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Penn State football starting year-round prep for Michigan, Ohio State

Penn State football is already underway with year-round preparations for the Michigan and Ohio State games.

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Sep 29, 2018; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions wide receiver KJ Hamler (1) runs after the catch en route to scoring a touchdown as Ohio State Buckeyes safety Jordan Fuller (4) and cornerback Shaun Wade (24) and safety Isaiah Pryor (12) give chase in the second quarter at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

Penn State football has established itself as one of the premier programs in college football during the last six full seasons, consistently achieving impressive results. James Franklin and company have four top 10 finishes, five ranked finishes, four 11-win seasons, a 9-win season, three New Year’s Six bowl victories, and a Big Ten title, and the team’s success has been evident. However, recent challenges in the form of the Michigan Wolverines and Ohio State Buckeyes have significantly impeded the Nittany Lions’ pursuit of a national championship.

In the Big Ten, 11-2 isn’t cutting it anymore for Penn State football

Last season, Penn State football concluded its campaign with a No. 7 ranking following a triumphant victory in the 2023 Rose Bowl game. However, despite this success, the team fell short when facing the top programs in the Big Ten East.

James Franklin, the head coach of the Nittany Lions, recognizes the need for adaptability and evolution within the program. Acknowledging this urgency, Franklin has emphasized that Penn State has initiated year-round preparations specifically geared towards Michigan and Ohio State, understanding the importance of overcoming these formidable opponents.

Nittany Lions facing huge Big Ten East hurdles this fall

The 2022 season started off exceptionally well for Penn State football, as they achieved an impressive 5-0 record, including significant victories over the eventual MAC East Champion Ohio Bobcats (46-10) and the SEC’s Auburn Tigers (41-12) on the road. However, their momentum was halted temporarily during a road trip to Ann Arbor, where they suffered a disheartening 41-17 loss against the eventual Big Ten champions, Michigan.

James Franklin, in an interview on The Hard Count Podcast, acknowledged the challenge of competing in the Big Ten East, which features formidable opponents such as Michigan and Ohio State.

He recognized that Penn State’s preseason rankings positioned them around the top five or six in the country, but the presence of Michigan and Ohio State ranked at the top (two or three, or two and four) adds an extra layer of difficulty. Franklin also mentioned that the Big Ten East, alongside the SEC West, could be considered the best two divisions in college football.

“We’re anywhere, in most publications, five or six in the country preseason,” James Franklin said on The Hard Count Podcast. “The challenge is is Michigan and Ohio State are two and three, or two and four. So our side of the conference, whether it’s the Big Ten East or the SEC West, you could make the argument [are the] best two divisions in college football.”

2023 needs to be different for James Franklin

As the 2023 season approaches, Penn State football seems poised to reclaim the Big Ten title and potentially contend for the national championship. However, they face the same formidable hurdles in the form of Michigan and Ohio State, who remain as dangerous opponents as ever.

A challenging matchup against Ohio State awaits them in late October with a daunting trip to Columbus, followed by a mid-November home game against the Wolverines. These pivotal games will test the Nittany Lions’ mettle and provide a significant gauge of their championship aspirations.

Year-round prep for Michigan and Ohio State is underway

Indeed, despite the challenges posed by Michigan and Ohio State, both games are within reach for Penn State football as long as the Nittany Lions approach them with adequate preparation. James Franklin has emphasized the importance of readiness for these matchups and has already taken steps to ensure his team is well-prepared.

The coaching staff and players are well aware that all eyes will be on them during these two matchups — if Penn State wins, the narrative changes. Another loss, however, could spell disaster as it has in years past.

“We are getting ready for West Virginia and we have done our first four opponents.” Franklin stated. “We literally just finished those breakdowns. But then we will get a head start on Michigan and we will get a head start on Ohio State. Obviously, we understand the importance of those two games.”



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