CBS Sports college football analyst Tom Fornelli listed his top 25 head coaches from the Power Five conferences and Penn State’s James Franklin came in at No. 15. Nick Saban of Alabama was ranked the Top power five head coach, followed by Kirby Smart of Georgia, who is ranked second, and Dabo Swinney of Clemson rounded out the top three.
There were eight Big Ten coaches in Fornelli’s rankings as Franklin was behind Ohio State’s Ryan Day, who came in sixth, Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh ,who was ranked ninth, Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz, who was ranked 13th, and Wisconsin’s Paul Chryst who was ranked just ahead of Franklin at 14th.
Franklin came in ahead of Pat Fitzgerald of Northwestern (21st), P.J. Fleck of Minnesota (23rd), and Mel Tucker of Michigan State (24th).
Franklin was ranked as Fornelli’s ninth-ranked coach entering the 2020 season when the Nittany Lions went 42-11 and won a Big Ten championship, a Fiesta Bowl, and a Cotton Bowl in a four-year stretch from 2016 to 2019. However, in the last two seasons, the Nittany Lions have gone 11-11 overall and 8-10 in the Big Ten despite the talent on their roster and consistently having top 20 ranked recruiting classes.
Fornelli doesn’t think that this downturn will continue as Penn State will have a sixth-year senior in Sean Clifford, the sixth-ranked recruiting class in the country, and a proven defensive guru in Mani Diaz replacing the departed Brent Pry, who took the Virginia Tech head coaching job. However, he did say that the 2022 season is a very important year for the program.