) three times in a row for the first time since the 1990s.

The year after Penn State’s disappointing 9-4 season, Penn State football made a return to the top-10 with an 11-2 season. Much like the 2017 team, the 2019 Nittany Lions started the year hot (8-0) before losing two road games: Ohio State and Minnesota.

It was a tough pill to swallow for most; though PSU again got itself back on track and finished 10-2. The Nittany Lions secured another NY6 berth to the Cotton Bowl vs. 12-1 Memphis. In an abnormally high-scoring affair, Penn State football walked away with yet another NY6 win, 11-win season, and top-10 ranking.

Frankly, 2016-2019 was the best stretch of Penn State football that we had seen since Joe Paterno won two National Championships in the 1980s — perhaps a case could be made for sometime in the mid-1990s, though it would be a tough case to make.

James Franklin hits a bump

In 2020, off the heels of a New Year’s Six win and top-10 finish, Penn State football hit a road bump: a global pandemic struck the US. The Big Ten was all over the place, but eventually decided to play games starting in mid-October.

Penn State football started the year 0-5 before righting the ship with a 27-17 win at Michigan. The Nittany Lions’ poor start turned into a 4-0 finish before PSU decided to opt out of bowl season. It was just the COVID-19 season, but it still hurt. A year later — despite a 5-0 start and top-4 ranking — Penn State football again fell to around .500.

Penn State’s 7-5 season in 2021 concluded in a fitting way: a 24-10 loss in the Outback Bowl to Arkansas. From 2020-21, Penn State held an 11-11 overall record, and most had grown tired of Franklin. In 2022, it was time to put up or shut up.

Franklin bounces back, Penn State wins Rose Bowl

Heading into the 2022 season, no one expected much from Penn State football. The Nittany Lions were coming off of back-to-back poor seasons and had too much turnover for anyone to be certain about their future — additionally, Penn State returned Sean Clifford (QB) and lost stars like Jahan Dotson (WR).

Despite coming into the year with a projected record between 7-5 and 8-4, the Nittany Lions managed to get their program back on track and win 10 regular season games for the fourth time since 2016. After Penn State’s incredible 10-2 regular season, James Franklin and Co. headed to the Rose Bowl for the second time in his tenure — the first was in 2016 and ended with a 52-49 loss to USC.

For the first time since 1995 and the second time in program history, Penn State football won the Rose Bowl. This year’s Rose Bowl win — a 35-21 win over No. 8 Utah (PAC-12 Champions) — was a milestone for Franklin and Penn State, and will build momentum for the Drew Allar era in 2023 and 2024. Yet again, Penn State football won 11 games, a NY6 bowl, and finished in the top-10 under James Franklin.

Franklin’s resume

So far, James Franklin has coached at Penn State for eight full seasons and nine years total.

In eight full seasons as Penn State’s head coach, James Franklin is 74-31 overall with three New Year’s Six wins (Rose, Cotton, Fiesta), four top-10 finishes (2016, 2017, 2019, 2022) and one Big Ten Championship (2016). Additionally, Franklin has five ranked finishes in his last six full seasons, and won the Big Ten Coach of the Year Award in 2016. Franklin has also coached two consensus All-Americans: Carl Nassib (2015) and Saquon Barkley (2017).

If you lay it out, Franklin’s resume since the sanctions on Penn State dropped are quite impressive. Here are Penn State’s last six full seasons:

  • 11-3, Big Ten Champions (No. 7)
  • 11-2, Fiesta Bowl Champions (No. 8)
  • 9-4 (No. 17)
  • 11-2, Cotton Bowl Champions (No. 9)
  • 7-6
  • 11-2, Rose Bowl Champions (No. 7)

Not too bad for a coach that some claim is one of the worst in the sport. James Franklin is one of the most underrated college football coaches out there, and it’s about time that we give him the respect that he has earned.


2023 Penn State football offensive line ranked in top 10

Today, the 2023 Penn State football offensive line was ranked among the nation’s top 10.



2023 Penn State football offensive line
Sep 18, 2021; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Sean Clifford (14) gestures from the line of scrimmage during the second quarter against the Auburn Tigers at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

Today, new rankings were released by 247 Sports, a trusted publication in the world of college athletics, which ranked the 2023 Penn State football offensive line among the top 10 best units in the nation. A season ago, the Nittany Lions’ offensive line showed shocking improvement as they helped lead the Blue and White to an impressive 11-2 campaign, which was capped with a Rose Bowl win over Utah.

