Penn State coach James Franklin said he understands why people "connect the dots" between his team's record potential outside distractions, including other jobs. But Franklin asked fans to assess his "track record" across nearly eight seasons before drawing any conclusions.
"I get it," Franklin said Tuesday at his weekly press conference. "We’ve been in the same situation before and have had really strong seasons. I think you’re also in a situation, obviously this year, where we’ve lost some games that we had a chance to win, and our record looks a little bit different. So I get that people are trying to connect the dots there. All the things that I’m able to control, I’m controlling."
Penn State hosts Rutgers on Saturday having lost four of its last five games, including last week's 21-17 decision against Michigan. And for much of the season, Franklin has been asked about being mentioned as a potential candidate for vacancies at USC and LSU.
That Franklin might be distracted became a discussion point prior to Penn State's game at Ohio State, when the coach referred to the Buckeyes as "Illinois" three times and said his team faced "a tremendous challenge on the road to the Big House" when playing at Ohio Stadium.
"But I get it. I understand the business, I understand people’s concerns," Franklin said. "Again, I would just state, looking at my track record over my time here, eight years, my actions, my behaviors, I think they’ve been pretty consistent really since I’ve been here."
Since beginning the season 5-0, Penn State has lost four games by a combined total of 18 points. Three of those opponents were ranked in the top 10 when Penn State played them.
"We have played really good opponents close and had opportunities to win," Franklin said. "A few plays in either direction, and we have huge wins, huge wins. Then obviously, you’re always trying to recruit and improve your roster and create as much competition as you possibly to bring out the best in everybody. … You’re talking about a team that has been very, very close and has had some significant battles and challenges to work through."
Franklin also reiterated his position about being competitive year-round, a commitment he asks of himself, his staff, the players and the university.
"And that goes back to the point that I've made since I got here," Franklin said. "This is the most competitive sport in college athletics, and you have to be willing to compete in everything year-round. The margin of error is very, very small. And you have to be willing to commit. And it's not the Saturdays — the Saturdays are a part of it — but you have to be willing to compete 365 days a year with what everybody is doing in 2021."
Asked Wednesday after practice whether the program's current level of competition represents the team's play in 2021, Franklin said this:
"I understand the question. I would need some time to kind of answer that question. This is something that I've been talking about for eight years, Hopefully we'll be able to get into specifics here soon."
Penn State is 66-32 under Franklin, who will coach his 100th game with the program in the regular-season finale at Michigan State on Nov. 27. Franklin will become just the fifth coach in Penn State history to coach 100 games.