James Franklin takes the lion’s share of the blame for every disappointing loss or game Penn State plays. Deservedly so as the highest paid employee in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Franklin comes with faults, of course. His performance after bye weeks to get that part started, but Saturday’s soul-crushing loss to Ohio State wasn’t his fault.
This one is on the players and Penn State’s inability to get out of its own way in the biggest of situations.
THE SEAN CLIFFORD EXPERIENCE
There’s not been a player in recent memory who can perform on both sides of the good-bad spectrum like Sean Clifford can. It’s truly an art to look as bad as he does at times only to perform some incredible feats.
Clifford bookended his afternoon with some horrid turnovers that ultimately proved insurmountable to overcome. A fourth-year starter should not be turning the ball over four times in a single game regardless of the opponent.
He needed to play the game of his life and ultimately, he came short in the end. Clifford will get more chances and should have no issues succeeding, but the Clifford roller coaster has just as many dips, dives and free falls as any of the premier coasters in the country.
That inconsistency can’t happen from quarterback position especially from a four-year starter.
As much as people think Franklin is capable of going on the field and executing play after play, he isn’t. Where he does have fault is continuously riding the roller coaster that is Clifford and there’s got to be some serious soul-searching this week.
COMPETE WITH THE ELITE
Under Franklin, Penn State has done a great job at competing with elite teams. Competing is great, though, it doesn’t win games.
His track record against top-10 teams is well-known and Saturday that loss column grew once again. It was the same song and dance Saturday with Penn State competing for 50 minutes before another late collapse as the result of Clifford’s turnovers and the defense succumbing to Ohio State’s quick strike ability took over.
For the Nittany Lions to take that step toward elite, they’ve got to close out games. The game plan seemed was well-executed save for the turnovers, but ultimately, just got worn down at the end and weren’t able to get a stop when one was desperately needed.
Teams have to play flawlessly against the Buckeyes, they’ve lost only five conference games since 2014, the year Franklin took over at Penn State. Those losses to MSU in 2015, the Nittany Lions in 2016, Iowa in 2017, Purdue in 2018 and Michigan 2021 show just how difficult it is to beat Ohio State.
That sustained success is something the Nittany Lions have dreamed about especially continuing to beat top-10 teams. For them to go from competing with the elite to beating the elite, it’s necessary for Penn State to play flawless football and that’s something they’ve not been able to do in big games recently.
SEASON ISN’T OVER
A quick look at Twitter or any other social media platform looks like Penn State’s season ended Saturday with the loss against the Buckeyes.
My sources say that’s not exactly true.
In fact, Penn State has five games left with four coming in the regular season and a trip to a bowl game.
Those four games on paper seem very win-able and should be a recipe for some blowouts which could ultimately set the Nittany Lions up with a top-tier bowl.
JAMES FRANKLIN’S HOT SEAT METER
Right now, the meter is pre-heating the oven.