Analyzing Post-Michigan Reactions For Penn State Football
It’s time, folks.
As Penn State football lost once again to Michigan on Saturday, the Nittany Lions now seem doomed for another 10-2 season with James Franklin at the helm. With another Big Ten Championship still two weeks away but in the rearview mirror, it’s time to take a look at the hottest takes our writers saw regarding Penn State this weekend.
Penn State Will Never Get Over The Hump
Joe Lister: I get it. Everybody’s upset, everybody’s worked up, and everybody’s sick and tired of seeing the same result every year, no matter what team is on the field.
I don’t know that Penn State will ever have enough to win. But realistically, even cursed programs overcome years of poor performance and bad losses. Look at the Chicago Cubs, the Boston Red Sox, and the Philadelphia Eagles — all teams with historically brutal histories until they managed to finally win championships in the last two decades. Even the teams that people thought would always be the bridesmaid found themselves walking down the aisle.
Nolan Wick: As long as James Franklin is on the job, it probably won’t. He’s had chance after chance to get it done, but for various reasons, that simply hasn’t happened. It’s now at the point where no matter how good his teams are, I won’t bet on Penn State doing so until I see it with my own eyes.
First, I think it’s fair to suggest that his lack of success in finding good offensive coordinators is among them. The Mike Yurcich experience didn’t go as planned, as he never truly implemented his style here. I think if he’d been able to do that, we’d be having a much different discussion right now.
Second, execution is another big thing this program needs to work on. Why is it that Penn State’s run defense, which led the nation heading into the Michigan game, got trounced by Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards for over half the game? Execution. The same goes for botched running plays and wideouts being unable to get open. Michigan and Ohio State execute nearly perfectly, which is why they always find ways to win.
Third, I think there’s an inferiority complex toward those teams. Although Penn State is right up there in how storied the programs are, this mindset of “we can’t beat them” was developed at some point during Franklin’s tenure. It takes the grittiest group of players who are so determined to do it that they won’t let any hint of adversity get in the way. The group needs to be confident enough in itself to firmly believe it’ll happen, and that’s a process that unfortunately doesn’t happen overnight.
Finally, this all comes back to Franklin. He is a good coach, but he’s made outrageous decisions in some of these games. Who runs the ball on 4th-and-5 against an Ohio State defensive line with two top-five draft picks? Why would he go for it on 4th-and-3 near midfield with seven minutes left in a close game? These are just two play calls that I cannot fathom why anybody would go with in these situations.
CJ Doebler: The Ohio State and Michigan hump? Probably not. The big-game hump, however, has to be fixed at some point — it can’t go on forever. Ohio State and Michigan have been “the hump” for a very long time, but Penn State won’t meet Michigan again until 2026, which means statement games will be played against teams that could prove to be a bit more beatable. The four new teams entering the Big Ten have the capacity to be competitive and probably won’t be the easy wins that other Big Ten teams have become to the Nittany Lions in the past few years, but they’re also not Ohio State and Michigan. If the Nittany Lions lose to Ohio State next year but take down Wisconsin, USC, UCLA, and Washington, will they have cleared the hump, or will fans still be left wanting more?
Franklin still tends to make coaching blunders when it matters most. It may not make any difference whether it’s Michigan or Washington, if it’s a big game, Franklin might struggle. Until Franklin shows an ability to win games consistently at the biggest stage, Penn State will be stuck as an almost-great team.
James Franklin Should Be In The Unemployment Line
Joe Lister: If you and 56 million of your best friends each donate $1, James Franklin can be gone in just a few weeks.
But if you don’t have $56 million, there’s still some good news. Franklin is really just one good offensive coordinator hire away from putting Penn State in a spot to win a national title. The bad news is that the move is unlikely. Franklin’s fired his last two OCs, and the job is becoming unattractive. Penn State likely has one season (or less) before someone hands defensive coordinator Manny Diaz a blank check and the Nittany Lions lose one of their biggest pieces.
Nolan Wick: This season has left a lot of people really frustrated, and rightfully so. This was a team that had national championship aspirations but won’t even make the College Football Playoff. So, while several things didn’t go right, it all falls on the coach. While disappointments happen to every program once in a while, it’s consistent under James Franklin.
Enough is enough at some point, but when? The school probably doesn’t want to pay for his large buyout clause, which is understandable because this team did have immense potential and will again. However, I think it’ll take a long and hard look at Franklin’s future if this problem persists when the cost to get rid of him decreases in a couple of years. The aftermath of Saturday’s loss was very ugly, and with tougher schedules looming, it could be a prelude to what’s to come if he keeps falling short. At some point, the marriage just might become less and less enjoyable for both sides.
CJ Doebler: Once again, his contract makes this nearly impossible. For one brief moment last week against Maryland, it looked like the Nittany Lions had it all figured out. Turns out, they didn’t, and the same critique that’s happened for the last five years reared its head — Franklin can’t win big games. I’m still not sold on the fact that firing Franklin and bringing in someone new would work in the program’s favor, but I do recognize the need to move on from 10-2 seasons.
Franklin does a good job outside of gameday; he’s a great recruiter and is working to increase the attractiveness of Penn State’s NIL opportunities, something that’s necessary in today’s college football landscape. If the right candidate came along that could finally take Penn State to the next level, sure, but I think making a change and turning into a perennial 8-4 (or worse) team is also a very real possibility if Franklin were to leave.