2023 Penn State football offensive line ranked among top 10 nationally

In 2021, the Penn State football offensive line was perhaps as bad as it has ever been, leading to a stagnant rushing attack, an injured quarterback, and overall offensive failure. As a result, the Blue and White made a few staff changes, and these new faces, combined with rising young talents like Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen, brought the Nittany Lions back to success on the offensive side of the football.

For the first time since 2018, Penn State had a 1,000-yard rusher, and they nearly had two of them. Additionally, Sean Clifford had a chance to make decisions and throw the ball with his feet set, resulting in an improved passing game and overall success. By the end of the season, Penn State football had 11 wins, with all but one of those wins being blowouts, including the Lions’ huge win in the Rose Bowl.

Heading into the new season, the expectations for the Blue and White are growing higher and higher. The 2023 Penn State football offensive line is projected to be even bigger and better than the 2022 line. If the Nittany Lions expect to appear in the College Football Playoff or make a run at the Big Ten title this year, it will start with their performance up front.

According to today’s new rankings from 247 Sports, the 2023 Penn State football offensive line ranks among the nation’s top 10, coming in at No. 8 ahead of the new season. Fans will get their first glimpse of this new-look offensive line this fall when the Nittany Lions host the West Virginia Mountaineers at Beaver Stadium in State College, PA.

Thank you for reading Basic Blues Nation. Please follow us on Facebook and Twitter for the latest news and insights on your favorite Penn State athletics. For feedback, questions, concerns, or to apply for a writing position, please email us at or direct message us on our social media. It’s due to your support that we can become one of the market’s fastest-growing Penn State sports outlets!

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Penn State football: Best wins over 2023 opponents – Iowa

It took all 60 minutes – literally – but Penn State football escaped this game at Kinnick with a victory.



Penn State Football, Iowa
Sep 23, 2017; Iowa City, IA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions running back Saquon Barkley (26) jumps over Iowa Hawkeyes defensive back Joshua Jackson (15) and defensive back Amani Hooker (27) as Nittany Lions wide receiver Juwan Johnson (84) looks to block during the fourth quarter at Kinnick Stadium. Penn State won 21-19. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Today, we continue our series of the best Penn State football wins over 2023 opponents with Iowa. Penn State’s best wins over the Hawkeyes have come at the price of some heartache as well. The two schools met nine times before the Nittany Lions joined the Big Ten, with Penn State winning six matchups.

Starting conference play, it seemed the Nittany Lions would continue this advantage, winning four of their first five contests with the Hawkeyes. But then the trouble started. Iowa dominated the series in the early 2000s. Some of the major letdowns include the infamous 6-4 game and a heartbreaking last-second loss in 2008 that cost the Nittany Lions a shot at the national championship.

Since 2011 Penn State has won most of the matchups, but the last contest in 2021 left a bad taste in the mouths of Nittany Lions fans. Penn State will look to cleanse that in this year’s matchup in Happy Valley under the lights of a Beaver Stadium White Out.

However, of all the matchups, there is one game and resulting Nittany Lion victory that stands out in this series. This would be the 2017 contest in Kinnick.

Saquon Barkley was an inhuman force for Penn State football

A game in Kinnick Stadium is never easy. The fans are raucous and sit right on top of the players. The stadium’s design literally puts the stands as close to the sidelines as possible. If it is a night game, then the atmosphere turns up tenfold.

That is precisely what the fourth-ranked Nittany Lions faced in 2017. Both teams entered the contest undefeated, and the Hawkeyes had developed a reputation for upsets. Iowa’s last three home contests against top-five foes all ended in victories. The Hawkeyes looked to make Penn State its latest victim on this late September night.

But Saquon Barkley did his part and then some to ensure the Nittany Lions would be on the winning end. He finished the game with 211 yards on the ground with a touchdown, and added 12 receptions for 94 yards. His standout play of the night was this beauty that has gone down in Penn State football folklore.

It took all 60 minutes to beat Iowa

The game was quite sluggish to start. The teams traded punts through most of the first half, with Penn State converting a field goal, missing another, and getting a safety to lead 5-0 late in the second quarter. Then Trace McSorley would throw an interception, setting up the Hawkeyes deep in Nittany Lion territory. Iowa converted the opportunity into a touchdown to take a 7-5 halftime lead.

The Nittany Lions led 15-7 after three frames. But then the Iowa offense finally woke up. Running back Akrum Wadley scored two touchdowns, one on the ground and one through the air, giving Iowa a 19-15 lead with just one minute and 42 seconds remaining in the game.

