James Franklin not alone in struggles vs. Top 10 opponents

Head coach James Franklin of the Penn State Nittany Lions (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
Head coach James Franklin of the Penn State Nittany Lions (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) /
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Comparing Penn State Football coach James Franklin and other top coaches in college football and their record against top 10 opponents

There has certainly been a lot of “chatter” on social media lately about Penn State Football head coach James Franklin’s record against top 10 opponents. And rightly so.

After Saturday’s abysmal outcome against Michigan, Franklin is now 2-13 against top 10 foes in his tenure at Penn State Football. Which got me thinking … how have other seemingly good coaches in college football faired when they faced top 10 opponents?

Well, if you were asking the same question to yourself, I have good news! I’m about to show you exactly how well other college football coaches have stacked up when facing excellent competition.

As always, I have a couple of caveats … Firstly, I want to compare coaches who have been at their school for some time. And by “some time” let’s just say seven or more seasons. Secondly, I am only going to show their records against top-10 foes from this time period.

This is a list of coaches who have planted their proverbial flag at said school, so to me, this data is more important. And lastly, the rankings of the opponents are as of the playing of the game, which only makes sense when seeing how one team does against another team ranked inside the top 10.

I will also have a special coach we will take a look at near the end of the article for more perspective.

Based on these caveats, this first grouping still has a tag of “TBD” as their sample sizes are still a little too small for my liking.

How have James Franklin’s peers fared against top-10 opponents?

Ryan Day – Ohio State

1-0 W Penn State (9) 28-17
2-0 W @ Michigan (10) 56-27
3-0 W Wisconsin (10) 34-21 (B1G Championship)
3-1 L Clemson (3) 29-23 (CFP)

4-1 W Indiana (9) 42-35
5-1 W Clemson (2) 49-28 (CFP)
5-2 L Alabama (1) 52-24 (CFP)


Lincoln Riley – Oklahoma

1-0 W @ Ohio State (2) 31-16
2-0 W TCU (8) 38-20
2-1 L Georgia (3) 54-48 (CFP)

3-1 W Texas (9) 39-27
3-2 L Alabama (1) 45-34 (CFP)

4-2 W Baylor (8) 30-23
4-3 L LSU (1) 63-28 (CFP)

5-3 W Iowa State (8) 27-21
6-3 W Florida (10) 55-20


Kirby Smart – Georgia

1-0 W Auburn (8) 13-7

1-1 L @ Auburn (10) 40-17
2-1 W Auburn (4) 28-7 (SEC Championship)
3-1 W Oklahoma (2) 54-48 (CFP)
3-2 L Alabama (4) 26-23 (CFP)

4-2 W Florida (9) 36-17
4-3 L Alabama (1) 35-28 (SEC Championship)

5-3 W Notre Dame (7) 23-17
6-3 W Florida (6) 24-17
6-4 L LSU (1) 37-10 (SEC Championship)
7-4 W Baylor (8) 26-14

8-4 W Auburn (7) 27-6
8-5 L @ Alabama (2) 41-24
8-6 L Florida (8) 44-28
9-6 W Cincinnati (6) 24-21

10-6 W Clemson (3) 10-3
11-6 W Arkansas (8) 37-0


This trio is comprised of some of the hottest commodities on the college coaching market. And with an overall record of 22-11 against top 10 teams, I can see why.

But, let’s take a step back and look at each of the programs these coaches took over. Ohio State was already a fine-tuned demolition machine when Urban Meyer ran for the hills, and they handed the keys over to Ryan Day.

How about Oklahoma? Ole Big Game Bob Stoops had the Sooners humming for a better part of the past decade and a half. He just couldn’t get over the hump at times and it seemed like some new blood would be beneficial. So in steps Lincoln Riley and his philosophy to turn Oklahoma into “Top QB Transfer U”.

Say what you want about Georgia, but Mark Richt built the foundation for that program and he laid the groundwork which is leading to Kirby Smart’s success.

Oh, and it also doesn’t hurt that Smart is able to land five-star talent like I eat donuts.

Let’s move on and take a look at the first coach in our breakdown.