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Penn State Football: What Going 1-0 Would Mean

by on November 12, 2020 8:40 PM

Penn State needs to go 1-0 this week.

It's not just coachspeak.

It really needs a win.

Who knows how more chances there will be in 2020, anyway?

The season could end tomorrow.

(Games cancelled this far: Four in the SEC, Pitt vs. Georgia Tech, and two of three service academies, Air Force and Navy. The service academies? The 2020 college football season tally so far: 64 cancellations involving 55 teams.)

A Penn State victory in Lincoln against Nebraska (0-2) on Saturday, with an 11 a.m. local time kick-off, would:

Mean that Penn State is negative, which is a positive.

Halt a slide for the Nittany Lions, who are 0-3 for the first time since 2001.

Be a first this fall for a Penn State sports team. Any sports team.

Tie Penn State's all-time record for victories in a Pandemic Season. (Penn State went 1-2-1 in 1918, beating Lehigh, 7-6; tying Wissahicken Barracks, 6-6; and losing to Rutgers, 26-3, and to Pitt, 28-6.)

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Quell an unhappy fan base. For a week, at least, until winnable/losable games against Iowa, Michigan, Rutgers(?), Michigan State and a potential Champions Week game against a yet-to-named Western division foe.

Change the ratio of nasty comments to James Franklin's weekly Opponent, Opponent, Opponent Sunday-night Tweets: @coachjfranklin posted 27 Nebraska's in a row on Twitter on Sunday. There were 1,500 "likes," 252 retweets and, last I checked Thursday night, 358 comments. I did not read all the comments, but among the first 50, I categorized 33 as negative and 17 as positive.

Stop people from texting me and asking how much it would cost for Penn State to buy out Franklin's contract, which runs through December 31, 2025. So you know: $32.5 million, according to my math, if he were let go "without cause" on January 1, 2021 (CJF gets a $300,000 retention bonus on December 31, 2020).

His contracts reads, as shared by Penn State: "Current Yr. (Base + Supplemental + Loan) X number of remaining contract years." Here is what that is, with numbers according to his current contract as reported by Penn State on February 26, 2020: Current Yr. of 2021 (Base of $500,000 + $5 million supplemental pay + $1 million annual loan for life insurance) X 5 remaining contract years = $32.5 million.

Likely mean that Will Levis — who has a career stat line of 53 carries for 214 yards (4.02 ypc) and 3 TDs, and 28 of 47 (59.5%) for 223 yards passing, with 2 TDs and 2 interceptions — played at least a bit at quarterback against the Cornhuskers.

Prove to the Nittany Lions that they can win without Micah Parsons, Journey Brown and Noah Cain.

Be a first for new Penn State assistant coaches Kirk Ciarrocca (who on Saturday will be a Penn State employee for 324 days), Phil Trautwein (316 days), Taylor Stubblefield (300 days) and John Scott Jr. (280 days).

Give Penn State's football program 899 total victories, and pull it within three wins of Nebraska's 902 (seventh all-time; Notre Dame, with 915, and Oklahoma, with 913, are Nos. 5 and 6).

Be a first in the calendar year. And their first in the Big Ten Conference since November 30, 2019 (27-6 over Rutgers).

Likely improve Penn State's lousy 2020 season conversion rates, including 3-for-7 on fourth down, 2-for-6 on field attempts, 8-for-13 on red-zone scoring opportunities, 7-to-2 on turnovers lost and 13-to-8 on sacks surrendered.

Perhaps end a streak where Penn State has given up 35 or more points for a school-record fourth consecutive game.

Help balance a series that for quite awhile — as Franklin pointed out this week, "I was kind of surprised looking at it again. You know, we won (56-44) in 2017, but before that hadn't had a whole lot of success against the University of Nebraska" — Penn State has not done well, going 2-5 since that epic victory in Beaver Stadium in 1982.

Stop, for now, questions about Franklin's game management decisions, Sean Clifford's passing and a careless and undisciplined penalty rate that has increased by 46%.

Distract folks from the Nittany Lions' 0-for-10 showing in the recruitment of Pennsylvania's top 10 high school football players in the Class of 2021. (There are only 34 more shopping days until the early signing date of December 16, and Penn State ranks No. 37 overall, according to

Keep Franklin from having to open his press conference next Tuesday like he did earlier this week, when he took 1 minute and 59 seconds and 272 words to candidly — to his credit — outline 18 reasons why the Nittany Lions lost 35-19 to Maryland:

(1) "We did not win the turnover battle, which continues to be an issue for us. (2) We did not win the explosive play battle, the two most important stats in any football game. We were not able to win those two categories. To me, that was the difference in the game.

"You talk about areas where we need to improve: (3) We need to make more plays. (4) We need to break more tackles on offense, whether that's in the run game specifically or (5) even more in the pass game, to (6) create more explosive plays. (7) We got to create more turnovers on defense. That is something that is critical.

"(8) We got to protect the football on offense; the ball is the program. (There are the) (9) fundamentals of tackling pad under pad, making sure we're wrapping and not just throwing in shoulders. (10) We got to start faster in games... (11) And then we got to be more physical on both fronts, (12) protecting our quarterback and (13) being able to pressure their quarterbacks.

"Then we had opportunities on special teams (14). If you go back and watch the tape we had (15) kickoff returns that we had opportunities for touchdowns. (16) ...In all three phases we got to make sure that all 11 guys are consistently doing their job. Then the last thing is we just got to be more consistent with our (17) punt and (18) kick locations. So, those are those areas obviously we need to get better.

Bottom-line, then: Going 1-0 for the first time in 2020 would cure a lot of ills.

Mike Poorman has covered Penn State football since 1979, and for since the 2009 season. His column appears on Mondays and Fridays. Follow him on Twitter at His views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State University.
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