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James Franklin, Nov. 2014

The difference between good and elite was the theme of James Franklin's meeting with the media after Penn State's practice Wednesday.

"When you're outside the top 25 and you haven't been in and you're trying to get in, that's a battle, and it's hard,'' Franklin said. "Once you get in the top 25, it's challenging to get in the top 10. Once you get in the top 10, the gap between that and the top four or five programs, that's more of a significant gap than any of those other stages we talked about.''

The topic was Franklin's new contract with Penn State, announced Tuesday, which will pay him at least $7 million per year through 2031, and, he believes lays out a blueprint for Penn State to span that gap.

"It's recruiting it's facilities, it's scheme,'' Franklin said. "It's coaching, it's fundamentals. It's strength and conditioning. It's nutrition, because you can lift all you want, but if you don't have a training table, ...

"Those little margins that you're scratching and clawing for, they all add up. And, I think you guys know, we've been close.''

Not so much this year, though. The Nittany Lions are 7-4, 4-4 in the Big Ten heading into Saturday's regular-season finale at Michigan State (3:30 p.m.).

Penn State battled through a nearly team-wide flu big to beat Rutgers last week. Starting QB Sean Clifford and his newly-experienced backup, freshman Christian Veilleux, both took snaps and looks healthy during the portion of Wednesday's practice open to the media.

"We still have some guys fighting through the (flu) virus,'' Franklin said, "but we're in much better shape than we were a week ago.''

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