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News & Notes From James Franklin’s Rose Bowl Selection Day Presser

Bowl season is officially here, folks.

No. 11 Penn State football booked a trip to Pasadena and the Rose Bowl Sunday afternoon and is set to face No. 8 Utah for the first time ever. With the game less than a month away, James Franklin and Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham met with the media Sunday evening to answer preliminary questions about the matchups.

Franklin touched on everything from the Rose Bowl’s history to opt-outs and the transfer portal.

On Penn State Playing Utah For The First Time

Penn State has played against every current Pac-12 team…except for Utah.

Both programs date back to the 1800s, but this will be their first-ever head-to-head matchup. Penn State is 25-14 all-time against Pac-12 opponents and 4-4 in bowls.

“It’s not too often in 2022 that you’re able to do things for the first time ever, so that’s really cool,” Franklin said.

This will be Utah’s second appearance in Pasadena and also a back-to-back appearance, as the Utes fell to Ohio State 48-45 last season. Penn State has made four appearances, most recently playing in 2017. One of the Nittany Lions’ Rose Bowl trips was 100 years ago in 1923, which was before they joined the Big Ten.

“I thought that was something that was, I think, really cool and exciting for our fanbase and for our players as well,” Franklin added.

On The Rose Bowl’s History

Do you think the 1922 Penn State football team thought its school would be returning to the Rose Bowl 100 years later?

Not only was that game, which was played on January 1, 1923, the Nittany Lions’ first bowl game, but it was also the first Tournament of Roses game played in the Rose Bowl Stadium. Penn State fell 14-3 in front of a crowd of 43,000.

The game has undergone plenty of changes since then, and Franklin is no stranger to its prestige.

“The history and the tradition of the Rose Bowl speaks for itself,” Franklin said. “We had a phenomenal experience last time we were involved. Our players and staff could not be more excited about making the trip again.”

The head coach also took the opportunity to poke fun at quarterback Sean Clifford’s sixth-year status.

“I’m going to check the picture of that Rose Bowl played 100 years ago and make sure Sean isn’t in it because he’s been playing football at Penn State for a long time,” Franklin said.

This will also be the last time the Rose Bowl will be held in its traditional format, which is between a Big Ten and Pac-12 team, before the College Football Playoff expands in 2024.

On Opt-Outs

Last year, six players opted out of Penn State’s Outback Bowl matchup with Arkansas, hindering the Nittany Lions’ performance after a down year. It was the first time in Franklin’s coaching career that he had a player opt out of a bowl game.

But the head coach said he believes things will be different this time around.

“We expect that almost the entirety of our team will play and compete, but that is a challenge in general for college football right now,” Franklin said.

Franklin also said the Rose Bowl “holds a special place” for lots of folks, which may help hinder opt-outs. So far, Joey Porter Jr. is the only player on either team to opt out.

Last year, Utah had zero players opt out of its Rose Bowl matchup with the Buckeyes, who had four. Whittingham said he is “fully expecting” things to be the same this time around.

On Utah

Franklin said he watched the Utes’ Pac-12 championship win over USC Friday night, calling it a great game for college football.

“We’re just getting started with the breakdowns and trying to kind of understand who they are. It’s one thing to watch the game on TV as somewhat of a fan. It’s another thing to study them and break them down,” he said.

He also added that it’s an exciting matchup given the Utes’ success under Whittingham, who has been head coach since 2004. Utah now has back-to-back conference championships and has only missed one bowl game (during the COVID-19 season) since 2013.

Franklin called the Utah squad a “tough, hard-nosed, disciplined, gritty team that finds ways to win all different ways.”

The 2022 Utes are at a season-high No. 8 ranking in the College Football Playoff Top 25. Their 40 points per game rank as No. 8 in the country.

On Recruiting And The Transfer Portal

Franklin joined the press conference hot on the recruiting trail from an airport in Kansas.

Right now, Penn State is light on practice and is treating things more like spring ball, which focuses on getting younger players more developmental reps. Franklin & Co. are working hard on roster management with the transfer portal set to open up officially on Monday.

“I think balance is a good word. We’re trying to split our time between finishing up this traditional recruiting class,” Franklin said. “Obviously, have an awareness of what’s going on in the transfer portal, which is about to hit hot and heavy here pretty soon. Making sure that we met with all of our current players before we left and making sure our guys finished strong academically.”

The head coach also expresses his concerns with the current transfer portal model, calling the big-picture “concerning.”

Franklin expressed a want for his players to go on to the NFL, but he said the balance between football and academics is becoming an issue across the sport.

“Academics is less and less a part of some of these decision-making processes. It’s strictly about football,” he said. “I do think there’s still a balancing act that I think needs to happen and can happen, you know, where a kid can reach all of his goals from an academic perspective and still be able to chase his football dreams.”

Franklin took time here to call Penn State “special” due to the support and resources within the program, which he said is “not the case everywhere.”

“So to be fortunate to be at a place like Penn State, as a coach or a player is a phenomenal thing,” he said.

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About the Author

Ryan Parsons

Ryan is a redshirt senior majoring in business and journalism from "Philadelphia" and mostly writes about football nowadays. You can follow him on Twitter @rjparsons9 or say hi via email at [email protected].

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