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By The Numbers: James Franklin’s First 100 Games As A Head Coach

Penn State head coach James Franklin coached his 100th game at the helm of a college football program on Saturday as his Nittany Lions took down Iowa in a crucial Big Ten matchup.

Franklin’s record as a head coach improved to 66-34 with the victory — 42 of those victories have come as Penn State’s head coach. Here’s a look at some of the numbers behind the Langhorne, PA native’s first 100 games as a head coach.

Postseason Record: 5-3

James Franklin has coached eight postseason games, seven of which were bowl games with the Commodores and Nittany Lions. His first appearance in a bowl game was in the 2011 Liberty Bowl, but his Vanderbilt squad lost 31-24 to Cincinnati.

His teams bounced back to win the next three bowl games he appeared in. Vanderbilt won the Music City Bowl and BBVA Compass Bowl in his final two seasons in charge of the Commodores, and Penn State famously beat Boston College in the 2014 Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium.

That Pinstripe Bowl victory was Penn State’s first bowl game in the post-sanctions era, and it helped Franklin end his first season as a Nittany Lion with a 7-6 record.

Penn State lost two consecutive bowl games — the 2016 TaxSlayer Bowl against Georgia and the 2017 Rose Bowl to USC — before bouncing back with a victory over Washington in last season’s Fiesta Bowl. His only non-bowl game in postseason play was, of course, the 2016 Big Ten championship game against Wisconsin.

Consecutive Winning Seasons: 6

James Franklin’s first season as Vanderbilt’s head coach was also his least successful as a head coach. The Commodores finished the 2011 campaign with a 6-7 record after losing the Liberty Bowl to Cincinnati, but Franklin’s teams haven’t finished a year with a losing record since.

The Commodores bounced back to post an impressive 9-4 record in 2012, and finished as the No. 23-ranked team in the final AP Top 25 Poll of that season. His team once again finished 9-4 in 2013, but Franklin left Nashville in favor of Happy Valley ahead of the 2014 season.

Penn State finished 7-6 in the 2014 and 2015 seasons, but broke out to win 11 games in 2016. The Nittany Lions won 11 games again in 2017 to secure Franklin’s sixth consecutive winning season as a head coach. 

Franklin needs his team to win one of its final four games of the 2018 campaign to extend his streak to seven consecutive winning seasons. Matchups against No. 5 Michigan and Wisconsin could prove difficult, but Penn State shouldn’t have any issues dispatching one of Rutgers or Maryland in the final two weeks of the season.

Consecutive Weeks Ranked In The AP Poll: 34

James Franklin’s team was ranked No. 24 in the AP Top 25 poll after its upset victory over then-No. 2 Ohio State in 2016. Since then, it hasn’t looked back.

Penn State has now spent 34 consecutive weeks ranked somewhere in the AP poll after that game. Its lowest ranking in the poll was that No. 24 mark earned in week 9 of the 2016 season; the team’s ranking steadily improved over the remainder of the campaign.

Perhaps the most famous play of the post-sanctions era vaulted Penn State into the AP Top 25 Poll for the first time in almost five years.

The Nittany Lions’ peak ranking in their current 34-week run in the poll was No. 2, which they initially earned in week 8 of the 2017 season. Clemson’s loss to Syracuse at the Carrier Dome opened the door for Penn State to earn its highest ranking since 1999.

Penn State’s current streak is the seventh-longest in program history and the fifth-longest active stretch in college football right now. Only Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson, and Oklahoma boast longer streaks.

Five-Star Recruits Landed: 6

One of James Franklin’s strongest attributes as a head coach is his recruiting, and he’s landed five prospects who were given the highest-possible rating by 247Sports.

Franklin landed his first five-star prospect as part of the 2016 recruiting class. Miles Sanders — the team’s current starter at running back — committed to the Nittany Lions in July 2014. Sanders was considered a four-star prospect at the time of his commitment, but was elevated to five stars before officially joining Penn State.

Miles Sanders has validated Franklin’s confidence in him as a recruit with 834 rushing yards and eight touchdowns in his first season as a starter.

Penn State didn’t land any five-star recruits in its class of 2017, but bounced back to bring in three top-ranked prospects in its 2018 class. Ricky Slade, Justin Shorter, and Micah Parsons are all true freshmen on the team now, but were part of the No. 6 recruiting class of the 2018 cycle.

Class of 2019 linebacker Brandon Smith is the latest five-star recruit to buy into James Franklin’s program. Shane Simmons was also considered a five-star prospect when he committed to Penn State in 2014, but he was lowered to a four-star prospect before arriving in Happy Valley.

Win Percentage At Penn State: 69

This one comes with an asterisk, as James Franklin’s 42-19 record in Happy Valley gives him a .689 win percentage. However, any good math teacher knows that rounding up exists, and with the power of rounding, Franklin has a nice 69 percent win rate in Happy Valley.

Consecutive 7-6 seasons at the start of his tenure in charge of Penn State signaled a rocky start to the newest era of football in Happy Valley, but records of 11-3 and 11-2 in 2016 and 2017, respectively, saw his win percentage skyrocket from .538 to .679.

Franklin’s 6-2 record through eight games this season pushed his win percentage up by exactly one percentage point.

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About the Author

Mikey Mandarino

In the most upsetting turn of events, Mikey graduated from Penn State with a digital & print journalism degree in the spring of 2020. He covered Penn State football and served as an editor for Onward State from 2018 until his graduation. Mikey is from Bedminster, New Jersey, so naturally, he spends lots of time yelling about all the best things his home state has to offer. Mikey also loves to play golf, but he sucks at it because golf is really hard. If you, for some reason, feel compelled to see what Mikey has to say on the internet, follow him on Twitter @Mikey_Mandarino. You can also get in touch with Mikey via his big-boy email address: [email protected]

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