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Penn State Football: Even For One Of The Nation's Hottest Teams, A Break Is Welcome

by on December 16, 2016 2:30 PM

It's already, quite literally, the longest Penn State football season ever.

Maybe not in days, that belongs to one of those bowl seasons that started in late August, but 14 games is the most in a single season for the Blue and White. The Nittany Lions can thank a Big Ten championship game for that, but it's probably safe to assume they don't mind.

But even with all the momentum and all of the weekly grind, a break, even from a sudden bout of greatness, is a welcome sight for nearly everyone involved.

"Just allowing these guys some downtime physically to get their bodies back, emotionally to get their juice back and their spirits back," Coach James Franklin said on Friday at the team's Rose Bowl media day. "The confidence is there, and right now classes are going to be done, so it's going to be football. There's only certain times of the year where it's football only, and for us we don't get that in [summer] camp. A lot of schools get that in camp. Our guys go to class. I think we only have one week where we're not taking class during summer camp."

"I think our guys are looking forward to it. I look at it as a positive. Again, it's time off as being able to focus just on football. We've got a really good plan where we're not going to be out at practice too long. We want to keep them fresh, start to kind of introduce USC slowly, and then go full bore ahead."

Look around the room and its hard to argue that anyone is disappointed to have some time off. Jason Cabinda has spent time catching up with family, others simply getting healthy. Take quarterback Trace McSorley, for example. The season is bruised all over his body.

So a lot of ice packs the past few days?

"Honestly not that many," McSorley said with a smile. "I've just been resting and recovering that way."

Or take star running back Saquon Barkley who entered the Big Ten title game with an ankle injury and picked up a thigh bruise on his first carry of the game. Was he even ever 100-percent?

"Nobody is 100-percent in the Big Ten championship game," Barkley said with a chuckle.

By the time Penn State gets on the plane for Pasadena on Dec. 26 it will have been 23 days since the last time Penn State hit the field and 121 since the season began. When the Rose Bowl finally gets there on Jan. 2, it will have been 37 days since USC took on Notre Dame in its regular season finale.

All of this will make for an interesting dynamic, two of the hottest teams in college football taking a break before playing in perhaps the biggest bowl game of their careers.

"Like I said, over our six years together, we've had a good amount of success of getting better as the year has gone on," Franklin added. "In the entirety of the six years we've been together, we've done a pretty good job of that. That's Tim Bream and his staff, the trainers. We meet with them every morning at 7:00 a.m. and same thing with our strength staff and having a plan to make sure that we are peaking at the right time physically, emotionally, all those things, peaking at the right time for the game."

"And I think the other thing obviously where they have a huge advantage is it's a home game for them. We have to travel out there. We have to deal with time changes and all those types of things, and that's a factor, and all those things have to factor into our planning and how we approach it."

It's hard to argue though that Penn State hasn't been getting better each and every week. Even after falling behind 28-7 against Wisconsin the Nittany Lions took their usual second half comeback explosion to a whole new level. In the month of October it was Penn State averaging 42.5 points a game against the likes of Iowa, Michigan State, Indiana and Rutgers. The Trojans were just behind them with 38 points a game in the final month of the season.

So while the Rose Bowl might come down to several factors, which team doesn't cool off following the longest break of the season might just be the biggest.

Then again, the break might be exactly what both of these teams need.

Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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