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James Franklin, Pat Narduzzi Take Rivalry to Coaches Poll

PSU coach James Franklin talks with Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi before last year's game at Beaver Stadium.

Penn State coach James Franklin and Pitt boss Pat  Narduzzi haven’t competed against each other since 2019 and might never do so again.

That hasn’t stopped them from what many perceive as pettiness toward each other.

The final USA Today Coaches Poll ballots have been released, and, as you might imagine, coaches vote on those things.

Of the coaches that voted, no coach ranked Penn State lower than Narduzzi, who had Franklin’s team ranked No. 9, behind Washington, which struggled to beat 8-5 Texas in the Alamo Bowl, and Clemson, which finished 11-3– one more loss than Penn State— and lost to Tennessee in the Orange Bowl. Franklin didn’t have Pitt in the top 25 but ranked UCLA No. 21, despite UCLA finishing with the same 9-4 record as Pitt and losing to Pitt in the Sun Bowl Dec. 30. Now, there’s no way to prove that either coach meant anything by where they ranked their in-state rival, and neither would admit to any pettiness if publicly asked. But fans of Pitt and Penn State would likely acknowledge that, at the least, it’s a funny coincidence. In the actual Coaches Poll, Penn State finished No. 7 and Pitt No. 22.

Franklin had his team ranked No. 7 as well.

Narduzzi had his ranked No. 18, the highest of any coach.

Penn State finished the 2022 season 11-2, capped off by a 35-21 win over Utah— which finished No. 11 in the Coaches Poll— in the Rose Bowl Jan. 2. Pitt regressed slightly from 2021, going from a 11-3 ACC Championship campaign to a 9-4 year.

Nonetheless, it was the first time Pitt’s had consecutive top 25 seasons since 1981-82, when Dan Marino was the man in Oakland.

James Franklin and Pat Narduzzi have coached against each other four times, and Franklin owns a 3-1 lifetime record. In the brief revival of the Pitt-Penn State series following a near-16-year hiatus, Pitt won the first matchup, 42-39, in 2016 at Heinz Field, and Penn State won the next three.

The most lopsided meeting of the four took place in September 2018 in Pittsburgh. Penn State beat Pitt, 51-6, in what will be the last time the two teams meet in the “Steel City” for quite awhile.

The series most recent meeting took place in 2019 at Beaver Stadium and was much closer. Penn State edged Pitt, 17-10.

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