Penn State vs. Ball State - NCAA Football

Penn State head coach James Franklin, walks into Beaver Stadium as the team arrives to take on Ball State in an NCAA football game in State College Pa. Saturday September 11, 2021.

Five takeaways from James Franklin’s weekly press conference:

1. Today’s big story that may or may not be a story: USC, one of the country’s biggest name-brand programs, fired coach Clay Helton Monday.

Predictably, Franklin is on everyone’s list of potential replacements. He was asked to address it Tuesday and did. Sort of.

“I can’t stand any form of distraction,’’ he said. “I’ll discuss this today with the leadership council (captains and selected players) so that we make sure all our energy is on our preparation for Auburn.’’

2. All-new Auburn: No. 22 Auburn comes to Penn State for a prime-time (7:30 p.m.) White-out game Saturday. The Tigers present some preparation problems. The head coach and both coordinators are new. The previous coach played a very unusual style. Auburn’s first two games were blowouts against substandard competition.

“Are you watching Boise State tape? Are we watching Vanderbilt film? Are we watching Georgia film, Colorado State film, South Carolina film?’’ Franklin asked, referring to recent stops of Auburn head coach Bryan Harsin, and coordinators Mike Bobo and Derrick Mason.

“When you get into a game and it’s a blowout early on, those late-game reps aren’t as important, as realistic (in terms of) information, … It makes it a little bit challenging. You just don’t have a whole lot to work with.’’

3. Penal system: Penn State’s execution and performance through two weeks have been remarkably clean with the exception of penalties, 13 of them, including two targeting ejections.

“There’s a couple penalties that we need to get cleaned up,’’ Franklin said. “Especially the pre-snap and post (play) penalties. They’re the ones you can’t tolerate as a head coach. That’s really what we’ve been talking about.’’

Franklin dismissed the suggestion that lack of discipline or focus are culprits.

“There’s a lot of different area that you would look at when you talk about discipline and focus, … I think I would describe us as that type of team,’’ he said.

4. Scheduling in neutral?: Asked about how the home-and-home series with Auburn, and such non-conference matchups in general, happen, Franklin took a surprising detour.

“I’m a big fan of neutral-site games,’’ he said. “It makes a lot of sense, rather than committing to a two-game series, playing a neutral site game where both sides can treat it, in some ways, like a home game, in terms of the gate.

“And maybe you get into a region of the country where your fan base may enjoy it, and get to see a different kind of venue. It’s something to consider.’’

The only neutral-site, regular-season game Penn State has played in the Franklin Era was vs. Central Florida in Ireland in 2014, and that was Bill O’Brien’s idea, not Franklin’s.

5. White-out mania: Saturday’s game is 2021’s designated annual blizzard of white clothing and noise at Beaver Stadium, and Franklin lavishly pumped up the cause Tuesday.

“First of all, if you’re a sports fan, you need to have a White-out on your bucket list,’’ he said. “We need every seat filled. If you’re not using your ticket, for whatever reason, make sure that somebody else is.

“I am willing to buy throat lozenges for the entire fan base if that means we have the most challenging environment in all of sports.’’

Franklin then asked an aide for the name of a lozenge company.

“I’m willing to but Hall’s (throat drops) for everybody that loses their voice, … Hall’s, we’d appreciate your support on this, too.

“We want (Auburn) to go back to the SEC and say, you know what, what they do up at Penn State is special. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anything like it.’’

What to Read Next