Tag Archives: James Franklin

Penn State Got Screwed By The Committee

So after weeks of debate and posturing by various coaches and conferences, we got our official final College Football Playoff contenders. Despite all the talk by ESPN, Michigan didn’t get in. Ohio State did even though they didn’t win their division or their conference just like Michigan.

But the Buckeyes won a lot of games over some quality opponents so we can deal with that. No one’s going to debate Alabama and if you do, you have some issues. Clemson is a bit of a fraud if you ask me but they only lost one game. The Washington Huskies grabbed that final spot to give us this conclusion:

Penn State got screwed.

The Penn State Nittany Lions, winners of the Big Ten East division and the Big Ten Championship, were left on the outside looking in. The Nittany Lions made an incredible comeback against the favored Wisconsin Badgers to end the regular season on a nine-game winning streak. Arguably, Penn State was one of if not the hottest team in the nation.

And they got screwed.

The College Football Playoff committee chairman Kirby Hocutt told ESPN that Washington was “playing with a lot of momentum” and had “beaten a lot of good football teams this season.”

That’s a really interesting statement. It’s really interesting because people have been saying that Washington has a weak schedule. Check the date on that video too, it’s from early November. That wasn’t the only time someone questioned the Huskies’ schedule either. It was honestly kind of a common theme.

Suddenly, Washington has beaten a bunch of good teams? There are three teams from the Pac-12 ranked in the top 25. Washington lost to one of them and beat Stanford while they were in a skid not like Stanford at all. The nonconference schedule for the Huskies included Rutgers, the worst Power Five team probably ever, and opponents from the Big Sky and Sun Belt conferences. Big time players there. Also, since when is three consecutive wins considered a lot of momentum?

Meanwhile, Penn State has wins over three teams in the top 25. The only two losses for James Franklin’s team sit at no. six in Michigan and no. 23 in Pitt, who beat Clemson for what it’s worth. Let’s not forget that the Nittany Lions also knocked off the current numbers 24, either and three. That’s one hell of a resume.

Couple all that together and the explanation from the committee is starting to look a little weak. The Big Ten is the best conference in the country and Penn State won the whole thing with a strong nonconference schedule. Washington won a Pac-12 that was treated with little to no respect by the committee all season with a weak nonconference schedule.

So what gives? I’m not the only one who doesn’t get it either. The commissioner of the Big 12 wants some answers too. His conference got burned for poor out of conference scheduling and not having a conference title game. This year the Big 12 and Penn State had both and the Nittany Lions got left out.

Here’s where it gets interesting.

Ready for a hot take? If Wisconsin had won the Big Ten Championship, they’d be in the playoff.

I’m sure you took a moment to check the rankings from the previous week and saw that Wisconsin was ranked in front of Penn State by one spot. If not, you’re welcome. Wisconsin had lost to Michigan and Ohio State but beat LSU in nonconference play and beat Michigan State when they were hilariously still ranked and Nebraska. Not nearly as impressive, right?

Why does Wisconsin get in when Penn State doesn’t? Because the committee is exactly that: they are a group of people. No matter what they say or what they think, there’s going to be biases and memories and the desire to do what’s “best” for college football.

You know what a lot of people still think of when they think about Penn State? The Sandusky scandal. That horrific event is still attached to Penn State in the minds of many. I had to write something on it for this very site last summer. The school almost lost its accreditation as a university.

There were plenty of people who were and still are calling for the death penalty to Penn State for what happened. This article is from last year about giving the Nittany Lions the death penalty. Can you imagine the uproar if the university that was home to the biggest scandal since SMU played for the National Championship? Just to be clear, I am not comparing the two scandals. Nothing can compare to child molestation.

So yeah, Penn State had an uphill battle that they weren’t going to win. There’s still some tarnish to their university that’s going to take a few more years to buff out. I hope for their sake that it buffs out quickly because, with the way James Franklin has these kids playing, the committee won’t be able to deny them next year.

 

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Penn State’s Upset Doesn’t Mean Anything

When I first started writing this article, I was thinking about Penn State’s monumental upset and how significant of a victory it was. I initially felt it was huge and was going to congratulate the Nittany Lions for seizing a program-changing win that slayed the demons that haunted them on and off the field ever since those brutal NCAA sanctions were levied against them in 2012 and provided a strong foundation on which to build upon for the future. Furthermore, not only did they provide incredible excitement and entertainment but they put the spotlight back on the Big Ten. Yet, the more I thought about it, the less excited I was, because I realized that in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t really mean that much if Penn State can’t improve.

Now, this isn’t to say I did not enjoy the upset or was not satisfied. I was still bitter about the Buckeyes beating Wisconsin, so it was a pleasant surprise to see the Nittany Lions come away with a win. They showed that no matter how good your adversary is, you can never give up or count yourself out.

I mean who honestly doesn’t like a good upset once in a while (unless you’re an Ohio State fan)? It was the perfect surprise because it was so unexpected and pulled off in such shocking fashion.

When Ohio State went up 19-7 in the third quarter after Curtis Samuel scampered for a 74-yard touchdown, I actually turned the channel. I was thinking that at least the Nittany Lions were competitive for a while but that Ohio State was going to just pull away. Not so fast my friend. The next time I checked the game it was 21-17 and watched in shock as Penn State blocked the field goal and scored the game-sealing touchdown, which put all the momentum on their side and they rode that wave all the way to victory. It sounds weird just saying Ohio State lost on the road in Happy Valley, considering Urban Meyer was 20-0 in true road games coming in and the fact that Penn State was clobbered 49-10 by Michigan earlier this season.

