Why 2024 is the biggest season for James Franklin yet

James Franklin has been a good head coach over his 10 years in Happy Valley, but in Year 11, good won't be good enough.
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James Franklin has accrued his fair share of critics during his coaching tenure at Penn State. Perhaps one critic of his is himself. After Penn State's loss to Ohio State in 2018, a game in which they were up 12 in the 4th quarter, Franklin stated that he and the program were not elite yet. Despite winning three New Year's Six Bowls, Franklin has come up short of expectations, ones that were filled with Big Ten and National Championship aspirations

The familiar roadblocks to those aspirations are Michigan and Ohio State. Franklin to date has a combined record of 4-16 against the two conference rivals. Two of those losses include the mentioned loss to Ohio State in 2018, and a loss to the Buckeyes in 2017, even after jumping out to a huge 21-3 lead. Speaking of the conference, that obstacle gets a whole lot bigger. The Big Ten has expanded and on the Nittany Lions schedule this year are UCLA, USC, and last year's national runner-up, Washington.

With the additions of these teams to not only the conference but to the schedule, Franklin's task at a Big Ten title has become that much bigger. While the College Football Playoff has expanded, and there is more room for error, there is also more pressure on Franklin to secure one of those 12 seats at the table.

Another thing that has kept James Franklin from being elite is his hiring of coaches to his staff, in particular the offensive coordinator. Franklin has had trouble finding the right fit. He fired Kirk Ciarrocca just after one season. He then brought in Mike Yurcich, the highly touted coordinator from Texas. Although he did have success for the most part, he also had trouble in getting the Nittany Lions over the hump when it came to facing Ohio State, and Michigan. Yurcich was let go during his 3rd season after Penn State's loss to the Wolverines last season.

Joe Moorehead was arguably Franklin's best offensive coordinator during his tenure as head coach at Penn State. In this day in college football, it can be hard to retain quality coaching staff members as they eventually build a resume to become head coaches themselves elsewhere. But if Franklin wants to be elite, then he has to be able to evaluate the best coaches possible to not only refill those vacancies but reload at them. Nick Saban, who was an elite coach, was always able to fill any open positions on his staff, and still keep Alabama in the picture for a national championship.

This offseason, Franklin, due to Yurcich's dismissal and Manny Diaz taking the head coaching job at Duke, was forced to replace both of his coordinators. He hired an up-and-comer on offense, Kansas's Andy Kotelnicki, who has been attach at the hip with Kansas head coach Lance Leipold for most of his coaching career. On defense, Penn State went with a known commodity in Indiana's Tom Allen, former Big Ten Coach of the Year.

If either of those hires is revealed to be a mistake, then after 10 years in Happy Valley Franklin could be the one held responsible.

James Franklin has developed great players over the years along with great teams. He also has quality coaches on his staff. That is what great coaches can, and will do, but elite? If Franklin does belong in the upper echelon of college football head coaches, he needs to prove it this season. If he can not, then Penn State may never get to the College Football Playoff, at least not under his watch.

James Franklin finally has the right quarterback and he's setting him up to fail. James Franklin finally has the right quarterback and he's setting him up to fail. dark. Next