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Northwestern’s Unique Atmosphere Worries James Franklin

Something about the atmosphere at Northwestern is worrying James Franklin, though he won’t divulge any specifics.

Following practice on Wednesday, Franklin suggested the “environment” in Evanston prompted coaches meetings, and has been a focal point throughout the week.

“The environment there is something we’ve talked about all week long, being prepared for the environment,” he said. “I’ve talked to a couple of coaches this week, that’s something that I think is an advantage for them. It’s a different environment than a lot of Big Ten venues,” he continued later. “That’s going to cause some issues for you.”

But what exactly about Northwestern’s environment is the cause for concern? It seemed a logical next question, but when a reporter asked Franklin to elaborate upon his cryptic response, he was quickly shot down.

“You’re not getting that on camera,” a clearly annoyed Franklin responded. “I love when you guys [the media] do this stuff. I’ve already stated what I said. It’s a different environment than a lot of schools in the Big Ten. It’s a great environment, great college environment, great college town.”

It may have been the fact that Northwestern’s Ryan Field is the smallest stadium in the conference, with a capacity of only 47,130. It averaged just over 38,000 fans a game last year, according to Athlon Sports, the second-worst turnout in the conference.

That’s a much different atmosphere than the typical Big Ten aura, and will certainly pose a unique road test — a slight change of pace from Penn State’s previous two games away from Beaver Stadium — a near full M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore and a rocking Horseshoe in Columbus — but is that the reason for Franklin’s concern? There’s no telling, especially with a somewhat reserved coach like Franklin regarding topics of this nature.

There’s one other abnormality about Saturday’s game: It will kick off at 11 a.m. local time — an hour earlier than any game Penn State’s played in this season.

“Playing early in the morning, that’s an hour earlier than we normally play, so that’s going to come at you fast,” he said. “And what you have to be careful of, a lot of times when you’re playing on the road in that type of environment, and you’re playing in that time of the day, if you look a lot of people have opened up slow, they sleep walk through the first quarter.”

Franklin recalled two games when he was coaching at “a previous institution” against Cal.

“We played Cal at our place at noon, which was like nine a.m. their time. We got after them pretty good,” he said. “The next year we went to Cal, and it was a night game, I think it was 8:00, it didn’t work out too well for us.”

Franklin said he’ll focus on controlling what he and the coaching staff can control. Meetings will be bumped up an hour earlier on Friday to compensate for the earlier kick, but some things aren’t always in the coach’s hand.

“The problem with young people,” he said. “They’re probably not going to go to bed at 8:45 like we’d like them to.”

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Ben Berkman

State College, PA

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