However, with just 276 total yards of offense and eight completed passes, not to mention a blocked field goal and a safety, the stats clearly show the Nittany Lions did not play a perfect game at all. If it wasn’t for that special teams play, we wouldn’t be talking about them at all.

My point is that while this was their first signature victory under James Franklin, which vaulted them into the AP Top 25 for the first time in nearly five years and impressed about 75 recruits from the 2017 and 2018 classes in attendance, a stunning upset doesn’t automatically heal the team’s weaknesses or instantly make it a top-tier contender. There are still a plethora of issues with this team such as a subpar offense, an inconsistent offensive line, a minus three turnover margin and lack of depth at linebacker. Also, there is a lot of football left to be played.

Yes, Penn State should be favored in their last five regular-season games, but with the unresolved issues and the fact that Iowa and Indiana are both strong enough to provide stiff challenges, I think they drop one of those games.

Also, getting a signature win doesn’t mean recruits will come flooding in either (even if they wanted to), because the numbers won’t allow it. And who is to say these prized athletes don’t turn out to be busts or plagued with injuries? Only time will tell and in college football, and it may take a few seasons for these recruits to come and develop. Even then, it’s hard to say this particular win was the clincher.

Bottom line, it doesn’t mean diddly-squat if they can’t improve long-term and compete with Ohio State and Michigan in the future for division titles. That seems like a tall order to manage, but expectations are extremely high in Penn State.

I get that people want to say this is the win that truly turned this program around and as of now, they are the big man on campus because they beat the big man on campus. But to maintain that status, you have to beat all the other weaker men as well and until I see that happen, I remain skeptical.

If there’s a silver lining, head coach James Franklin probably gets a few more seasons with the win to truly develop players like promising quarterback Trace McSorley and make an impact. But unless this program returns to national prominence, the win won’t mean much.

E-mail Mike at mike [dot] tews [at] campuspressbox [dot] com or follow him on Twitter @MDeuces2051.

Image: Flickr user Melissa 

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Penn State Can’t Shake Paterno

Penn State joined the Big Ten in 1993, won the league title in 1994 with an 8-0 conference record, and hasn’t won an outright title ever since. The program has never achieved the dominance of its new conference home that partisans expected two decades ago, but those same fans have to be looking back wistfully now at those interim years of New Year’s Day bowl games and double-digit victory seasons. It’s been a while.

In fact, it’s been seven years since the Nittany Lions went 11-2 and won the Capital One Bowl after the 2009 season. This decade has been a succession of mediocre campaigns, coaching controversies and Pinstripe Bowls. The cause of the recent mediocrity, of course, is not a mystery.

Five years ago Joe Paterno was fired in the aftermath of the sordid Jerry Sandusky criminality, rocking the Happy Valley community’s beloved football program to its foundations. It is certainly not my purpose here to rehash that saga. The perpetrator is behind bars and the coaching legend is six feet under. Still, controversy rages, and the football program staggers on.

What made the Sandusky story and the resulting media orgy so unnerving to college football fans at the time was the way dirty, nasty reality had rudely invaded their Saturday afternoon escapism from dirty, nasty reality. How dare it do that?  They reacted much like Paterno reportedly did when, in 1976, he was confronted by witness JohnDoe150 with the story of an early Sandusky abuse, “I don’t want to hear about any of that kind of stuff, I have a football season to worry about”

Then just this past September, the still somewhat deluded Penn State community decided to commemorate Paterno with a halftime ceremony at the Rutgers game, and the media reacted much as they did five years ago…by trying to out-outrage each other. One wonders what the Penn State fan base thought would happen. They’re not over him. Neither is the football team.

Bill O’Brien presided over an 8-4 team in 2012 and a 7-6 team in 2013, both years with a roster severely depleted by NCAA sanctions. O’Brien won nearly universal praise from media types for righting the ship in troubled waters, but over time he grew frustrated with administration politics, and the never-ending battles with the faction he called “the Paterno people”.  He bolted to the NFL’s Houston Texans after 2013, and if my Twitter timeline is a reliable indicator, that has embittered some Nittany Lions fans. As far as I know, his first name does not begin with an “F”.

Franklin does however, and Lions’ 3rd year head coach has not escaped the wrath of a football community impatient for a return to glory. He entered 2016 coming off back-to-back seasons of 7-6. In the eyes of his detractors, the Lions’ non-conference wins over Kent State and Temple this fall aren’t enough to balance out getting drilled 49-10 by Michigan and dropping one to cross-state rival Pitt.

Like the dreaded vote of confidence, the periodic assurances by PSU officials that Franklin “is not on the hot seat” merely reflect the fact that much of the community feels he is right there on it.  

With a 4-2 record going into this weekend’s nationally televised matchup with #2 Ohio State, James Franklin has a chance to back up the predictions of Bill O’Brien and others, who have forecast a return to college football’s elite under his leadership.

After the Buckeyes visit, the remainder of the schedule is not daunting. Penn State avoids the two best teams from the Big Ten West, Wisconsin and Nebraska, and plays Iowa and a flailing Michigan State team at home. The roster is back to a full 85 scholarship players, and a respectable bowl game is well within reach. The administration counsels patience. The coach asks fans to trust the process.

An upset win Saturday could get the program’s fans finally looking forward with optimism rather than back with mixed emotions at the man in the white shirt and the black glasses.  It’s about time.

E-mail Dan at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @dwismar.

