I originally intended this to be a post full of NSFW language, cussing out everyone from James Franklin to Phil Trautwein to the kit man who cursed the generations of greatness uniforms. Full on Roy Kent anger, shock and awe, take no prisoners, no holds barred.
But I find myself not angry. Not anymore. Truthfully, my anger faded somewhere around the fourth overtime in the loss to Illinois.
I’m left honestly just unsure of what comes next.
The offense is bad. Mike Yurcich’s system is still a work in progress, but with a less-than-100% Sean Clifford, it’s a work that may take another year to fully work at Penn State.
The offensive line can’t get much push in the run game, but getting rid of Phil Trautwein seems hasty, as Penn State hasn’t had a ton of stability at the OL coach position, and Phil is still working his guys into the mix.
The running backs can’t seem to find a hole or break a tackle, but Ja’Juan Seider’s recruiting ability means he’s not headed anywhere either.
The tight ends can’t seem to do anything right now, but Ty Howle is in his first year on the coaching staff, and I don’t see him getting the boot just yet.
The defense gave up a ton of yards on the ground, but the injuries on that side of the ball - the most prominent and noticeable of which is PJ Mustipher in the middle of the defensive line - mean there isn’t much that Brent Pry really can do.
The special teams have been fine, I guess, but rumor has it Jake Pinegar has had a nagging injury, so Jordan Stout is required to do all kicking duties. Perhaps the random missed field goal that pops up for Penn State goes away with one or two fewer injuries?
Then there’s James Franklin, the big man on campus. Should Penn State consider cutting ties with the head man? He’s undoubtedly pulled Penn State into modern college football, constantly vying for more money for assistant coaches, better facilities, and overhauling Penn State’s recruiting.
But will he ever get over the 2-loss hump? Will he ever get over the bad losses following not-so-bad losses? Will he ever take Penn State to the playoffs? Or, heaven forbid, a national championship?
I don’t know the answer to those questions, but the flip side is - who is better out there that Penn State could realistically get? Phrased another way - who out there is a 100% better option than James Franklin?
Luke Fickell? Matt Campbell? Jeff Hafley? Brent Pry?
The reality is, Penn State isn’t going to land Nick Saban or Dabo Swinney. Neither Kirby Smart, Ryan Day, nor Lincoln Riley are coming to State College. If Penn State decides that the constant roller coaster under Franklin is too much, or his continuous flirtation with other schools is too much, and decides to move on, the Lions are going to take a gamble on an up-and-comer.
So again, I’m simply left with wondering what now. If you take away the injuries, Penn State is a top 5 team. With a slew of injuries - including to your game-stopping DT and #1 through #100 QB - the Lions are a .500 team. Can the coaches do much about it? If not, whom do you look to replace any of them with?
Penn State is stuck at the moment, in that also-ran category. College football purgatory, if you will. But there isn’t a clear direction that they can take to get over the hump. So do they ride it out until James finally sets sail for greener pastures, and hope that his improvements are enough for the next coach to get them there?
Or should Penn Staters simply accept that the ceiling for their favorite team is a New Year’s Six bowl, and to stop getting their hopes up that this is the year they finally make the playoffs.
Simply put: what now?