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Giger Counters: No, James Franklin, this historically bad start absolutely is not good enough

Photo by Penn State Athletics

Things keep getting worse and worse for Penn State, which is now 0-5 for the first time ever and in the midst of the worst season in the program’s storied history.

This team is just a disaster right now, and that’s really all there is to it.

This is the worst Penn State team ever. I’m not sure that can even be debated at this point.

“It’s not good enough,” James Franklin said.

That’s the understatement of the year.

Penn State was a preseason top 10 team yet remains winless and is — by far — the biggest disappointment in the entire country this season.

This in fact very well could be the most disappointing team in college football history at this stage. Penn State is the first team EVER to start 0-5 after being ranked in the AP preseason top 10.

Wow. It’s just unthinkable that things could have unraveled to this degree.

But here we are.

Yes, there are a lot of tough circumstances to be sure, but the bottom line is that this Penn State squad cannot beat any decent team right now. If you thought it actually had a good shot against Iowa, I’m just not sure what you were thinking and where that optimism was coming from.

Stunningly, the Vegas line had PSU favored by 1.5 points by kickoff. Iowa started out as 2.5 point favorites earlier in the week, but somehow, some way, the bookies moved the number in PSU’s favor.

It was one of the most baffling point spreads I’ve seen this whole college football season. Simply because I could not figure out how anyone could have any level of faith in Penn State going into the game, after everything we’ve seen from the team this season.

Can anyone possibly have any faith left now?

The Lions have a whole lot of big problems, and right now, about the only thing fans can hope for is that these huge problems don’t bleed into next year and ruin the 2021 season, as well.

That’s really the only thing left to wonder about the rest of this season — how it will impact the program going forward.

The glass-half-full optimist will say that 2020 has been such a crazy year in so many ways, and just about everything that could go wrong already has gone wrong for Penn State.

In that way of thinking, once the program can hit the reset button after this year, things will get back to normal next season and the Lions can be really good again.

As James Franklin has pointed out numerous times now, Penn State had its best four-year run in the Big Ten the past four years, so it’s possible this year is just one giant aberration.

Or …

It’s possible the problems popping up this year are exposing a program that has a lot of issues that will be much more difficult to fix — particularly in light of everything that’s going on in the world right now.

“Most importantly, we’ve got to stick together as a family and as a team and stay positive,” Franklin said. “We’re being challenged right now. We’ve had to learn how to handle success, and now we’re having to learn how to handle adversity. It’s even more challenging when they don’t have the typical support system around them.”

Penn State’s recruiting this year is not going great, with the Lions ranked 24th in the country by 247Sports. So there will not be a massive influx of talent this offseason.

There could be an exodus of talent, too, that some people just are not thinking about yet.

The NCAA’s new one-time transfer rule is expected to be passed in January. Players then will be able to transfer and play immediately somewhere else.

I believe, after all the problems during this dreadful season, that Penn State could end up losing several players to the transfer portal. Some of them will be guys who haven’t played much but who have good potential and help out with depth, but there’s also a pretty good chance that some starters could be looking elsewhere to see if they can find greener pastures with a better team.

Pat Freiermuth will be gone next season. So will Jayson Oweh. They’ll be first-round picks in the NFL draft.

There will still be big quarterback questions going into next year. Sean Clifford can look good at times, but he also can look downright awful at times.

Does anyone believe Clifford is just going to magically improve a tremendous amount this offseason?

Will Levis got his shot Saturday night, but it became clear he can’t move the team all that effectively throwing the ball.

Have you looked at next year’s schedule, by the way?

The Lions open the regular season at Wisconsin, with the new Big Ten schedule format changing to play an early conference game.

Penn State then gets Ball State for a cupcake game. But in week three, Auburn comes to town, and that will be a very difficult game.

So a 1-2 start is very possible next season, and if that happens, who knows how the players on the team will respond.

This year has been a worst-case scenario for Penn State. It’s been a year unlike any other in our country’s history, and a season unlike any other in the history of PSU football.

Can James Franklin find some way to finish this season on any kind of positive note, thereby taking some shred of momentum into the offseason?

At this point, after the disastrous 0-5 start and the mounting personnel problems, it’s just hard to see that happening.

This is a bad football team. And there’s little reason to believe that’s gonna change the rest of this season.

Written By

Cory Giger is a 15-year veteran of the Penn State beat and a journalist with 28 years of experience. He has won more than 100 state and national journalism awards during his career, plus he's a voter for the Heisman Trophy in football and Wooden Award in basketball.

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