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B1G 2022, Penn State of the State: Can James Franklin return the Nittany Lions to the highs of 2016?

Who’s got the best cheesesteak in Philly?

NCAA Football: Penn State Spring Game
Here, have some wholesome content.
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At the suggestion of the inimitable misdeavus79, we’re not wasting our time with any kind of half-assed, namby-pamby appetizer or salad – the situation doesn’t merit it, and Penn State football is too urgent to talk about on an empty stomach.

So let’s head to S 9th and E Passyunk, stand on the corner, and be racked with indecision over whether we dumbass Midwestern tourists should go north to Geno’s Steaks or south to Pat’s King of Steaks for a nice, fattening cheesesteak.

Invented in the 1930s when Italian hot dog cart owner Pat Olivieri tired of tubesteaks and moved to beefsteak sandwiches with grilled onions on a toasted roll, over time the sandwich evolved into a bundle of mini debates as Geno Vento entered the conversation: what kind of chopped meat (Geno claimed he introduced ribeye), which cheese to put on the Amoroso roll, whether you order “wit” onions or not…but regardless, it’s a fatty staple of the Philadelphia scene.

Its own controversy over whether we credit Pat for inventing the sandwich or Geno, in his own words, for “perfecting” it notwithstanding, we Midwesterners may enjoy kvetching over what kind of cheese you should be putting on a cheesesteak. Wikipedia lays out for us the options of American cheese, provolone (“for aficionados”), or Cheez Whiz (unironically, to the New York Times, the “sine qua non” of cheeses). So, writers:

1. Pat’s or Geno’s? Ever thrown a battery at Santa?

2. What’s your preferred cheesesteak, and why?

3. Any “fancy vs. functional” cheese debates where you are? (i.e. what cheese goes on pizza, what cheese is stuffed into the Jucy Lucy, etc.)

WSR: So…I’ve never had one. Not out of a lack of desire, I assure you, but from a lack of trips to Philadelphia. It’s just never been that high on my list, so the opportunity has never appeared. Hopefully someday I’ll change that and get to throw a battery at Santa. And maybe eat some sandwiches.

And it goes without saying that MNW nailed it with the Jucy Lucy mention. My approach is to subscribe to the Blue Door philosophy of “PUT EVERYTHING INSIDE THE BURGER” which makes selecting the right cheese (cheddar, not american) rather pointless.

Townie: What most of you miss is the fact that a cheese steak isn’t about the steak. It’s chipped beef, for crying out loud. The real goodness is in the roll (Amoroso’s or GTFO). I like mine with american cheese, grilled onions and ketchup. That’s it.

I’ve had both Geno’s and Pat’s, but I preferred Larry’s (may his shop rest in peace). Here’s a little secret…most of the cheesesteak joints in State College suck. It’s tough to find a decent cheesesteak outside of Philly and Southern NJ.

misdreavus79:

  • Either one. Having lived through Santa Con in New York, there were times where I truly wish I had thrown a couple batteries at them…
  • My preferred cheesesteak is one without cheese, because whenever I eat cheese I pay for it later, in one form or another.
  • My cheese debates begin and end with “what cheese can I eat and live with the consequences later” vs “how many plans will I need to cancel if I eat this shake shack order they got wrong the day before I go hiking and puke a literal chunk of cheese the morning of?”

LPW:

  • Nope, never thrown a battery at santa
  • I don’t think I’ve ever had a philly cheesesteak. It’s on my bucket list.

Kind of…: I’ve had both, but have no preference between the two. It’s almost a cliche to argue that Jim’s is better, but, well, Jim’s is my go-to in Philly (though it’s been a while). I’ve never thrown a battery at Santa, but the take that makes some want to throw a battery at me is that, in terms of Philly fare, the roast pork sandwich with sharp provolone and broccoli rabe is simply superior to a cheesesteak. But it’s true. If I’m eating a cheesesteak it will typically be with provolone, but I’ll get reckless and go with Wiz on occasion.

Townie earned my undying respect for his Amoroso’s position. But then he lost it with the ketchup thing.

BoilerUp89: I plead ignorance over Pats v. Genos and I plead the fifth over throwing batteries at Santa. Provolone.

Poll

Pick’em:

  • 9%
    Pat’s
    (6 votes)
  • 9%
    Geno’s
    (6 votes)
  • 50%
    Somewhere else
    (32 votes)
  • 31%
    Who’s this now?
    (20 votes)
64 votes total Vote Now

Football

Now that your stomach’s churning a little bit, let’s consider the facts in much a similar way to the cheesesteak debate: unnecessarily pointedly and with leading questions designed to end in a pew-clearing brawl at a baptism. You know, the Philly Way!

A far cry from its Big Ten Championship 2016 season, Penn State went 11-2 in 2017 and 2019 but then started 0-5 in the COVID-augmented 2020 season–finishing 4-5–and did it almost in reverse in 2020, starting 5-0 with wins over wisconsin and Auburn before losing 6 of their last 8. RB Noah Cain took off for LSU, WR dynamo Jahan Dotson is off to the NFL, and even with those two, Penn State had been a lower-half offense in FEI for the last two years! Hell, Pitt took the coveted Lambert-Meadowlands Trophy in 2021. PILING MORE CHEEZ-WHIZ ON THE SANDWICH.

