Franklin addresses USC rumors

The USC debate

Check out a video online of Cory Giger and Neil Rudel discussing all the elements that go into speculation about James Franklin and a potential USC job. Go to YouTube.com/AltoonaMirror.

By Cory Giger

cgiger@altoonamirror.com

James Franklin surely knew the question was coming, in some form, about speculation that his name could be in the mix for a potential opening at USC.

Franklin briefly answered such a question early on in his press conference Tuesday, then nothing else was mentioned about it to Penn State’s coach.

He was asked if he knew how the speculation started in the first place, and how he would like to address it.

“First of all, I guess it’s that time of year where all this stuff happens,” he said. “It’s that time of year. It’s the crazy, mad time of year, where these type of things happen.”

So, as you guys know, like always, we’re focused on Maryland completely, 100 percent. I don’t even think it’s fair or right to even be talking about that job from everything I understand about it. But we’re completely focused on Maryland.”

There is no USC job available right now because Clay Helton is still the Trojans’ head coach. But there’s been growing speculation that could change given that USC is 5-6, coming off a bad rivalry loss to a struggling UCLA team and closes with No. 3 Notre Dame.

The Trojans are looking at a 5-7 season and no bowl game, so if they are looking to change coaches, that decision could come as early as Sunday.

Why has Franklin’s name been mentioned as a possibility at USC? In these situations, it generally comes down to a coach’s agent getting his client’s name out there, and Franklin’s name has been out there in recent national media reports by some journalists he has been close with in the past, including FOX’s Bruce Feldman and USA Today’s Dan Wolken.

In short, Franklin’s name most likely is being mentioned for a potential USC job because he wants it to be mentioned for the job. That could be either because he truly wants the job, or he would use the situation as leverage to get more out of Penn State, such as more money for assistant coaches and facilities.

SUBHD: CFP update

Penn State moved up to No. 12 in the College Football Playoff rankings, released Tuesday night, which is significant. A team must be in the top 12 to be considered for an at-large bid to a New Year’s Six bowl game.

A win over Maryland would mean that PSU would be in very good position for either the Peach Bowl or the Fiesta Bowl, the two games that will feature at-large teams. Since Penn State went to the Fiesta Bowl last year, the Peach Bowl would be the more likely destination.

But what about the Rose Bowl? Is that still a possibility?

Actually, yes.

Ohio State is No. 10 in the CFP, and the Buckeyes host Michigan on Saturday. If Ohio State loses and PSU wins, both would be 9-3, and the committee would have to decide who it ranks higher.

The Buckeyes won at PSU, so that would give them an advantage. But Ohio State has struggled down the stretch, and if it gets blown out by Michigan, the committee could see the Buckeyes as faltering and drop them below Penn State.

If that were to happen — and assuming Michigan wins the Big Ten title game and reaches the Final Four — PSU could go to the Rose Bowl as the highest-rated Big Ten team that’s not in the playoff.

SUBHD: Respect for Terps

Franklin spent a lot of time Tuesday talking about Maryland’s strong running game, which produced 339 yards in last week’s 52-51 overtime loss to Ohio State.

Anthony McFarland had 298 yards on 21 carries, including TD runs of 80 and 75 yards in the first quarter.

“We know Anthony really well,” Franklin said. “He’s a DeMatha kid. He’s got over 1,000 yards, (8.2) yards per carry, and he can run. I mean, he can flat out run. You watch him on tape, he is fast and makes a bunch of big plays for them.”

The Terps employ a lot of misdirection runs, which are difficult to stop and require defenders to stay fundamentally sound.

“In a lot of ways it’s like option football,” Franklin said. “You may be responsible for the A gap, but then you see the motion fly by and the guy fakes it and you start to kind of drift out of your gap. Then all of a sudden, here comes that ball screaming through your A gap and we’re not sound.?”So it’s guys being disciplined enough to say, I’m going to do my job and I’m going to trust my teammate is going to do his job. So if I’m the force player or if I’m the contain player, or whatever it may be, A gap, B gap, C gap, whatever it may be, I’ve got to do my job and I’ve got to do it consistently.”

SUBHD: Praise for Simpson

Franklin had a lot of positive things to say about backup center Zach Simpson, a Hollidaysburg Area High School product who’s giving up his last year of eligibility and will play his final home game Saturday.

“We love Zach,” Franklin said. “Zach’s a great example. Mom and Dad have been awesome. They come to practice. I always see them walking into the games, and he’s a guy that legitimately has been in the two-deep for a couple years now. He’s a guy who has earned everybody’s respect; that the coaches have confidence putting in the game if we need to.?”He’s really done a nice job for us. In a lot of ways, we’d love him to come back. So a lot of these conversations, they are somewhat strange conversations that you have to have because some guys have eligibility left and you have to ask them, ‘Are you planning on walking or are you planning on coming back?’” … I couldn’t be more proud of him, the way he’s worked, how much he’s contributed on special teams. He’s been fantastic. We love him, love his family and been a big contributor to our program.”

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