Photo: Wikipedia

A Look Ahead- The Impending Coaching Carousel

We’re not even halfway through the college football season, but it’s never too early to start talking coaching moves. Especially this year, as we’ve already seen one high-profile head coached fired and the proverbial hot seat growing increasingly warmer for many more.

Here is a look at the status of a few big-time coaches that will likely be on the move during the offseason (or sooner):

Les Miles- Formerly LSU

Miles has already been fired by LSU this season after an 18-13 loss to Auburn. Many saw it coming. Some thought he would be let go last season, and it wasn’t until late in 2015 that Miles was told by Athletic Director Joe Alleva that he would keep his job and head back to LSU in 2016.

Miles is 141-55 during his coaching career, and 8-6 in bowl games. He’s won one national title, two SEC championships, and three SEC Western Division championships.

He’s expressed interest in returning to coaching soon, leaving no doubt that he will be leading a program in 2017.

Tom Herman- Houston

Unlike the rest of the coaches that will be mentioned in this article, Herman has no chance of being fired from his role at Houston.  However, his return is not likely.

After an incredibly successful stint as Ohio State’s offensive coordinator, highlighted by a National Championship in 2014, Herman took over the Houston program in 2015. He led the Cougars to a 13-1 record, American Athletic Conference Championship, and Peach Bowl victory in his first season.

The Cougars were upset by Navy Saturday, but that won’t stop big programs from heavily pursuing Herman. He’ll be the hottest commodity on the market when the coaching carousel really gets spinning.

LSU has already inquired.

It’s very likely Herman will take the money and run when this season ends.

Charlie Strong- Texas

Before Strong took over the Texas program in 2014, Longhorns fans had seen just three sub-.500 seasons since 1990.  In his first season, Strong’s Longhorns finished 6-7.

In 2015, 5-7.

After two straight victories to start this season, Texas has lost three straight games while giving up an average of 48 points to the opposition.

Texas is growing impatient.

However, even though Strong is struggling to find success in the Big 12, he did successfully orchestrate the turnaround of a Louisville program that was crumbling under the Steve Kragthorpe era.

Louisville under strong:

2010- 7-6, bowl win

2011- 7-6, Big East Championship

2012- 11-2, Big East Championship, won Sugar Bowl

2013- 12-1, won Russell Athletic Bowl

It has been tough sledding at Texas, but Strong has a very impressive resume and shouldn’t have a problem securing employment if let go by the Longhorns.

Mark Helfrich- Oregon

After two successful years in Eugene to begin his head coaching career, due largely to the foundation Chip Kelly built, Helfrich’s Ducks finished 9-4 in 2015.  That was a tough pill to swallow for a fan base that hadn’t seen a four-loss season since 2007.

What’s more, it’s been a rough start to 2016.  The Ducks are on a four-game losing streak, capped by Saturday’s 70-21 loss to Washington at home.  Oregon hasn’t given up 70 points in a game since 1941.

Thanks to Nike, Oregon is one of the most recognizable brands in college sports, and that brand is in danger of seeing its first losing season in 11 years. Helfrich won’t last if that happens. With the lack of success on his resume, Helfrich likely won’t be in charge of a major program in 2017.

Notable Coaches on a Cooler Hot Seat

Clay Helton, USC– Helton’s Trojans came away with a tough win against 21st ranked Colorado Saturday night, which threw some water on the fire under Helton.  USC’s athletic department hasn’t been sure what direction they’ve been headed the last few seasons, but they need consistency before they will begin to see success.  You never know what will happen in Southern California, though.

Brian Kelly, Notre Dame– Kelly has had success almost everywhere he’s gone.  Kelly boasts a 228-84-2 overall record as a head coach, and despite a 2-4 start to this season, he’s 57-27 during his tenure with the Irish.  However, Notre Dame is a proud program with a history of success and if Kelly doesn’t get them back on track, he may be shown the door.

Gus Malzahn, Auburn– Malzahn’s Tigers went 12-2 in 2012 in his first season at the helm.  Since then, Auburn has been in decline, winning eight games in 2013 and seven in 2014. This season the Tigers are off to a 4-2 start, including two big wins against LSU and Mississippi State.  Malzahn may be on the coolest hot seat of them all, but if the Tigers don’t finish this season with seven or eight wins he could be in trouble.

Jim Mora, UCLA– Mora hasn’t had a losing season at UCLA, but he hasn’t been particularly impressive either.  UCLA is another program with a rich history, and after a 3-3 start to this season and the meat of the Pac-12 schedule in front of him, Mora could be in trouble.

Less Notable

Mark Stoops, Kentucky

Steve Addazio, Boston College

Derek Mason, Vanderbilt

James Franklin, Penn State

Darrell Hazell, Purdue

Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern

Also, don’t forget, Jim Tressel’s show cause is up this year. He may not want to get back into coaching, but it’s certainly a fun prospect to entertain.

With just over half of the season yet to be played, some of these coaches may fall off this list and some may hop on before the end of the year.  One thing is for certain, though; we are in for a bumpy, wild ride.

Buckle up.

E-mail Evan at or follow him on Twitter @skilliter.

Photo: Neon Tommy, Flickr

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It’s Getting Hot in Happy Valley

Last Saturday, just under 70,000 fans gathered at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh to see the hometown Panthers beat in-state rival Penn State 42-39. It was the first game between the two programs in 16 years, a rivalry that dates back to 1893. Leading up to the contest, Penn State and head coach James Franklin nonchalantly downplayed the game’s significance.

While there wasn’t a national championship or Top 10 ranking on the line like in the 70’s and 80’s, the game was a perfect opportunity for the Nittany Lions to make a statement and Franklin to cool the fire that had been growing underneath his seat.

