For the final time of the regular season, Penn State’s James Franklin addressed the media after practice on the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving.
Franklin talked about some of the looming ahead of the final game against Michigan State, but he also touched on some recent news in talking about the College Football Playoff rankings released Tuesday night.
Here are the main storylines from Franklin’s Thanksgiving Eve press conference.
Big Ten in the playoff game
The College Football Playoff has released its third-to-last rankings for the season, setting up the rivalry week. Penn State ranked 11th behind several other SEC teams with a loss, and two Big Ten teams ranked in the top four were Michigan State and Ohio State.
After Wednesday’s practice, Franklin was asked about the possibility of two Big Ten teams in the College Football Playoff and what that would mean for the conference.
Franklin said there are as many things for the Big Ten to promote when it comes to the College Football Playoff as “the other conference,” and by another conference, he means the SEC.
“I was at that conference,” said Franklin. “They’re pounding the table and promoting through a lot of different resources, so I’m aware of what’s going on.”
Franklin finished answering and said he is not focusing on those discussions right now and is instead focusing on Michigan State.
“I have so many things to say right now,” said Franklin. “It may not be appropriate.”
There’s no doubt that Penn State’s future depends on true freshman quarterback Drew Allar, and those past two games have been crucial in giving him some playing time before he takes over entirely next year.
With every snap, there’s a risk that Allar will get hurt, especially behind a sloppy offensive line like the one Penn State now has.
Franklin said he had to be “smart and strategic” about how he approached and trained with Allar.
“You obviously do not wish to take any more risks with any of our men than are necessary,” said Franklin. “There are some risks involved in our game. There always will be.”
Franklin said he had to be careful in every aspect of the game, whether it was at full speed, or on the run.
He said those risks are something he manages on a daily basis and something he will manage with all of his players, not just Allar.
“You just kind of live with it,” said Franklin. “You’re going to drive yourself crazy if you’re trying to do that. You can set up men any way they want.”
Treated for loss
In the past two games, Penn State has found its identity defensively, holding teams to an average of eight points per game in their last three games.
One aspect that has made Penn State’s defense so dominant is handling for loss.
In Penn State’s last three games, the Nittany Lions have made 40, their first, second, and fourth in a single game of the season.
Franklin said the main reason behind the uptick in handling for the loss was defensive coordinator Manny Diaz’s change in Penn State’s defense.
Diaz uses a more vertical approach compared to Brent Pry’s gap-based approach.
“From a logical perspective, if I’m playing tag instead of playing inside tag, you obviously have an opportunity to break through and make negative plays and tackle the loss,” Franklin said.
However, Franklin said that when you play more vertically, each player should do their bit because there is more chance of big matches when one man misses.
“If you’re a defensive player, specifically a defensive lineman or linebacker, I can’t imagine there is a more productive system to play in,” said Franklin.
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