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Still no change in plan with running backs

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

Opponent: Michigan (5-1, 3-1 Big Ten)

Kickoff: Saturday, 7:30p.m., Beaver Stadium

TV: ABC

About the Wolverines: Their lone loss came at Wisconsin in week three, 35-14, but they’ve been tested by Army (24-21 win in 2 OT) and Iowa (10-3 win). … Offense has really struggled at times, particularly in the loss to Badgers and other two close wins. … They were up 28-0 at Illinois last week before Illini rallied within 28-25. Michigan went on to win, 42-25. … Coach Jim Harbaugh getting a lot of criticism this season, and that will intensify if Wolverines finish poorly. They could lose this game, then they’ve got Notre Dame next week and close of course with Ohio State.

Last time vs. Penn State: Wolverines won at home in a rout last year, 42-7.

Line: Penn State is favored by 9; over/under is 451⁄2

Still rotating RBs: Despite Noah Cain’s impressive showing at Iowa (102 yards) and consistency (team-leading 310 yards), Franklin still plans to use the four-man tailback rotation. “We’ve got four running backs that we really like,” Franklin, repeating what he’s said all season, noted Tuesday. He then went on to add, “There’s going to be a week where I come in here and you guys are talking about Devyn Ford being the next great running back at Penn State. There’s going to be a week I come in and it’s going to be Journey Brown. There’s going to be a week that it’s Noah Cain, and there’s going to be a week that — yeah, Ricky Slade. And all four of those guys have the ability to be as good as there is.”

Staying on good terms: Franklin did add that, since the running back competition is so close, each player needs to make sure and continue to prove himself in every way. “You’d better not miss class,” the coach said. “You’d better do everything you’re supposed to because we’ve got the type of competition right now, if you give us one reason (it could hurt you). That’s what you want. You want that at every single position.”

Mum on overturned TD: Franklin didn’t want to get into the subject when asked if he received any feedback from the Big Ten about the overturned touchdown on tight end Pat Freiermuth at Iowa. “I mean, I did, but it’s not appropriate to talk about here in this setting,” Franklin said. “If they want to say something, they’ll say something. I’m not going to speak on behalf of the Big Ten.”

Short on production: Justin Shorter was expected to develop into a major contributor this season, but the big receiver has only eight catches for 100 yards through six games. He returned to action at Iowa after missing a game following a hit to the head against Purdue. “We’re very excited about Justin, and he’s done some great things,” Franklin said. “But he’s basically missed two games because the game he got injured in and went out of the game, he didn’t play the rest of that game and then missed the whole next game. I think that’s really it. He’s got a very bright future.”

Packing them in: Beaver Stadium’s official capacity is listed at 106,572, but it can hold a good bit more than that. Franklin wants an incredible atmosphere for the game and was asking out loud the maximum number of fans the stadium can hold. “What can we get? I mean, what can we really get in there?” he said. “Scott says 112,000 is what we can get in there, and then I think another 300,000 tailgating, another 600,000 alumni watching all over the country and the world, and then hopefully we can recruit another 500,000, maybe borderline Penn State fans that we can get on board with us this weekend.”

Big recruiting weekend: The whiteout game is always big for recruiting, and this showdown is no exception. “The environment is really important for the future of our program,” Franklin said. “Obviously it has an impact on game day and how we play and how challenging we can make it for their offense. It also has an impact that there’s going to be a bunch of young players sitting in those seats or hopefully standing in the stadium and feeling the energy that we have in this town and the energy in the stadium and say, hey, this is where I want to play.”

— Compiled by Cory Giger

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