However, Penn State simply wasn’t ready to play and unless they somehow upset one of the conferences contenders later this season, which I don’t see happening, this was their opportunity to excite the fans and boosters that the program is ready to rise up from the ashes. Instead, they faltered, never recovering from a 21-point first-half deficit despite a late-game comeback and were steamrolled for 341 rushing yards.

Expectations, whether fair or unfair, have always been high for Penn State and while Franklin’s first two years weren’t awful at 7-6 each, they certainly weren’t great either. At this point in time, fans are getting restless and patience is running thin.

In college football, someone is always to blame and that person is usually the coach. Even if he’s winning, if expectations aren’t met, he will get canned. Remember Bo Pelini at Nebraska?

There are those who argue Franklin isn’t even winning the games he should despite having talent and his track record isn’t very impressive either. He’s only won six conference matches against subpar opponents (Rutgers twice, Indiana twice, Illinois, Maryland) and the only game that came close to a signature victory was a 31-24 loss in double overtime to ranked Ohio State in 2014. They also point to his success at Vanderbilt and say if he was successful in the SEC, he should be at Penn State in the Big Ten regardless who’s in it.

Now, is it fair to exclusively blame Franklin given the fact that he took over a program that had gut-wrenching NCAA sanctions levied against it? I certainly don’t think so. At times I feel he should get the benefit of the doubt because it’s only been two games this season and fans shouldn’t be quick to rush to judgement when they knew it was going to be a long, tough road.

He has made two bowl games and I think fans need to give him and new quarterback Trace McSorley, who’s made only two starts, more time. Furthermore, as Franklin himself stated, this should be considered the first year of his tenure since it’s the first year being back to the allotted 85 scholarships and it’s still a very raw and inexperienced roster, as only 12 players have senior eligibility.

Those who follow Penn State know the Nittany Lions must replace nine starters, including three on the defensive line, and that the offensive line barely gave the offense a chance to succeed as it ranked 124th and 113th in sacks allowed the past two seasons.

To me, if Franklin ends up with a 4-8 record, then he might be in boiling hot water, but if they can finish right in the middle again, he deserves another year. If Purdue’s Darrell Hazell was able to get another year despite a 6-30 record entering this season, then there’s no question Franklin should be the coach.

Yet, as aforementioned, fair doesn’t always exist in college football and even as much as I feel patience should be given in regards to Franklin’s tenure, the temperature is rising in Happy Valley, particularly after this loss.

Now, should he lose to Temple this Saturday, then I believe he’ll be in big trouble but as of now, he’s still hanging on, just barely.

E-mail Mike at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @MDeuces2051.

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SEC Links: Coaches, Dawgs and Cats

Kevin Sumlin probably has as much heat on him as any coach in the SEC this year. Questions, both on and off the field, have been swirling around him and the program like a Texas tornado this offseason. In spite of winning 36 games over the past four years, the pressure to win more continues to mount. And on top of that, he lost his father back in March.

Sumlin recently sat down with Pete Thamel, of Sports Illustrated, and candidly spoke on these and other topics, such as Johnny Manziel.

The Aggie coach is doing everything he can to improve his team by hiring Noel Mazzone away from UCLA to be his offensive coordinator, and making changes to the strength and conditioning program. There is a new athletic director, Scott Woodward from Washington, and, of course, Kyle Field was completely renovated prior to the 2015 season, and is now one of the great show palaces in all of college football.

There is no doubt that there is elite talent at A&M, it’s just a matter of pulling all of these moving parts together into one cohesive unit. Can that be done? Yes. Will that be done? It remains to be seen.

Brandon Adams, a contributor to SEC Country, thinks the Aggies could be poised to make huge strides upward in 2016. Strides that could carry them to the top of the SEC West.

Say what? Yes, Trevor Knight might work out for them at quarterback. And yes, Myles Garrett is a beast, but it’s going to take more than him to get the defense turned around and stop yielding points in bunches. The D has been the Aggies’ Achilles heel during Sumlin’s tenure and it must improve dramatically in order for them to even approach the pinnacle of the toughest division in all of college football.

I remain of the opinion that Texas A&M will finish behind Alabama, LSU, Ole Miss, Auburn, and Arkansas in the West. That leaves them ahead of only Mississippi State. Something is a wee bit off kilter in College Station and I don’t think all the pieces will fit so snugly together this fall.

Everyone is optimistic in May. Prove it in September. That opportunity will present itself on the opening weekend of the season when the Aggies go head-to-head with the UCLA Bruins, in College Station, on September 3.

Pressure. There’s that word again. Kirby Smart says he is feeling the pressure of the entire state of Georgia on him as he approaches his first fall as the head coach of the Georgia Bulldogs.

“Let’s be honest. Georgia, if you get the best players in this state, you should be winning championships,” says Smart, who hasn’t slowed down since he returned to his alma mater in January.

Bingo!

How are Georgia fans and a new puppy similar? You can’t get either of them to stop whining.

And whine they will if Smart does not win the East soon. Yes, they are on a honeymoon that is hot and heavy, as we speak, but if the Dawgs don’t find themselves in Atlanta on the first Saturday of December, soon, that whining will become a deafening howl.

I have the Bulldogs penciled in as second in the division in 2016. If they do, somehow, manage to dethrone the already-anointed Tennessee Volunteers, then the honeymoon will transition into a full- blown love fest unseen since the early eighties.

But wait! What’s this? Is that a cat that I see sneaking up on those Dawgs?

