Blue White Illustrated

September 2023

Penn State Sports Magazine

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1 0 S E P T E M B E R 2 0 2 3 W W W . B L U E W H I T E O N L I N E . C O M W hen a reporter at Penn State's football media day in early August prefaced his question to James Franklin by asserting that the 10th-year Nittany Lion coach had "made it clear what you think of this team and how good you think it can be," Franklin took issue with the framing. "I don't know if I've necessarily said all the things that you just said," he re- plied. "Sometimes I think you guys do that to try to trick me to just go along with what you say." Over the past few months, Frank- lin has talked about the Nittany Lions' goals in aspirational terms, noting that they would enjoy nothing more than to win the Big Ten championship and reach the College Football Playoff in its last year as a four-team tournament. He's been circumspect about everything else, though, as is to be expected from someone who understands the perils of preseason braggadocio. Most coaches would prefer to strike a balance between creating excitement and avoiding the kind of burdensome expectations that set everyone up for disappointment if their team's highest goals go unmet. To that end, it's better to leave the boasting to others and focus on the day-to-day. Conveniently for Penn State, other people are more than happy to boast on the Nittany Lions' behalf this year. Franklin's team was rated seventh in both the American Football Coaches Association/USA Today and Associ- ated Press polls. The lofty rankings were in keeping with PSU's standing in the preseason magazines a few months ear- lier, with Athlon and Lindy's placing the Nittany Lions eighth, and Phil Steele slotting them No. 6. While Franklin has been understand- ably reluctant to engage in speculation about how the Lions stack up against their Big Ten peers, to say nothing of how they might fit into the national scene, he did concede that the precon- ditions for on-field success — experi- ence, depth and coaching stability — are present this fall. "Those things are good," he said, "and I think they typically lead to giv- ing yourself a chance to be successful. "Are we excited about it? Yes. Do we still have a lot of work to do and a lot of questions to answer? Yes. Do I think we are arguably in the best conference in college football and specifically the best division? I think we are part of that argument. I think it's hard to say that we're not." While their standing in the preseason polls offers a confirmation of the Nit- tany Lions' potential this year, it also offers a hint at what they're up against. More than a hint, actually. Penn State's East Division rivals Michigan and Ohio State are in the top four of both sets of rankings, with the Wolver- ines second in the both the coaches and AP polls, and the Buckeyes fourth ac- cording to the coaches and third in the media's estimation. PSU hasn't beaten Michigan since 2020 and Ohio State since 2016. No other upcoming Nittany Lion op- ponent appeared in the coaches poll. Wisconsin was the only other Big Ten team in the Top 25, coming in 21st. Penn State won't face the Badgers in their de- but season under new head coach Luke Fickell. Three teams that Penn State will face Preseason Buzz Building On Eve Of Lions' 2023 Campaign M A T T H E R B | M A T T . H E R B @ O N 3 . C O M NEWS & NOTES Under James Franklin, Penn State has played in four New Year's Six bowls and has won three of them, claiming Fiesta, Cotton and Rose Bowl crowns. PHOTO BY DANIEL ALTHOUSE

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