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Coach speak with James Franklin

Franklin addresses job speculation again

A capsule look at James Franklin’s weekly news conference:

Opponent: Minnesota (8-0, 5-0 Big Ten)

Kickoff: Saturday, noon, TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis

TV: ABC

About the Gophers: They’re undefeated and ranked 13th in both polls. … Coach P.J. Fleck agreed Tuesday to a new contract through 2026. He will make $4.6 million a year starting in 2020. Fleck entered this season 12-13 in his first two years at Minnesota but has turned the program around in a hurry. … Gophers are coming off bye after 52-10 win at home over Maryland. They don’t have a great win but did throttle Nebraska (34-7) and Illinois (40-17). … QB Tanner Morgan 18 TDs and only 4 INTs while completing 65.3 percent. … RB Rodney Smith has 889 yards rushing and 7 TDs. … WRs Rashod Bateman (644) and Tyler Johnson (626) both have more than 600 yards receiving.

Last time vs. Penn State: Lions won key game in 2016 at home, 29-26 in OT, that jumpstarted their Big Ten title run.

Line: Penn State is favored by 61⁄2; over/under is 471⁄2

Here we go again: Florida State fired coach Willie Taggart, and Franklin’s name appeared as one of the top potential candidates in odds released by one sportsbook. Franklin and former Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops were listed at 5-to-1 odds, behind only Iowa State’s Matt Campbell (3-to-1) and Kentucky’s Mark Stoops (4-to-1). Franklin also is surely to draw speculation for the USC job again if the school fires Clay Helton.

Reaction to speculation: Franklin was asked how he handles the job speculation and if he addresses it with the team. “We work very, very, very hard at staying focused on the task at hand. That’s with everybody,” he said. “Whenever anything comes up, we try to address it, make sure everybody kind of understands where we’re at with everything — with coaches, with players, with recruits, with all of it. But we try to stay as focused as we possibly can on the task at hand. All those things that take away from that, we try to stay away from as much as we possibly can.”

Happy where he’s at: Franklin did end his answer by saying, “We love it here. Really enjoy coaching these guys and don’t really see that changing any time soon.” Franklin also had some fun with Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck, who has drawn speculation for various other jobs. “I’ve also heard P.J.’s name mentioned for a bunch (of jobs), so you guys could spend a lot of time calling him and talking to him about it and their program. … I would love for all you guys to call, though, call them, all week long.”

Proud of program: The 29-26 OT win over Minnesota in 2016 was a major turning point for the PSU program and helped lead the way to the Big Ten title. Now the program is a national power once again, all coming extremely quickly following the scandal eight years ago. “To be honest with you, I don’t know if it’s talked about enough in my opinion to think about how far we have come in the last eight years,” Franklin said. “It’s remarkable. … I’m very proud of it.”

The buy-in factor: Franklin gave a lengthy answer when asked how long it took for everyone to buy into his vision for the program after he took over in 2014. “It didn’t happen overnight,” he said. “Early on in that year we won the Big 10 championship, I think it started to be kind of ingrained in who we were and has kind of grown from there.”

As for the 1-0 mentality: “I think maybe early on, guys were saying ‘1-0,’ but not really living it and believing it,” Franklin said. “I think our guys are now.” He also pointed out, “Early on I thought we were memorizing the core values; we weren’t really living them. I think we’re doing that (now).”

— Compiled by Cory Giger

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