Jay Clemons, of SEC Country, along with Kirk Herbstreit, see the Kentucky Wildcats as having a coming out party of their own. Clemons actually calls for the Cats to claw the Dawgs into submission on November 5.

Now, what was that I was saying about honeymoons and love fests? If that does transpire, in Lexington, that deafening howling will commence.

I do think Kentucky will continue to improve, and make a lower tier bowl game, but I do not see them toppling Georgia or Tennessee. Florida is a better possibility, but that game is in Gainesville. I’ll take the Big Blue to beat Southern Miss, New Mexico State, South Carolina, Vanderbilt, Mississippi State, Missouri, and Austin Peay. In the last game of the season, Louisville will be favored to down the Wildcats, in Louisville, but I believe Kentucky has a very good shot in that one.

We began this thing with coaches and now let’s end it with coaches. Edward Aschoff, of ESPN, presents his list of the five best coaches in the SEC of the past ten years.

I’m with him on Saban, Meyer, Spurrier and Les, but I’ll quibble with Fulmer for the sake of argument.

First man on his “just missed the cut” is Gene Chizik. I do love Chiz and I will be forever grateful for him bringing home a crystal football to Auburn, but the 3-9 season, in 2012, simply won’t allow that. I would take Gus over Chiz. And I thought Tommy Tuberville was a damn good football coach when he was on the Plains.

How about Derek Dooley? Just kidding!

James Franklin did a remarkable job at Vanderbilt. And sure, Freeze, Mullen, Pinkel, and Richt all deserve careful consideration.

Ok, I can see The Great Pumpkin (as the AJC’s Jeff Shultz was want to call Fulmer) as one of the top five.

That’s another edition of SEC Links in the books.

Adios!

Legacy Lines – 10/16/15: Powerhouse Rivalry Gets Facelift

Editors note: Hollis Oliver McLain, III (@HollisOliverIII) will be publishing a series of articles throughout the season on some of college football’s most storied programs. This year, we’ve selected Alabama, Penn State, Tennessee, Texas, UCLA and Virginia Tech. On Tuesday’s you’ll get important links about each program (Legacy Links) and on Friday’s you’ll get important story lines and a game preview of one team (Legacy Lines). Follow each of these stories here , and get your latest news when you need it.

Fall has begun to set in across most of the football nation, especially if you live near the East Coast. As the wind picks up and the leaves fall down, college football is just heating up, and it won’t cool down until the January snow crowns a national champion. Now, at this point in the season, we still know very little about the current football landscape.

Stanford stomping UCLA and Auburn winning in Commonwealth have changed the way we look at these four teams, just like our opinions would change after a normal game. But things seemed different last night, on Thursday. What used to be mediocre football on Thursday night has turned into shootouts or at least exciting football for most of the season. That may just be the scheduling, but it was refreshing to have two entertaining games to watch.

Moving away from some general notes, our legacy programs will continue to fight through their conference schedules, but it seems like the chances of one of our teams winning their conference slims with every game that’s played. College football fans all across the world have a treat in store for them Saturday night at 8 p.m. on ABC when the Penn State Nittany Lions take on the Ohio State Buckeyes in an historical matchup of football powerhouses, in our Legacy Line Game of the Week. Notice there are links throughout this story to help paint the picture I am trying to get across.

This first link touches on some of the history that I didn’t.

LINK – http://www.scout.com/college/ohio-state/story/310625-the-new-border-war-ohio-state-vs-penn-state?s=145

Before we jump into a preview of this weekend’s game, I chose to look at this series as a whole, like we usually do here at Legacy Lines. At first glance, I noticed that the series record is at 16-13 in OSU’s favor. While there have been some vacated wins on both sides of this rivalry, some of the games were recently reinstated as wins. The first meeting between these two teams was in 1912 and the Nittany Lions ended up winning that game. After this game, these two teams only played each other four more times until Penn State joined the Big 10 in 1993, with the Lions wining all four. In retrospect, this wasn’t much of a rivalry until they began playing every year in conference play.

In this link, former Penn State players were asked about wha the rivalry means to them.

LINK – http://www.blackshoediaries.com/2015/10/16/9528575/we-asked-former-penn-state-players-what-the-ohio-state-game-means-to-them-nittany-lions-buckeyes

Once Penn State joined the Big 10, the rivalry caught fire. While OSU ended up winning the majority of the games in the 1990’s, one in particular caught my ire. In 1994, Penn State came into the game ranked number 1 in the country. They gutted Ohio State 63-14, but it was what one sportswriter did after the game that made me share this story. An Ohio State sportswriter famously dropped the Nittany Lions from #1 to #2 in the AP poll after the devastating loss. I guess that sportswriter wasn’t too ecstatic about the Buckeyes embarrassing loss.

Fast-forward a handful of years, and the plot thickens. Long time head coach Joe Paterno would now have to play recently hired OSU coach Jim Tressel. The Paterno vs. Tressel rivalry would go on for about a decade, with Tressel & Ohio State going 6-3 during this era. Also, happening in the middle of all this was Paterno becoming the winningest coach in football. So much history was made between these two schools, whether it is in the media, actual game results, or by way of coaching pedigree.

Joe Paterno was able to get back some of his wins that had been vacated, allowing him to hold onto his own legacy.

LINK – http://espn.go.com/college-football/story/_/id/12179571/joe-paterno-111-wins-were-vacated-restored

Towards the end of the Tressel vs. Paterno games, scandal began erupting in the midst of both programs. Tressel and Ohio State were vacating wins because of improper benefits while Paterno and Penn State were losing wins because of their scandal. Since we all know what happened, there is no need to rehash old news, but suffice it to say these two teams have had clouds over their heads for a decade. These two programs just want to leave everything else behind and play football, and with the Lions’ NCAA problems no longer a problem, both teams can go out and play without any outside negativity about their respective issues.

