Penn State Football: Is James Franklin overrated, or not? - NittanyCentral

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NittanyCentral is home for the latest Penn State Football, Penn State Wrestling, Penn State Basketball news, updates, and analysis of the Penn State Nittany Lions

NittanyCentral is home for the latest Penn State Football, Penn State Wrestling, Penn State Basketball news, updates, and analysis of the Penn State Nittany Lions

The latest news, insight, and analysis of Penn State Football, Penn State Wrestling, and Penn State Basketball, including schedules, game results, analysis of breaking news, rumors, speculation, and recruiting coverage of future Penn State Nittany Lions

NittanyCentral is home to the latest Penn State Nittany Lions news, updates, insight, and analysis, including in-depth coverage of Penn State Football, Penn State Wrestling, Penn State Basketball, and much more

Penn State Football: Is James Franklin overrated, or not?

There’s a large segment of fans out there across the fruited plain that will constantly say that Penn State head coach James Franklin is “overrated” and overpaid.

Any Pitt fan will tell you it’s true, (Never mind they still have Pat Narduzzi).

James Franklin, Penn State Football
Penn State Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin (Mandatory Credit: Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports)

But, what is the reality, compared to perception? And are they the same?

Let’s take a stroll!

Franklin’s career head coaching record is 112-54 and is one of just FIVE active FBS coaches with a 66-plus winning percentage and 13-plus years of coaching experience. Franklin attributes his success on the field to the strength of his teams’ dedication to four core values: positive attitude, great work ethic, competing in everything you do and must be willing to sacrifice.

Under Franklin’s direction, Penn State has finished in the top 12 of the final College Football Playoff rankings in six of the last eight seasons, has earned berths in five New Year’s Six bowl games with three wins and won the 2016 Big Ten Championship.

Since 2014, Franklin’s first season with the Nittany Lions, Penn State Football has won in three New Year’s Six bowl games, joining Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, Ohio State, and Oregon as the only FBS schools with three or more wins in that span.

Meanwhile, Franklin is one of three current Big Ten coaches (Ryan Day and Kirk Ferentz) to have won a Big Ten Championship and became the first African American head coach to win a Big Ten title after Penn State’s 2016 victory.


What about on Game Day?

Does Franklin get it done when he should? When needed?

The first thing you’ll hear is “Franklin can’t win the big games. Franklin sucks vs Top 10 teams.”

Well, let’s dig into that.

After A Loss: PSU is 16th with a 60% win rate.
After a Bye: PSU is 34th with a 58% win rate.
As a Favorite: PSU is 9th at 82.6%.
As the Underdog: PSU is in 66th place at 26.8%. And this is the pain point.

To be fair, Penn State is not typically the underdog in many games. Two per year maybe.

But, the inability to win games in which Franklin is not favored has been a huge hurdle while at PSU. There are only six P5 coaches that handle favored games better than Franklin. Unless there’s a major collapse or nightmare game (see nine OTs vs Illinois) PSU is winning 83% of those.

But, the Nittany Lions win percentage vs Ranked Opponents (32%) and Underdog Percentage (26%) go hand in hand. Franklin is 33rd vs ranked opponents, so there are 101 other programs that ARE worse. It’s tough playing ranked teams for a reason. But eventually you gotta break through right?

Multiple Offensive Coordinators haven’t gotten Franklin over “the Hump.” He either let them go in short order for not reaching the mark, or they left for promotions because they did well. Franklin can’t win at OC.

Something I believe that is severely overlooked is consistency. And that’s impossible to achieve when you have new coaches every other year.

Franklin must find a way to win the underdog narrative and do it within two years. Because after two years, he’ll be back to scratch.

James Franklin is typically hovering around the 12-13th area in the Head Coach rankings.

Lack of signature wins & playoff appearances has kept him from breaking into the elite category.

None of this includes 63 NFL draft picks developed under Franklin’s tenure.


So what is reality for James Franklin?

Penn State Football, James Franklin, Penn State Football Recruiting
Head coach James Franklin of the Penn State Nittany Lions (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

James Franklin has done an outstanding job during his time at Penn State. But the goal is to be ELITE. Get to the top.

And the other REALITY is that until Franklin can beat a top 10 team AND make the Playoff, it will always be considered falling short. Both are true.

So is James Franklin ‘overrated?’ No. He’s rated accurately, right where he should be.

In 2024 the Penn State Nittany Lions need to go from GOOD to GREAT, and it’s on James Franklin to break the narrative and make it happen.

MORE: Penn State’s Most Important Players to Making College Football Playoff

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Brad Kulp
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