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National Outlet Criticizes James Franklin, Sees Penn State as ‘Second-Rate’ Compared to OSUs, Michigan’s of World

Photo by Matt Lynch, Nittany Sports Now: James Franklin

Correction: A previous version of this article said that Mike Farrell wrote about Penn State and James Franklin. Kelly Golik was the author of the story, not Mike Farrell.


Penn State started playing football in 1887. 

It feels like people have been criticizing coach James Franklin for not being able to win big games since 1887. 

Of course, that isn’t close to reality.

Franklin’s only been alive since 1972 and only been Penn State’s boss since 2014. But what is a reality is that Franklin hasn’t done well in his biggest games as Penn State’s coach. This past Saturday was the most recent example of that. PSU fell to Ohio State in Columbus and is now 1-9 against OSU in the Franklin era. College football fans who love, hate or are indifferent toward Penn State have heavily criticized Franklin for these failures. 

But fans aren’t the only ones in the club. 

National media has questioned Franklin as well. 

Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports wondered if Penn State’s already reached its ceiling under Franklin. 

Kelly Golik of MikeFarrellSports.com was critical of Franklin in a column, saying that every year since Penn State last beat Ohio State in 2016 has been “Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda’ for PSU. 

“Whether it was Donovan Smith being a turnstile for Ohio State EDGE rusher Joey Bosa in 2014,” Golik wrote, “the collapses in 2017 and 2018, seemingly not prepared in the 2019 showdown, or the J.T. Tuimoloau explosion in the fourth quarter last season.”

As for this year’s game, Golik was critical of Penn State’s offense, namely receivers aside from KeAndre Lambert-Smith. 

He also mentioned Franklin’s answer when asked after the game about his record against Ohio State.

“We lost to a really good football team,” Franklin said, “on the road. We had our chances, we battled, we weren’t able to capitalize. Big-picture things, I’ll be happy to talk about that at some point. But right now, I want to talk about we lost to a really good football team on the road. (We) didn’t make enough plays when we needed to make plays.”

“And I think it’s a fair question, I get the question, but right now, I’m worried about this game.”

Franklin went into deeper detail about whether it’s fair to judge him in his Tuesday presser, which was after Farrell’s article came out.

“The problem is Franklin doesn’t get it when he says, ‘I totally get it,’ he doesn’t get it or refuses to acknowledge his own inadequacies as a coach,” Golik wrote. “Part of the reason I listed Franklin in my list of better recruiters than coaches is that there hasn’t been a progression in these high-profile games, the ones that Franklin is ultimately judged on, that I can say, he gets it.”

Franklin said Tuesday that he wishes he answered the question in deeper detail Saturday. 

As for Saturday’s game, Golik wrote that Franklin and Penn State’s offensive coaches “completely failed his defensive staff and fans.”

“I am beginning to question whether his staff has the ability to properly develop Drew Allar and wide receivers,” he wrote. 

So has Penn State reached its Franklin-era climax? Golik says yes. 

“I feel Penn State has hit the glass ceiling,” he wrote, “and it isn’t going to get any better with programs like Southern Cal, UCLA, Oregon, and Washington joining the league next season. Franklin hasn’t earned the trust and faith to believe he is good enough to take Penn State to that elite level.”

Golik acknowledged that Franklin has had successes at Penn State, taking the team to “New Year’s Six bowls that haven’t been seen since Joe Paterno’s early 1980s teams.”

But he then said he feels the program is “second-rate” compared to schools like Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, Ohio State and Michigan. 

“The Penn State community has to stop accepting being close,” Farrell wrote. “It has been “close” since 2016, failing every season since. Franklin needs to be held accountable for his lack of achievements in big games.”

“Penn State fans should have no sympathy for Franklin’s failures unless they want to accept his failures as acceptable.”

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