Now to the actual game being played on Saturday. Both of these two teams come in with a strong record, but something to prove as well. The Nittany Lions’ best chance to win this game is with their offense. It is going to be difficult for James Franklin’s defense to hold the Buckeyes down, I mean, they have 3 of the best players in college football right now on their offense. So, in order for this one to stay a close game, Christian Hackenburg must have a big game coming out party. He has to keep the safeties honest so that the Lions can get a ground game going. On the other sideline, if Urban Meyer can make sure his secondary doesn’t get beat downfield, they will have a solid chance of winning the ball game. Despite all the playmakers Ohio State has, I believe that Hackenburg will have a good enough game to challenge the OSU defense deep and be in the game towards the end. This game could go any which way, but I see special teams playing a large role and being the deciding factor late, whether it be a return touchdown, field goal or fumble.

This game goes down to the wire, but Ohio State somehow pulls out the win 34-28 Buckeyes.

Legacy Links – 10/13/15: Upsets Come in All Shapes and Sizes

Editors note: Hollis Oliver McLain, III (@HollisOliverIII) will be publishing a series of articles throughout the season on some of college football’s most storied programs. This year, we’ve selected Alabama, Penn State, Tennessee, Texas, UCLA and Virginia Tech. On Tuesday’s you’ll get important links about each program (Legacy Links) and on Friday’s you’ll get important story lines and a game preview of one team (Legacy Lines). Follow each of these stories here , and get your latest news when you need it.

For the first time this season, every single Legacy Program came out with a win, and some of them went out with a bang. The two most surprising wins of the weekend came from the UTs, Texas and Tennessee. Charlie Strong finally won a meaningful game when he beat Bob Stoops and the Oklahoma Sooners in the Red River Rivalry. A rivalry that was once the game to watch has become a 12:00 kickoff that not too many people bother with. The other massive win of the day came from the Tennessee Volunteers against their SEC East rivals, the Georgia Bulldogs. The Vols came back from 21 points down to win a hard fought game against a great team. Is all the talk about hot seats for Butch Jones and Charlie Strong over with, or is there more left to be desired?

Alabama Crimson Tide

If you watched College Gameday on the first Saturday of the season, then you most likely saw a segment on Alabama kicker Adam Griffith. You saw how he went from being in poverty to a middle-class life and eventually, gained a scholarship to kick for Alabama. But, after a stellar start to last season, Griffith finished by missing his final 7 out of 12. After missing his first four field goals to start the 2015 season, Griffith battled back to make his next four and then against Arkansas missed two and made one. Saban thinks it is all mental with Adam; find out what else he thinks in the link below.

LINK – http://www.al.com/alabamafootball/index.ssf/2015/10/whats_the_problem_with_alabama.html

Coaches aren’t supposed to affect the game unless they make a decision or choose a play to run. Never should they be involved in any other way. During the Alabama vs. Arkansas game last Saturday, Bret Bielema approached an Alabama player, subsequently flopped to get an unsportsmanlike penalty called on said Alabama player, and then was seen dancing about it in a video posted to twitter. Watch the video for yourself and decide if it was just too much.

LINK –http://www.al.com/alabamafootball/index.ssf/2015/10/new_video_shows_bret_beliema_i.html

Penn State Nittany Lions

After flying through a sadly easy schedule to start the season, Penn State will finally play somebody relevant, Ohio State. James Franklin’s team will have to run the gauntlet if they hope to finish strong with a bowl game. The Nittany Lions have to face OSU and then three more ranked teams. Will they be able to get over the hump and beat some ranked teams?

LINK – http://www.mcall.com/sports/college/psu/mc-penn-state-football-indiana-wrap-20151011-story.html

Penn State has not only played some easy win teams, but some absolutely repulsive offenses as well. When you are playing Rutgers, Temple, and Army in quick succession, you know that you are going to have a field day, especially if you are decent at all. Now that Penn State must face Ohio State and Urban Meyer, things could get rough for the Lions. With Penn State’s offense maybe finding its’ identity, will the Lions have a shot at an upset? Check out these game notes and decide for yourself.

LINK – http://www.gopsusports.com/sports/m-footbl/spec-rel/101215aad.html

Tennessee Volunteers

For those of you who don’t know, there is a massive rock on Tennessee’s campus in Knoxville that is a canvas for the whole University. If you have gone to UT, then you have most likely spent one night painting whatever your heart desires on the rock. But have you spent hours and hours in the pouring rain just to finish a Smokey and UGA mural? Check out the student who did.

LINK – https://www.football.com/en-us/a-tennessee-tradition-painting-the-rock/

After fans put Butch Jones on the hot seat, some thought the season would just fall into oblivion, starting with the Georgia game, but instead, Butch rallied his troops and proved that he can win the big game, even if he has to go down 21 points to do it. I have never seen a team or coach that needs to be getting blown out to recognize that the playbook needs to be opened up, but Butch Jones and the Vols seem to carry that trait. Now that Jones has a signature win, he can coach without all the stress that was previously on him.

LINK – http://espn.go.com/blog/sec/post/_/id/108339/butch-jones-gets-the-signature-win-eluding-him-at-tennessee

Texas Longhorns

Texas and Charlie Strong got over the hump last Saturday by beating Oklahoma in the Red River Rivalry. A few days before the big win, everybody was questioning if Strong would be coaching the Horns next year. Now that Charlie Strong has showed the boosters that he can win a big game, will his job be safe? It may still be too early to tell, but this win goes a long way.