It looked like the Hawkeyes would pull another upset against a top-five foe. That is, until McSorley, Barkley, and the Penn State offense went on one magical final drive. Juwan Johnson’s touchdown catch, the first of his career, silenced the Kinnick crowd as time expired. 

Penn State won and kept its College Football Playoff hopes alive for several more weeks, until back-to-back close losses against Ohio State and Michigan State dashed those dreams. But the Nittany Lions finished the season with an 11-2 record and a win over Washington in the Fiesta Bowl. Despite the season not ending in a playoff berth, the game against Iowa is one Nittany Lion fans still remember fondly.

Thank you for reading Basic Blues Nation. Please follow us on Facebook and Twitter for the latest news and insights on your favorite Penn State athletics. For feedback, questions, concerns, or to apply for a writing position, please email us at or direct message us on our social media. It’s due to your support that we can become one of the market’s fastest-growing Penn State sports outlets!

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James Franklin talks Penn State football and the College Football Playoff

Penn State football head coach James Franklin recently broke down the Lions and their hopes of a College Football Playoff berth.



Penn State football College Football Playoff, head coach James Franklin
Nov 28, 2020; Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA; Michigan Wolverines running back Hassan Haskins (25) is tackled by defensive end Jayson Oweh (28) and Penn State Nittany Lions safety Jaquan Brisker (1) in the first half at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

After winning the Rose Bowl game against No. 8 Utah, the defending PAC-12 champions, in convincing fashion earlier this year, it comes as no surprise that the Blue and White are heading into a year full of high expectations. If this is finally the year that fans see a Penn State football College Football Playoff appearance, a few major things need to align just right for the Blue and White. Recently, in an interview with ABC27 sports director Allie Berube, head coach James Franklin detailed some of what needs to happen for the Lions to push for a playoff appearance.

James Frankin finally closing in?

Ten years ago, head coach James Franklin took over a total mess—the program was sanctioned, the school’s image was at a low point, and more. After two years of sanctions, Franklin got the Nittany Lions right back on track, winning 11 games and a Big Ten title in 2016. Over the past six full seasons, the Nittany Lions have won 11 games and finished among the top 10 nationally four times, as well as having a 9-win season and top 20 finish in 2018.

Still, despite his great success with the Blue and White, James Franklin is yet to make the College Football Playoff. With talent as plentiful as it has likely ever been in Happy Valley, fans are starting to get disgruntled with his lack of progress. Yes, 11 wins is a great season, but at some point, the glass ceiling needs to break.

This fall, fans could be in store for the first-ever Penn State football College Football Playoff appearance. The schedule is tough, but the Blue and White are talented and experienced, with a fantastic coaching staff to match. If the Nittany Lions can overcome a few major hurdles, such as games against Ohio State and Michigan, Penn State should find itself among the top four programs by season’s end.

Franklin talks about a potential Penn State football College Football Playoff trip

Here is what Penn State football head coach James Franklin had to say about the Nittany Lions potentially making a run at the four-team College Football Playoff this fall.

“We’ve been a part of those conversations really for probably the better part of the last seven years, we’ve been right on the cusp [of the CFP],” James Franklin said per ABC27 Sports. “When you’re able to become a part of those conversations on a consistent basis, then you’re going to have a year where the stars align and things go well.”

The two giants of the Big Ten conference still stand in the way of Penn State football — a challenge that has haunted the 10th-year head coach since 2014. However, James Franklin welcomes the challenge, understanding that if you want to be the best, you need to beat the best.

“You’ve got Ohio State, Michigan and us all within the top seven teams in the country, and that’s only on our side of the conference. So, it’s extremely competitive and we love that,”

Something that Penn State football has lacked in recent years is depth. If the Nittany Lions want to make a run at the Big Ten title, College Football Playoff, and more, they must ensure that they have adequate depth. This fall, it appears that Penn State is in great shape — perhaps better than ever under James Franklin — when it comes to the team’s depth on both sides of the football.

“Late in the season, being able to have enough depth to get through an entire season and still being playing your best football when it matters most,” Franklin said. “We need to start with West Virginia.”

Thank you for reading Basic Blues Nation. Please follow us on Facebook and Twitter for the latest news and insights on your favorite Penn State athletics. For feedback, questions, concerns, or to apply for a writing position, please email us at or direct message us on our social media. It’s due to your support that we can become one of the market’s fastest-growing Penn State sports outlets!

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