STATE COLLEGE - Week four, or the third week of September, seems like a lousy time for an open date on a college football team’s schedule.
“I would have hated the timing of it if it was our only bye week,’’ Penn State coach James Franklin said Wednesday.
“Since we have two, I think it’s really good.’’
The Nittany Lions’ second bye comes in early November, between game eight (at Michigan State) and nine (at Minnesota). That one might be a critical, healing breather.
This one, less so for a remarkably healthy, 3-0 Penn State club ranked 13th in the country in the AP poll. Still, this week should be useful. There’s enough football on film now for self-scouting. It’s early enough in the high school football season for some serious recruiting groundwork to be laid.
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Penn State’s next opponent, Maryland in College Park Friday, Sept. 27, also had off this week. Franklin said the game plan for the Terps had already been put together. He and his coaching staff will “hop on planes, trains and automobiles,’’ to hit the recruiting trail Thursday morning, and return Friday night or early Saturday morning.
Since the Maryland game is on a Friday, the Lions’ usual Sunday game-week practice will be held Saturday. Franklin said he would likely hit the road again to attend high school games Saturday afternoon and evening.
The occasion for Wednesday’s media scrum was a scrimmage for non-travel players, although most of the squad was on hand. Michael Johnson, Jr. and Ta’Quan Roberson, the two true-freshman, scholarship quarterbacks in the program, took turns running the offense.
The scrimmage won’t help Franklin with a roster-management problem. He believes in playing a lot of people, and a lot of people have played so far, in a blowout of Idaho, a sort of delayed-release semi-blowout of Buffalo, and a tense 17-10 defeat of Pittsburgh last week, all at home.
But Big Ten Conference play begins at Maryland, and Franklin admitted that some thinning of the herd is in order.
“I think it’s a fine line,’’ Franklin said. “We try to balance the two - play the guys that we need to play enough to win the game but then also be able to get other guys in there to gain some experience.
“I know now everybody does it that way. Hopefully over time, both (the first and second teams) are executing at a championship level, so you don’t really see it or feel it when those (reserve) guys are out there.’’
In other news, Penn State announced that the football team has agreed to be featured in the HBO TV series “24/7 College Football,’’ an all-access type-program that will air at 10 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 9.
“It’s an opportunity to get our program out there on a national scale and allow people to see behind the curtain a little bit,’’ Franklin said.