LINK – http://espn.go.com/college-football/story/_/id/13872307/charlie-strong-texas-longhorns-get-win-desperately-needed

With any struggling team, you can find outliers that you usually don’t think about with an experienced team. Texas has a decent number of ranked opponents on their schedule, and has been playing a ton of freshmen as well. Check out the link below for some interesting statistics about this Texas Longhorn team.

LINK – http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2578596-texas-football-5-startling-statistics-for-the-longhorns-through-6-weeks/page/4

UCLA Bruins

After being on a much-needed bye this past week, the UCLA Bruins look to get a big conference win against the Stanford Cardinals Saturday. The storyline of this game will be quarterback play. The freshmen baller takes on the senior game manager in a battle of arms. Will Kevin Hogan or Josh Rosen come out on top? Check out the answer to this question and many other notes in the link below.

LINK – http://www.rantsports.com/ncaa-football/2015/10/12/ucla-vs-stanford-college-football-week-7-preview-tv-schedule-prediction/

As if the season hasn’t been daunting enough, the Bruins recently found out that they would be losing yet another player for the season. Mossi Johnson, wide receiver and safety will be out the rest of the season with a knee injury. Of course, this injury comes after Myles Jack and a couple others starters. How will this affect UCLA?

LINK – http://www.si.com/college-football/2015/10/11/ucla-bruins-mossi-johnson-knee-injury-update

Virginia Tech Hokies

Virginia Tech looked like it was about to run off the rails after losing their starting quarterback, running back, and corner. Turns out all it took to get back on track was a must win game against a solid NC State team. The Hokies figured out a way to win with their backup qb holding the reigns, and now have a good win on the season. They must take this momentum into the final games and make something of the season.

LINK – http://www.collegiatetimes.com/sports/virginia-tech-defeats-nc-state—in-must-win/article_0966008a-6f0f-11e5-bf16-1fbeeb181d3e.html

Virginia Tech hasn’t had the easiest schedule so far, playing OSU and Pitt early on. But now they must face Miami and Duke in back-to-back weeks. Before we get caught up in this week’s game, let’s look back in time. The first half of the season was a wild one, and there is no reason the second half shouldn’t be. Here is a look at some superlatives for the Hokies’ team so far this season.

LINK – http://www.roanoke.com/sports/columns_and_blogs/blogs/andy_bitter_virginia_tech_football/virginia-tech-football-midseason-review-a-list-of-lists/article_d2006d70-7025-11e5-8bba-bfe7e9436904.html

 

Vanderbilt: A school with morals.

On Wednesday, Vanderbilt released running back Jerron Seymour for violating team rules. As from the information I have gathered, he was on the depth chart to play in the Mississippi State game Saturday evening. But when Wednesday rolled around, he simply didn’t show up for practice and was released for that reason.

We all know Vanderbilt is having a rough season with a record of 3-7 with 0 wins in the SEC. That was certainly not expected by many. Seymour has not really been a key player for the Commodores with having just 25 carries for 123 yards this year. However he did dominate last year with 14 touchdowns. With so much controversy going on this year not only for just Vanderbilt, but throughout college football, I have asked myself this question for the past several days; Would you much rather have a crappy football team with morals or would you rather have a team that will do anything to win at all costs without discipline?

Lets look at what the year in review as far as negativity surrounding college football is concerned. I΅will start ff with Vanderbilt. Well, I will go back to last year.

As most people know, four Vanderbilt football players are currently on trial for the alleged rape of a Vanderbilt student stemming back to last summer. At the time, coach James Franklin was Vanderbilt’s head football coach. As soon as news broke out that a rape may have happened last summer involving these four former players, James Franklin immediately dismissed them from the team without questioning their guilt or innocence. I believe a lot of that decision to release them was so quickly was because their was a video of all four former players going into the dorm room with the woman and exiting shortly after while one player covered up the video camera. Clearly something went on that night. Was it rape? Let’s let the grand jury decide that. No school or program really wants that kind of attention, especially if it involves such thing as rape.

Texas really seemed to be another popular school this year that wasn’t going to let anything slide no matter how small the predicament was. Head Coach Charlie Strong has dismissed nine players (yes, nine players) this year, all before October which seemed to be mainly for ¨violating team rules¨. Not really knowing what all the players done. Maybe they were small infractions. But Charlie Strong certainly sent out a message with all of those dismissals. He pretty much said that no nonsense will be tolerated no matter how small the situation is. Good for you, Mr. Strong. Let them young guys know that they aren’t going to just go out and do whatever and get away with it.

Obviously Georgia made a big splash with their Heisman hopeful Todd Gurley being suspended four games for receiving over $3,000 in memorabilia over a 2 year span. The NCAA laid down the hammer on Gurley for this, not Georgia. I know its against NCAA rules to accept money in some capacity but four games? That’s a bit harsh in my opinion.

Just recently, the Tennessee Volunteers made news when two of their players were accused of sexually assaulting a woman. Both players were immediately suspended from the program, including one of their star players in AJ Johnson. Butch Jones said he wanted to be ¨right rather than fast¨ with his decision on what the proper course of action should be after all the information from the Knoxville police have gathered as they are investigating the incident. Good call, coach. You handled the situation appropriately.

Maybe the next school I am about to talk about should take a lesson from Vanderbilt and Tennessee.