…or is this news of Penn State’s demise something I made up just to sell newspapers get clicks inject life into our grim slog to Northwestern-Nebraska in Ireland? Sean Clifford’s injury at Iowa in 2021, then cemented in the Illinois debacle by James Franklin’s boneheaded decision, played a large role in that collapse…though it’s not as if these were massive losses without Clifford: by 3 points at Iowa, a hilarious 2 points at home against Illinois in the 9-overtime “thriller”, 9 points at Ohio State, by 4 points at home against Michigan, and by 3 points at Michigan State. Penn State brings in, as misdreavus noted this morning, the #6 recruiting class in the country, headlined by the best RB and QB in the class. New DC Manny Diaz brings with him a pedigree and motivation to bounce back into a head coaching job. Sean Clifford’s back and healthy, we think. Maybe James Franklin’s not out of bullets, he just needed to reload.

So, writers:

1. Can James Franklin return Penn State to the heights of 2016?

2. Assess his job security for what feels like the seventh straight year–is he safe, or could Penn State finally tire of Franklin on the job? What would have to happen for his departure?

WSR: Can he? Sure. Will he? I doubt that we’ll see it this year. I think they’ll be the team to watch in 2023.

I’m sure Franklin’s job security at PSU is just fine. It’s my understanding that the fanbase will be quite opposed to firing coaches no matter what kind of disaster they oversee. Anyway, he’d be in a much better place if he would have kept Kirk Ciarrocca instead of scapegoating him for all of the disasters that happened in 2020.

Townie: Clifford’s injury at Iowa pointed a spotlight on a hitherto unknown problem…our backup quarterback sucked. We didn’t realize it at the time, but the kid was out of his depth. Ta’Quan Roberson had a total of 7 pass attempts prior to going in for Clifford against #3 Iowa.

His stat line (7 of 21 for 34 yards and 2 picks) is actually better than he looked. I blame the coaches - QB coach, OC, and ultimately Franklin. The team’s utter collapse was a morale killer. And they never played him again.

Which meant Clifford played hurt against Illinois and we lost in umpteen overtimes to Bert. Something I can’t forgive.

Without those two losses, 2021 looks like a different season. We still probably lose the OSU, UM, and MSU games. But I would argue that the MSU game was a lackluster performance. If we are a two loss team instead of a four loss team, who knows.

I still don’t have a good answer for why Roberson was so ill prepared as our second string QB. Especially since we saw third string (true freshman) Christian Veilleux come in vs Rutgers and play well. He made some great throws to Parker Washington in that game including this TD.

This season, we have a clear starter at quarterback (Clifford) and second string (Veilleux). So I feel much better about our situation if Clifford gets hurt again. In addition, they have continuity in offensive coordinator (for the first time in Clifford’s fifteen years as QB).

I think Penn State could be sneaky good in 2022.

As for Franklin’s future, I think it’s clear that he’s entrenched. He’s 57-34 at Penn State. And it’s clear that he can build excellent, championship caliber football teams - both with players and coaches.

If he wasn’t our head coach today, he would probably be #1 or #2 on our candidate list. In short, he’s staying for a while (barring some catastrophe).

misdreavus79: Yes. And, if the general expectation that the Big Ten will do away with divisions comes to fruition, it’ll be even more realistic. I don’t foresee Penn State dropping Ohio State as a yearly opponent anytime soon, since it’s usually the second-highest rated game each season behind ThE gAmE™, so the question is whether they get both the Buckeyes and Michigan State as yearly opponents, or whether they get stuck with Rutgers and Maryland.

If it’s the former, they go back to the pre-divisions era, where they cycled through everyone and played Ohio State and Michigan State every year (and, most likely, Maryland). If it’s the latter, the likelihood that Penn State plays Wisconsin, Iowa, Ohio State, Michigan State, and Michigan in a single season are quite low. Not impossible, but pretty low.

But, your question: Yes. Franklin won the conference in 2016, and damn near won it again in 2017. A “down year” in 2018 was the only thing standing in the way of four consecutive double-digit win seasons. Penn State will need to address the line problem if they want to get there in 2022, but it’s certainly possible.

As per his job security, he may find himself in the hot seat if he has a terrible 2022, but fact of the matter is that he’s one of four active coaches with a conference title in the division era (Bielema, Harbaugh, and Day being the other three, and if you go East/West, that’s only three).

It’s more likely that he leaves of his own accord than he gets fired. I’ve probably mentioned this like 79 different times already, but Bill O’Brien found a program stuck in the ‘80s when he came into the job in 2012. He did as much as he could to modernize the program, but you can’t get much done in two years. Franklin has been spending most of his time doing the remaining work to get Penn State up to par with the schools deemed as their peers. So, if he gets tired of fighting with board members who liked it just the way it was, thank you very much, he may leave. But the admin knows quite well that, if they fire Franklin now, they’re going to have to pony up for someone even more expensive or risk never being relevant again.

Kind of…: Given the recruiting success, I’d think Franklin is safe through 2023 unless PSU goes something like 4-8 or worse this year. I don’t know that a return to 2016 is going to happen, but it’s not far-fetched. PSU almost beat Michigan last year, so it’s not like Michigan has lapped PSU, and the loss to MSU was close, and easily explainable. It’s the second toughest division in CFB. PSU is not far off.

BoilerUp89: Pretty much agree with Kind of… Absent the lack of a bowl combined with unappealing blowout losses to bad teams, Franklin should be safe for 2023. As for him getting back to 2016 - it’s not impossible, but I’m also not betting on it at the moment. Best way to get there might be Penn State getting Rutgers, Maryland, and Michigan State as their permanent 3 locked-in rivals.

Poll

How long is James Franklin in Happy Valley?

  • 57%
    For the foreseeable future.
    (57 votes)
  • 33%
    Until a better SEC job comes along.
    (33 votes)
  • 9%
    He’d better win by 2023.
    (9 votes)
  • 0%
    He’d better win by 2022.
    (0 votes)
99 votes total Vote Now