Penn State Nittany Lions head football coach James Franklin has been selected as the 2016 Dave McClain Coach of the Year by members of the media, with this being his third season coaching in the conference.
In his three seasons thus far at Penn State, Franklin has a record of 24-14 with a 1-1 record in bowl games. This year, Franklin and Penn State are currently on an eight-game winning streak, which includes a 24-21 win over the Ohio State Buckeyes, who are the second-ranked team in the College Football Playoff Rankings.
Greg Pickel of PennLive.com quoted Franklin from a Big Ten Network interview when speaking about being named the Big Ten Coach of the Year:
“It’s really about our team. With team success comes individual recognition, and that’s great, but it’s really about our staff, and it represents what our players do year in and year out.”
Franklin has led the Nittany Lions to a 10-2 record this season, and on Tuesday it was announced that they were ranked seventh in the College Football Playoff Rankings, with Ohio State, Michigan and Wisconsin of the Big Ten ranked ahead of them. Penn State will be facing the the 10-2 Wisconsin Badgers (sixth in the CFP rankings), Saturday night in the Big Ten Championship Game.
The road to being selected the Big Ten Coach of the Year by the media hasn’t been easy for Franklin, as Corey Masisak of Landof10.com wrote about the previous two seasons where Franklin’s team finished 7-6 overall. Those two seasons still produced two bowl games, even with Franklin coaching Penn State to a win in 2014 at the Pinstripe Bowl.
In those first two seasons, Franklin and Penn State were playing without the maximum number of scholarships, so depth was thin, including this season. Take, for example, the loss to Michigan. Before the game started, Franklin and Penn State had already suffered multiple injuries to their linebackers and played without their usual starters, with three starting linebackers not playing in the game, while another linebacker was injured.
Since regaining most of the top linebackers, this current win streak has built up to full steam. Franklin’s Penn State squad has scored no less than 24 points in a game (the win over Ohio State) and no more than 62 points in what was a 62-24 rout over the Purdue Boilermakers. In their past five games, Penn State has scored no less than 39 points in a game, that being in a 39-0 win over Rutgers on Nov. 19.
Franklin continued the turnaround of Penn State (they are 8-1 in Big Ten games), following the two-year coaching stint of Bill O’Brien, who began getting Penn State stabilized following multiple NCAA sanctions.
This season, Franklin might be able to lead his team either to a New Year’s Six bowl game or even possibly to the College Football Playoff, depending on the outcome of the Big Ten Championship game and how the committee ranks the Top 4 teams at season’s end.
Franklin was one of the coaches at the start of the season who was on a “hot seat” of sorts. But since losing to the Pittsburgh Panthers and Michigan Wolverines in two of the first four games of the 2016 season, Penn State finally turned the corner and have been one of the hottest teams in college football.
This is also the first time in his coaching career that Franklin has won double-digit games in a season, previously having nine wins during the 2012 and 2013 seasons.
Franklin and Penn State’s numbers speak for themselves, and with the Big Ten Championship Game on the horizon this Saturday night, what else do this team, and their head coach have up their sleeve to continue to surprise college football fans? Win or lose, Franklin and Penn State have proven that this team is for real, and possibly the best is yet to come from Happy Valley.
[Featured Image by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images]