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2 CFB Writers Have Penn State HC James Franklin Among Top 10 CFB Coaches

Penn State coach James Franklin
Penn State Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin November 12, 2022 David Hague/NSN

Two of the Athletic’s top college football writers ranked their top 25 head coaches, and here is where they had Penn State boss James Franklin.


Feldman has Franklin rated the highest of the two writers. He puts the Penn State boss No. 5, up from No. 9 in 2022 and ahead of every Big Ten coach aside from Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh, who ranks fourth. Franklin is notably one spot ahead of Ohio State’s Ryan Day, despite Ohio State making the College Football Playoff in three of Day’s four seasons as boss.

Feldman wrote that he had Franklin ahead of day because of the work he did as Vanderbilt’s head coach from 2011-13.

“I seem to get more pushback on Franklin than any coach in these rankings,” Feldman wrote. “Some of that is probably due to my recognition of just what a remarkable job he did at Vandy prior to his time in Happy Valley. In short, he took an SEC program that hadn’t finished in the Top 25 in more than 60 years to two Top 25 seasons in three years. Vandy hasn’t had a winning season since he left, going 34-73.

As for what Franklin’s done at Penn State, Feldman wrote that Franklin took a job at a program “that “was gutted from hefty sanctions” and led his team to a Big Ten Championship in his third season.

“He’s had four top-10 finishes in the past seven seasons, winning 11 games four times,” Feldman wrote. “He’s proven to be one of the country’s top recruiters and program builders.”

Here’s Feldman’s full top 10.


1. Nick Saban, Alabama

2. Kirby Smart, Georgia

3. Dabo Swinney, Clemson 

4. Jim Harbaugh, Michigan

5. James Franklin, Penn State 

6. Ryan Day, Ohio State

7. Lincoln Riely, USC

8. Brian Kelly, LSU

9. Kyle Whittingham, Utah

10. Lance Leipold, Kansas


Mandel has Franklin ranked outside the top five but in the top 10… barely. Franklin is No. 10 in Mandel’s rankings, behind, among others, new Wisconsin coach Luke Fickell and Utah boss Kyle Whittingham, who Franklin beat in this past season’s Rose Bowl game.

The ranking will annoy some Penn State fans, but in fairness, Mandel had Franklin at No. 22 last year, and acknowledged the job Franklin did last season in his most recent rankings.

”After two seasons of trending in the wrong direction,” Mandel wrote, “Franklin’s program bounced back in a big way last season, going 11-2 and winning the Rose Bowl. It’s the fourth time in the past seven years he’s reached 11 wins.”

So what keeps Mandel from ranking Franklin higher?

”There’s one undeniable hole in his nine-year tenure: Franklin is just 4-14 against Ohio State and Michigan and has won only one division title.”

Here are Mandel’s full rankings.

1a. Saban

1b. Smart

3. Swinney

4: Kelly

5. Riley

6. Harbaugh

7. Day 

8. Whittingham

9. Fickell

10. Franklin 


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