I’m sure you all already know as to what school I am about to talk about next. Yes, Florida State. Man, are they showing that if you play football their, you can just just do about anything and get away with it or just get a slap on the wrist no matter how big or small the situation is. Rape allegations, crab leg stealing, saying inappropriate things in public (which Jameis was punished for) and now allegations of two players doing a hit and run and only getting a traffic ticket out of it. Has the school investigated this incident? Nope. Those two players seemed to be getting away with it.

Here’s another thing about Florida State that seems to be so sketchy. Why was Jameis’ disciplinary hearing moved after the football season is over with? What gives? If hes innocent, why delay it? Get it over with!

As you can see, no matter how big the star is on your squad, Vanderbilt, Tennessee, Texas and Georgia (well, NCAA in Georgia’s case) have shown that nobody is above the rules. They have shown that no matter what, they have morals and take every incident that happens with their program will be taken very seriously no matter how big or small the situation is and are willing to take a big blow to their possible good season. Obviously Vanderbilt’s season is shot and has been pretty much all season but is willing to make a statement that nobody is above the rules and regulations. Tennessee just recently proved that with suspending AJ Johnson isn’t really a favorable move for the program and certainly not well liked by the Volunteer nation but he is willing to take the flack from fans no mater what the cost. Charlie Strong sure is showing that building character among a young group of men should be a priority by showing such discipline that maybe a bit harsh by some or many but I believe it’s for all the right reasons.

Discipline builds character. Letting star players on your squad run free, basically letting them do whatever they want to do and making them believe they will get away with it won’t be a good thing for them later down the road. As far as not punishing Jameis or the players that allegedly did a hit and run last month, you’re only giving them the feeling that they are invincible and that could be damaging to them later on in their lives. Kudos to you coach Mason, Strong, Franklin and Jones, you’re doing these kids a favor in my opinion. Jimbo and Florida State, not impressed with you. You’re not doing these kids a favor when they leave the school and go out into the real world. Take a few pointers from Strong, Mason, Franklin and Jones.

I guess Vanderbilt needs to be reminded…

Well, the complaining still roams throughout Nashville and Vanderbilt nation; Mason this, Mason that, it’s nothing new.

With Vanderbilt on a bye week this week, the Commodores are 3-7 and still looking for their first victory of the season in the SEC. Their remaining schedule is at #1 Mississippi State and here at home against Tennessee. More than likely, the ‘Dores are going to finish their season at 3-9 with a winless SEC record. As you know, this is Derek Mason’s first year as a head coach anywhere. Maybe he is way over his head, maybe not, but think about this for a second; Is this the first Vanderbilt head coach to win just 3 games in his first year of coaching? History tells me this isn’t the first time, not at all.

Now, I’ve only been living in Nashville for a little over two years, so I can’t really say that I am just Mr. Know It All when it comes to Vanderbilt football. To be honest, I didn’t know that Vanderbilt was here in Nashville until I moved here back in October of 2012 from a little small town in southern West Virginia. However, I have done some research on Vanderbilt’s history and have covered the ‘Dores since April of this year. I knew nothing of Vanderbilt football except for Jay Cutler, probably Vanderbilt’s most famous football player to make it to the NFL, but lately, he seems to be popular for all the wrong reasons. Maybe Matthews will take his place up there in Philadelphia for the Eagles.

According to the research I have read and gathered, the trend of a first year head coach at Vanderbilt getting 3 or fewer wins in his first season isn’t something new. In fact, it’s perfectly sane and not out of the norm at Vanderbilt. If you got more than 3 wins at Vanderbilt your first year as head football coach, consider yourself a God in the eyes of Vanderbilt nation.

Art Goupe: 3-7

John Greene: 1-7-2

Bill Pace: 2-7-1

Steve Sloan: 5-6

Fred Pancoast: 7-4

George MacIntyre: 1-10

Watson Brown: 1-10

Gerry Dinardo: 5-6

Rod Dowhower: 2-9

Woody Widenhofer: 3-8

Bobby Johnson: 2-10

Robbie Caldwell: 2-10

James Franklin: 6-7

You can clearly see that out of all the coaches I just named and their record their first year, 4 out of 13 of those coaches had a record of more than 3 wins a season. When you do the math, the average first year coach at Vanderbilt has a winning total of 3 games. Mason is currently 3-7 and all signs point to 3-9 to finish off the season. Will he get that fourth win? Maybe but it doesn’t look like he will get that fourth win unless both Mississippi State and Florida don’t show up on gameday.

So, Vanderbilt nation, why are you all so shocked to see Mason having just 3 wins this season? Perhaps the high hopes that Franklin left behind before jetting for Penn State after last season gave you those high hopes (yeah, I can see that) but look at what Franklin left behind. NOTHING! Mason was dealt a pretty bad hand. He really didn’t have much to work with. Everybody that was anybody during the Franklin era left with Franklin and all you got were a bunch of young players that need to mature. Not only that, but they are learning a new defensive and offensive scheme.

However, in the coaches second year, just 6 of the 14 coaches improved to a better record in their second year. Will Mason be number 7? It’s honestly tough to say by looking at their schedule next year. In my opinion, Vanderbilt’s schedule looks more tough next year than this year. The majority of their toughest games are away. Mason’s second season doesn’t appear to be any easier than this year.

So, Vanderbilt nation, I hope that my trip down memory helped you remember that this isn’t something new for you guys. This is a reoccurring thing for you all. Stop complaining that Mason sucks at this, Mason sucks at that. If you are going to give him crap, then you better give the other coaches in your past the same amount of grief as you have given him. Stop complaining and take it as it is, it’s an every first time head coaching thing for you all as history shows. Just go with it and hope for the best.