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Penn State football: James Franklin slips in latest Big Ten coach rankings

James Franklin is no longer considered to be in the trio of the Big Ten’s best coaches. Can a special season in Happy Valley change that?

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Penn State Football, James Franklin, Big Ten coach rankings
Jan 2, 2023; Pasadena, California, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin looks on in the second half against the Utah Utes in the 109th Rose Bowl game at the Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Penn State football has received a plethora of good publicity this offseason, especially for its head coach. From the recruiting trail to the gridiron, the praise has been pouring in for James Franklin and the Nittany Lions. But despite the fire hose of positive news, there has been a trickle of bad this offseason. One of these sour notes came Tuesday, as CBS Sports dropped Franklin in its Big Ten coach rankings ahead of the 2023 season.

New hire pushes James Franklin out of “Big Ten’s Top Three”

James Franklin has consistently been one of the best coaches in the Big Ten and the entirety of college football. Franklin was ranked as the 10th-best coach in college football according to a list produced by CBS Sports earlier in May, up from No. 15 in the same story last season. But Franklin has always faced stiff competition in his own conference, with fellow Big Ten coaches Ryan Day and Jim Harbaugh firmly fixed at the top two spots annually.

And apparently, the competition has now become even stiffer. As noted by 247Sports’ Raymond Lucas Jr., the hiring of Luke Fickell at Wisconsin has knocked Franklin out of the trio of the Big Ten’s top coaches. James Franklin now comes in at No. 4 in the conference, with Illinois coach Bret Bielema rounding out the top 5. Fickell is also one spot ahead of Franklin in the national rankings at No. 9.

Can a special season from Penn State football elevate Franklin in the Big Ten coach rankings?

Despite falling in the Big Ten coach rankings, the momentum that James Franklin has in Happy Valley hasn’t been lost. In his piece, Lucas Jr. writes:

Franklin has spent nine seasons at Penn State, going 78-36 and 4-4 in bowl games. He’s reached the Rose Bowl twice, and the Nittany Lions were victorious last season, beating Utah. College Football Playoff expectations surround Penn State, and it has the talent to get there.

While consistently finishing behind Ohio State and/or Michigan has often left a sour taste in the mouths of Nittany Lions fans, what Franklin has accomplished at Penn State shouldn’t go unnoticed. Franklin has four 11-win seasons in just under a decade at Penn State. A 4-4 record in bowls may not stand out, but three of those wins have been in New Year’s Six games.

Looking forward, Penn State has the talent to make some waves in 2023. The Nittany Lions have three potential first-round NFL Draft picks returning this season. One of the best freshmen classes in the country in 2022 is gearing up for its sophomore campaign this fall, headlined by Abdul Carter at linebacker and the dynamic duo of Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen in the backfield. And at the top of the list, former five-star quarterback Drew Allar will finally get his shot at the starting job.

Undoubtedly, the Nittany Lions are one of the most dangerous teams in college football this season. If Franklin can build upon the momentum of last year’s 11-2 finish this fall, then the Big Ten coach rankings may look a little different next spring.



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Matt is a Co-owner and Editor in Chief of Basic Blues Nation. Launched in 2022, Basic Blues Nation is one of the fastest-growing websites covering all Penn State athletics, with over 3.5 million readers in 2023. Matt is also a credentialed member of the Penn State football beat, and is a member of the Football Writers Association of America.

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