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Stuff Somers Says

Stuff Somers Says: Stop Delaying the (Other) Inevitable

COLUMBUS, OH - OCTOBER 30: Head coach James Franklin of the Penn State Nittany Lions looks on during the game between the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Penn State Nittany Lions at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio on October 30, 2021.(Photo by Jason Mowry/Icon Sportswire)

The beauty of college football is the inevitables.

The inevitable of summer giving way to fall. Leaves turning from deep green to brown, yellow and orange. The inevitable feeling of pure joy and utter heartbreak, and everything else that comes with following your team through a three-month slog all in hopes of ending up at bowl in a warm location with a whacky sponsor.

It’s why a lot of us love college football.

Right now, there’s an inevitable facing Penn State and James Franklin. One that we saw Saturday afternoon as Penn State put a beatdown on Ohio.

But it’s not the one that you probably think it is.

If you’ve come to read about Drew Allar and why he should be named the starting quarterback, you’ll be sorely disappointed. No, this inevitably relates back to that speech James Franklin gave back in 2018.

It’s time for Penn State to stop delaying the inevitable and take that next step. You know the one that starts with the letter “E.”

Yes, the Nittany Lions beat Purdue. Yes, they beat Ohio. Yes, they “haven’t really played anyone” in the eyes of the public opinion, but there’s a chemistry with this team that reminds me of well… honestly zero of the Penn State teams since I’ve been alive.

By and large, I, much like Franklin and seemingly most Penn State fans, thought this was going to be a rebuilding year. Franklin himself has harped on this being a year when the Lions want to build their depth. On Saturday, 17 players caught 31 passes from a trio of quarterbacks. On the defensive side of the ball, 25 Lions recorded a tackle.

But why not stop delaying the inevitable and why not make this the year Penn State does something different?

I think that Franklin regrets the “elite” speech. But I don’t think he regrets making it. He regrets not living up to it. That 2018 team fell short of its goals. The 2019 team was a solid foundation until 2020 happened and 2021 was shaping up to be a great year until Sean Clifford got hurt in Kinnick Stadium.

Of course, we can live in the alternative mindset that Penn State may never make that next jump but this recent recruiting class – yes the one that included Allar and Nick Singleton – was supposed to be the anchor of the future. Yet what’s stopping the future from starting now?

The roster is there. I’m not sure in my lifetime, or anyone’s lifetime, Penn State has had a secondary this deep. There’s a sixth-year quarterback at the helm that knows how to manage an offense and can play with the best of them. The backup knows what he’s doing too. The offensive line, the Achilles’ heel the last few seasons, is more than serviceable this year. There are fast wide receivers that are lethal in the open field and apparently a freshman running back who knows how to find that open field and make opposing teams pay when he gets to it. They were even able to find a suitable replacement at punter after the last one went early in the NFL draft.

Off the field, Franklin has some of the top minds at coordinator. He’s got his new contract. There’s more construction happening at the Lasch Building than on the roads of Pennsylvania right now. There are no more real distractions.

So what is Penn State waiting for?

As Penn State heads to Auburn this weekend, it has a unique early season opportunity to make a statement. That Auburn team isn’t ranked and if you thought Penn State hasn’t played anyone yet, it really hasn’t played anyone.

But the task at hand is this: Franklin has to take his team into an SEC stadium against a team that’s still upset about last year’s loss in Happy Valley.

Beating Auburn isn’t going to make Penn State’s football program elite but it does help the case for it. There are still two more games on the schedule that elite programs should win – Michigan and Ohio State – but those wins would mean nothing if Penn State can’t handle business this weekend.

As the air starts to turn crisp in the Nittany Valley, the downtown bars get full Friday nights and small apartment buildings are torn down for mini-skyscrapers, there’s room for one more if Franklin and company want it.

This weekend is the perfect opportunity to take it.

Darian Somers is a 2016 Penn State graduate currently living in Frederick, Maryland. You can follow him on Twitter at @StuffSomersSays. You can listen to his podcast, Stuff Somers Says with Steve Sampsell every week on major podcast outlets.

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