Penn State Football: Assessing James Franklin's Time At Vanderbilt
It's not a requirement to know everything about every program if you're going to be a Penn State football fan. Plenty of fans watch the game on Saturday and the rest of college football isn't really part of their lives. So when Penn State hired James Franklin, it's understandable if fans had never heard of him, or were questioning why a guy from Vanderbilt was the best option on the table.
So to help the learning process out a little bit, here is all you need to know about James Franklin's time at Vanderbilt.
Franklin called Vandy home for three years, the last two seasons going 9-4 each year with bowl appearances and bowl wins. Why is that remarkable? Well for starters, prior to Franklin coming to Vanderbilt, the program had not won more than 7 games in a season since 1982. Over that same span, Vandy had won fewer than 5 games in a single season a whopping 21 times. You have to go the whole way back to 1915 to find a 9-win season at Vanderbilt. Vandy also broke into the Top 25 in 2012, something the program hadn't done on a regular basis since the 1950s.
When you're building a program, losing to the wrong teams can kill your forward momentum. You have to be able to beat every team you're supposed to and only lose to teams clearly better than you. Disregarding a transition season in 2011, the 2012 and 2013 seasons were impressive if only because Vanderbilt only lost to good teams.
2013: Losses to No. 13 South Carolina on the road, No. 16 Texas A&M on the road, SEC title game participants Missouri, and a 39-35 loss to Ole Miss to open the season. The loss to Ole Miss the only "bad" one on the schedule. The 2013 season also included a victory over No. 15 Georgia.
2012: Losses to No. 9 South Carolina, Northwestern on the road, No. 5 Georgia on the road, and No. 4 Florida. The Northwestern loss would turn out to be a bad one, but was played in the early part of the season when the Wildcats were still making a run at the Top 25.
Critics will say that Franklin has never beaten an elite team on a regular basis. Wins over Tennessee, Missouri, Auburn, Florida, and Georgia aren't too bad though. And considering that Franklin was able to be so competitive in the SEC with a wide talent margin says a lot about his staff and his coaching ability. It's not so much about who Franklin was able to beat while he was at Vanderbilt as much as it's about how far along he was able to bring the program. If wins against Top 15 teams at a rebuilding program are an indication of success, very few coaches would ever make moves up the coaching ladder.
There is no doubt that Franklin will have to prove himself at Penn State, but there is equally little doubt that his success at Vanderbilt in the SEC was no small task. Given the resources and clout that Penn State has on its own, paired with Franklin it's easy to see why Athletic Director Dave Joyner was so keen on landing one of the up and coming coaches in college football.