Smashed, bullied, molly woped, beat down, dog walked, boat raced. That’s how you can describe what happened to Penn State at Michigan Stadium Saturday. How can a team that recruits at the same level as their opponent get outgained 563-268 in yardage, 28-10 in first downs and lose the time of possession 41:56-18:04?
The answer is coaching and development.
This loss doesn’t fall on Sean Clifford. I wasn’t disappointed that he put up only 120 yards passing against the Michigan defense. I don’t blame the offensive line and defensive line that was overmatched and couldn’t open running lanes for Nicholas Singleton and Kaytron Allen. I can’t blame the defense for the loss because it gave them a chance to stay in the game in the first half, forcing three field goals.
This debacle was the fault of one man and one man only, and his name is James Geoffery Franklin.
He didn’t have his team ready to play after the bye, knowing that they were traveling to “The Big House” to play a team that would be charged up with the “Maize Out” and having its 1997 AP National Championship team being honored, as well as celebrating the coach of that team, Lloyd Carr by naming the Michigan Stadium tunnel after him.
Franklin was too busy being on the recruiting trail to focus on the biggest test of the season. I get that recruiting is important, and it is half the battle, but shouldn’t Franklin be worried about the players he has on his roster right now? How about making the proper adjustments on defense when they were struggling mightily to stop the run? How about pulling Clifford from the game when they had the opportunity to stay in it?
This is my first season covering Penn State football, so I reserved my judgment until I got a few games to see the way he runs his program. I have come to the conclusion that Franklin is the most overrated and overpaid coach in college football, bar none.
I have been thinking about all the talent that he recruits, all the coaches and coordinators that have become head coaches: Brent Pry, Ricky Rahne, Charles Huff and others that came and went through the program, and the elite facilities and resources that any college coach would dream of.
With all of this, Franklin only has one Big Ten championship in nine years.
Speaking of him being a Big Ten head coach for nine years, Franklin is still making comments about the team needing to be bigger and stronger and that it needs to focus more on development and recruiting.
Franklin signed a ten-year, $70 million in December, and Penn State is still getting the same results. It can beat the teams it’s supposed to, mostly coasting on high-end talent, but when it’s time for Franklin and Penn State to live up to the hype by being an elite team, they come up small, being out-coached and outclassed.
It would be silly to suggest that Franklin should be fired because the buyout would be astronomical, and they would have to pay another coach a similar salary, i.e., Matt Rhule. So, what Franklin has going for him is this recruiting class with Drew Allar, the aforementioned freshmen running backs and a pipeline of pass rushers and four-star offensive linemen coming in and enrolling early from the 2023 recruiting class.
Since Penn State can’t do anything about Franklin now, I would give him the chance to develop Allar into the five-star, can’t-miss prospect that he is projected to be. If Franklin still underachieves and underperforms in big games, then Penn State should consider letting him go, or the next time he flirts with a major job, call him out on his bluff and let him take said job.
The bottom line is: Franklin is going to have to show that he is worth that $70 million and quick before he builds a legacy of being a Big Ten bridesmaid.