College football coaches all face the same opening-week dilemma: Do they want to play a tough opponent right out of the chute, or ease into the season with a soft opponent that's essentially a preseason type of game?
James Franklin had no input on Penn State's opener this season since it was already on the schedule when he got the job, but he sees value in playing a quality foe such as Central Florida.
"I do think there some advantages playing a big opponent the first game of the year, to get the guys juiced up and excited," Franklin said after PSU's practice Thursday.
Franklin knows plenty about having a tough task in week one. The past two years at Vanderbilt, he opened up against Ole Miss and South Carolina, respectively. His first season in 2011, Vandy took it easy with a home opener against Elon.
There will be no taking it easy Saturday against UCF, and Franklin knows it.
"The biggest thing is they've got nine (defensive starters) returning from a team that won 12 games," he said. "They've got experience, they've got confidence, they know how to win. And I think more than anything else, they play sound and they fast."
Keep Hack safe
Franklin mentioned once again that a heavy focus will be placed on keeping quarterback Christian Hackenberg safe, something that could be difficult playing with such an inexperienced offensive line.
"We're doing some things in the way we're calling the game and things like that to try to help (the O-line)," Franklin said. "If you help them, you're helping Hack, and that's really what we're trying to do.
"We've got to be smart because, I think when you've got a quarterback like Hack, you want to throw the ball. But to help him out for a lot of different reasons, we've got to be able to run the ball, we've got to commit to the run and we've got to be able to protect him."
Front and center
The quarterback's rapport with his center is always key for an offense, so it should help that Hackenberg and starting center Angelo Mangiro are very good friends.
"Our relationship's awesome," Hackenberg said.
"He's a great friend of mine, great teammate and ultimately one of the guys that's worked extremely hard this offseason."
Mangiro didn't play much last year, even though by the end of the year he was second string at both guard spots and at center.
"Now it's his shot to be the man up front," Hackenberg said.
Franklin showed a lot of respect to Irish sports when discussing the national game of Gaelic football.
"That's a national treasure to them," he said. "Sports are very, very important in this country. I think the whole thing has been surreal in a lot of ways. We think about history in our country, and we're thinking, what, 200 years? You talk about history in Europe and places like Ireland, it's a whole other level."
Franklin said the team "got a lot of really good work done" Thursday in practice, before the players took part in fun Irish games afterward.
Today will be a typical game-week Friday for the team, which will have its normal walk-through practice and take part in meetings at the hotel.
Franklin said he does not like to have a walk-through at the stadium when he goes on the road, so the team will not take part in one of those at Croke Park Stadium.