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James Franklin Excited By New Opportunities Presented With Penn State’s Cotton Bowl Bid

Penn State football’s James Franklin has worked as a coach in some capacity at both the college and NFL levels for the last 25 years. Despite that, there are still some events and venues he hasn’t worked in yet.

“I’ve been fortunate in my career to play in almost every bowl game, but I have not been to the Cotton Bowl,” Franklin said on a conference call with reporters on Sunday evening. “I couldn’t be more excited to get down there, learn more about the tradition and the history, and play an unbelievable opponent like Memphis.”

Franklin’s Nittany Lions earned their third New Year’s Six bowl bid in the past four seasons when they were tabbed to take on No. 17 Memphis in this year’s Cotton Bowl Classic. Penn State hasn’t played in the Cotton Bowl since 1975, and the team has never played a game against Memphis in its long, storied history. Those facts, however, will obviously change once December 28 rolls around.

Some Penn State fans were disappointed by the fact that their team won’t play in the 2020 Rose Bowl. The Rose Bowl’s decision ultimately came down to the Nittany Lions and Wisconsin, which finished the year 10-3 after losing to the College Football Playoff-bound Ohio State Buckeyes in the Big Ten title game. Paul Chryst’s program ultimately got the Rose Bowl nod over Penn State, and it’ll take on Oregon on New Year’s Day.

Despite this disappointment, Franklin expects his fans to bring tons of support to AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

“We have one of the largest alumni bases in the world — more than 700,000 living alumni,” Franklin said. “We’re everywhere, and I know we’ll come out strong. We’ll come out strong and fill the Cotton Bowl. It should be a great experience for everybody. I’m looking forward to being in Dallas. I’m looking forward to being in (AT&T Stadium). I’m looking forward to it all.

“As you know, there’s always that percentage of fans who will have different opinions on social media, and they can be vocal. But I know the majority — the great majority of our fans couldn’t be more excited about this opportunity. I know our team feels the same way.”

One interesting quirk about the Cotton Bowl Classic is the fact that the game isn’t played at the actual Cotton Bowl — the iconic 92,100-seat stadium in Dallas. The game was moved from the 89-year old stadium to the new Cowboys Stadium, which is now known as AT&T Stadium, in 2010 as part on an effort to make it more appealing as a BCS bowl.

This endeavor was a success thanks to AT&T Stadium’s retractable roof, which eliminates the impact that North Texas’ bad winter weather had on previous Cotton Bowl Classics.

As far as Penn State’s opponent is concerned, Memphis finished the 2019 regular season 11-1 before taking down Cincinnati in the American Athletic Conference’s championship game. The Tigers beat the Bearcats in two consecutive weeks to end the year and secure their program’s first-ever New Year’s Six bid.

Penn State and Memphis have never squared off in football before, but James Franklin has some familiarity with his team’s upcoming opponent thanks to his prior work experience in Tennessee.

“Obviously, being the head coach at Vanderbilt in the same state, I was familiar with Memphis, and we also played in a bowl game in their stadium,” Franklin said. “I’ve watched them on TV, and from what I’ve seen, they’re a very, very athletic team. They play with a tremendous amount of confidence, and they’re used to winning. I know they’re going to come into this game expecting to do the same thing, so it’s going to be a tremendous challenge.”

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About the Author

Mikey Mandarino

Mikey is a senior majoring in journalism and Onward State's Sports Editor. He grew up in Bedminster, NJ and is way too obnoxious about all the best things his home state has to offer. Mikey loves to play golf, but he sucks at it because golf is hard. If you're dying to see more hockey/golf content on your timeline, you can follow Mikey on Twitter @mikey_mandarino. Send all hate mail, death threats, and your vote for the best chicken parm in State College to [email protected]

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