UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. (WTAJ) — James Franklin is in his tenth season leading Penn State. While he’s done some great things, losses like that to Ohio State this year highlight the struggles against the top teams in the country. With another “legacy game” ahead Saturday against Michigan, this could be one that has major implications on Franklin’s legacy and how the Big Ten East shapes out this season.
Franklin has had more success than most college coaches. During his time at Penn State, the Nittany Lions have won 86 games, three New Years Six games, and once again has the Nittany Lions in a spot to compete for a Big Ten Title, but to get there he faces the massive hurdle of beating a Top-10 team.
“For Penn State this is a game that can vault them right into the college football playoff conversation,” said Steve Jones, Penn State’s play by play announcer. “For Michigan is a game that keeps them in the college football playoff conversation. So for both teams, the stakes are very high.”
Jones has been the voice of the Nittany Lions and has been there for every game of Franklin’s tenure. He has watched the team struggle against top teams, going just 3-16 when facing Top-10 programs. He sees this weekend as a chance for the Nittany Lions to get that much needed statement win.
“When you look at past years for Penn State in 2017,2019 and last year in 2022 there was no game in the month of November where Penn State could make up for it and they went undefeated in November all three of those years,” Jones said. “Well this particular year they’ve got this game in the month of November that can more than make up for it and really give it a signature win on this season and send a message to the whole country.”
Penn State’s struggles against the top teams has opened a conversation about whether or not the program has peaked under Franklin.
“We’ve won a decent amount, not as much as what everybody wants,” said Franklin. “I get that. But I also think we’ve taken winning for granted a little bit.”
Jones and Franklin argue that using his record in those moments alone is too short sighted and wants people to think about the overall body of work during his 10 years, rather than select games when discussing Franklin’s legacy.
“He has four 11 win seasons here. He already has eight wins on this particular season,” said Jones. “He’s building something and has been building something here for a long time where Penn State’s played at a high level and they’ve gone toe to toe with some of the best teams in the country. He has three New York Years Six wins under his belt, the Cotton Bowl, the Fiesta Bowl, a Rose Bowl and Big Ten championship.”
If Penn State beats Michigan and the Wolverines defeat the Buckeyes, there would be a three way tie for the Big Ten East. The tiebreaker is the strength of schedule among each teams opponents from the Big Ten West, an advantage the Nittany Lions currently hold.