Drew Allar Is A Bust
Joe Lister: I’m not using the argument of “Give the kid some time!” anymore. Drew Allar has had plenty of time to become the quarterback that he could be. Quite frankly, though, I’m shocked if anyone can watch this Penn State offense in its entirety and say that Allar is the problem. What does it say when Allar’s best receiver at any given moment could be Kaden Saunders? What does it say when the go-to play call within five yards of the end zone was a fade route to the corner by Dante Cephas? What does it say when Allar delivers a near-perfect ball, but his receivers don’t even reach out to grab it? Allar should be a Heisman contender next year, but Franklin is going to have to get the guy some help.
Nolan Wick: No, Drew Allar is not a bust. He’s a first-year starter who’s struggled in big moments, and that needs to be addressed. While he’s had his shortcomings, it’s hard to put all of this on him.
Allar’s wide receivers consistently struggle to make catches and separate from defensive backs. If the program finds one that can, his game will be elevated to the next level, which we’ve seen flashes of here and there.
CJ Doebler: Drew Allar’s best days are ahead of him.
Allar has been starting to use his legs more in the past few games, and I think that shows his ability to add new skills and threats to his game that other teams will have to start planning for. Yeah, he missed a few throws against Michigan, but he was also pressured a lot. The difference might not have been an improved offensive line, but an improved pocket awareness and mobility from Allar. Franklin admitted after Michigan that his staff didn’t do a good job of calling the game to let Allar get into his rhythm and, less than 24 hours later, fired Mike Yurcich. Allar can rise to the expectations that the Penn State fanbase holds him to, he just needs help from both his coaches and his team.
Mike Yurcich Should Be Gone Yesterday… Oh Wait
Joe Lister: Here’s some insider information for you all, we wrote these hot takes Sunday morning, just moments before news of Mike Yurcich’s termination broke. Hence the title of this reaction.
Yurcich’s firing isn’t remotely surprising. James Franklin knew that he had to get rid of Yurcich before January 31, 2024, but in some cases, it’s just earlier to get things over with. That’s what happened with Yurcich. Now, Franklin can pursue the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach of his choice (hello, Kliff Kingsbury). Even with Ja’Juan Seider and Ty Howle at the helm of the offense, that won’t likely change how the offensive performs against Rutgers and Michigan State and whatever bowl game comes next. If the team plays like trash, they probably were going to do so anyway. If they play fantastic football, that’s just all the better.
Nolan Wick: James Franklin made the decision to fire Mike Yurcich before the season ended, and he pretty much said it was happening either way. Sadly, it was the right call. A once-promising hire fell flat and disappointed in a big way, and that’s what’s the most frustrating aspect of this.
Yurcich had a great track record at schools such as Texas and Ohio State before coming to Happy Valley. Not being able to build on that here is a big red flag to me. It’s a symptom of a bigger problem, as Franklin is about to hire his sixth offensive coordinator.
CJ Doebler: Just a few weeks ago, he told the media that he wasn’t in the business of evaluating staff during the season and would take care of that when the season ended. Then he fired the offensive coordinator that he had to fire another coordinator to get, all with two games and a bowl left to go. That was not on my Sunday bingo card.
Despite the suddenness of the move, it was very much necessary. Penn State’s offense has struggled all season long and lost a lot of the output that it displayed last year. This is a pivotal hire for Franklin, who’s now going to be on his sixth offensive coordinator during his 10-year tenure. He’s running out of chances to get it right.
Penn State Players Deserve To Get Booed
Joe Lister: A little bit. But really, it’s not their fault. When a single player looks bad, yes, call them out. When it’s the whole team, boo the coaches.
Here’s my “outside of Philly” take: boo everybody. Boo as many people as possible. If a group looks like it isn’t given the proper respect to the process that it should, if it looks like its work ethic is disrespectful to the time that you devote to the team, if it looks like it’s not trying, boo them.
However, many of those players were trying very hard. Many of those players are still upset by the Michigan loss. I will not guarantee they all are. I will not guarantee that each player feels the weight of just how many people, how many hours it takes those people to get to the games, and how much they spend on their tickets. They might not think about how many of them are donating to NIL funds in the hopes that those same players that they are booing will one day have opportunities most could ever dream about.
But do you know that?
Nolan Wick: I’m almost never a fan of booing players, especially when they’re college athletes. Athletes are their own biggest critics more often than not — they don’t need “tough love.” However, this doesn’t mean they aren’t above criticism.
There are so many benefits that come with playing college football, especially at Penn State. It’s an experience most people dream of. This university puts its football players on a pedestal in a number of ways, so criticizing them when they aren’t successful in meaningful games over and over again is reasonable.
CJ Doebler: At the end of the day, college football is filled with kids who play the sport because they love it and not because they’re going to be first-round draft picks. I understand the frustration from the fans, this was supposed to be a new dawn of Penn State football and, unfortunately, it was just more of the same.
Regardless, I can say with relative confidence that every single player left everything they had out on the field Saturday. Any anger toward players themselves is very misguided. Players were upset during postgame availabilities and they knew that they could still improve and may not have had the greatest game and they didn’t need the Beaver Stadium crowd to make them realize that. Instead, put the blame on those who are actually responsible for the loss — you know who they are.
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About the Author
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