Penn State Football’s Future Is Bright
James Franklin was announced as Penn State football’s new head coach on January 11, 2014. Franklin enjoyed a successful tenure at Vanderbilt, finishing with a 24-15 record, two AP Top 25 rankings and three bowl games. However, in Franklin’s first two seasons with Penn State, the Nittany Lions were a mediocre football team, finishing 7-6 both years. The team was searching for a signature win, a victory to help put behind the drama, upset and shame that followed Penn State the previous three seasons. A victory to show that the football program was finally heading in the right direction.
On Saturday, October 22, 2016, Penn State found that victory.
Trailing 21-7 to their bitter rivals the Ohio State Buckeyes in the fourth quarter, the Nittany Lions rallied to score 17 unanswered, highlighted by a block field goal return for a touchdown. Penn State was a 17-point underdog at kickoff, pulling off one of college football’s biggest upset in recent seasons. When the AP National Poll was released, Penn State entered the rankings at No. 24. It was the first time Penn State has ranked in the Top 25 since December 2011.
The immediate future has never looked brighter for Penn State. The Nittany Lions will likely be favored in all of their remaining games. A road tilt against Indiana looks like the most challenging matchup, meaning a 10-2 season is possible.
Penn State currently has 51 freshmen, 26 sophomores and only 12 seniors, tied for second-fewest in the nation with Baylor. Penn State boasts a young, talented, up and coming team in 2016. The key to sustaining success, however, is successful recruitment. Penn State’s upset over Ohio State may end up being a mirage if Franklin and the football program don’t take advantage.
There were over 150 recruits in attendance during the game. A lot of them were expecting Ohio State to dominate and maintain their status as a possible dynasty. Yet, it was Penn State that stole the show, showing recruits that they are a good team that needs just a little more talent to become a winner. The Nittany Lions put themselves back on the national map with their victory and poll ranking and recruits will take notice.
It won’t be easy to recruit however, as Penn State will need to continue to prove they are on the right track. A letdown against Purdue this week would significantly hurt, as everyone would begin to question the program again. Penn State needs to continue winning the games they are supposed to win. Franklin has done a good job of that thus far and his recruiting efforts have also been strong. Now, with the major upset, a spot in the AP Top 25, he has more than ever before to return Penn State back to their former glory.
Ryan Leonardo is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.