Franklin not looking for changes to Playoff system

CHICAGO — Penn State has been in the hunt for a College Football Playoff berth the past two seasons but didn’t make it, and there are plenty of reasons to believe the program will indeed reach the Final Four in the not-too-distant future.

James Franklin was asked about the CFP selection process during Big Ten media days Monday and said, “I like the current system.” He also probably surprised some people when he said, “I didn’t have a whole lot of problem with the system before it (the BCS).”

The only issue Franklin has with the CFP is that it can be difficult for the committee to compare teams because the scheduling in college football varies so much.

“Whenever you have a subjective system like we do, you want to control as many of the variables as you possibly can,” Franklin said. “And right now, when you’ve got a group of people trying to decide who is going to make the playoffs and they can’t compare apples to apples, makes it really challenging.

“When we get to a point where everybody’s playing under the same scenario, I think that would be the best situation. So the amount of conference games across the entire country, every conference is doing it the same way, we’re all playing the same number of conference games. We’re all playing FCS opponents or we’re not. We’re all playing the same number of Power Five out-of-conference opponents, things like that.”

Despite the fact that Penn State has barely missed the four-team playoff a couple of times, especially in 2016 after it won the Big Ten, Franklin is not a fan of expanding the field.

“I’m not on the same page with that,” the coach said. “This game, we started out playing 10 games, then we went to 11 games and then 12 games, and now with the playoffs you’re talking about 15 games. That’s a lot of games.

“We haven’t expanded the rosters. I do think that what we’ve done this year with the redshirt rule really helps with that because coaches and players get into some challenging situations where late in the season you have an injury and you’re trying to decide whether you’re going to burn a kid’s redshirt season for one game or two games at the end of the season. I think that was a really, really positive rule for our student-athletes and for the game as a whole.”

Biggest concerns

Franklin addressed Penn State’s biggest question marks during the opening statement of his press conference Monday.

For once, the offensive line is not among those, as Franklin said he’s “excited about that group.”

“I do think our offensive line, for the first time since we’ve been there, becoming a strength is going to help with (losing several key offensive players),” the coach said.

There are two main concerns, however, on the defensive side of the ball.

“Defensively we have more question marks,” Franklin said. “Probably the biggest question marks for me going into the season are at defensive tackle. We graduated three senior tackles there. And at linebacker, specifically in our mike linebacker.”

There has been a lot of talk recently about Manny Bowen potentially coming back to the team, which would conceivably help the middle linebacker depth. Bowen was kicked off the squad prior to the Fiesta Bowl for a violation of team rules and still does not appear on the roster, although there have been rumors that he has been trying to work his way back into favor and onto the squad.

Franklin wouldn’t get into the Bowen situation Monday. The coach said there have been no roster changes and that he would address one if it arises.

McSorley honored

Quarterback Trace McSorley was the only unanimous pick of the 10 players named to the conference’s preseason honors list, selected by the media.

The senior has been labeled the best quarterback in the country by several publications and already has broken numerous Penn State records.

Franklin was presented with a bit of a loaded question when asked to compare the development of McSorley to his predecessor, Christian Hackenberg. The coach didn’t bite on talking about Hackenberg, who already had been at PSU for a season before Franklin arrived.

“Trace is really the first quarterback that we’ve been kind of with from the beginning, all the way back to the recruiting process,” Franklin said.

“Trace is a guy that you look all the way back to Little League, all he’s done is won,” the coach added. “Been highly, highly productive. Universally respected throughout our entire program, has done things the right way.”

Calling McSorley “steady Eddie,” Franklin praised the quarterback’s consistency from day to day.

“The thing about Trace that we love so much is that you know what you’re getting from Trace every single day, not just on game days, but practice, offseason, community service, academically,” Franklin said.