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Penn State Football: Even With Footnotes, Franklin Eyeing Important Win Saturday

by on January 01, 2016 2:00 PM

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. 

In the end nobody reads the footnotes. 

When Penn State and Georgia update their record books with a win or a loss following Saturday's game there won't be an asterisk. There won't be any mention that the Bulldogs were in transition. There will be no mention that Penn State had an interim offensive coordinator.

All anyone will see is a win, or a loss.

Sure, people will remember but it won't really matter. 

And that's the feeling you get talking to Penn State all week leading up to Saturday's noon kick. All anybody wants is a win, and for a program that hasn't picked up a victory since the final day of October, it would be a long time coming to get back on the right side of the scoreboard.

That's the most immediate focus, but there are other, larger storylines at work. A win would give Penn State its first 8-win season since 2012 and only the third season of more than 7-wins since 2010.

That in its own way is progress. A small step forward on a long journey past recovery and into becoming a nationally relevant program in ways that go beyond recruiting and big crowds.  

"I think obviously taking a step from last year is really really important and ending the season on a real positive note against a historic program on a national stage," Coach James Franklin said on Friday inside EverBanks Stadium.

"And then sending out these seniors the right way, these seniors who have been through more than maybe any other seniors in the history of college football. So I think it's very important. You know we approach every game like it's the super bowl, like it's very important, but I don't think that there is any doubt that there are probably 15 different reasons why this game is important for this season and for these seniors and also for the direction of the program."

A win would without a doubt give Franklin something to hang his hat on. He would be 4-1 in bowl games and on a four-game win streak in the postseason. A 39th career victory as a head coach and a 57% winning mark in Happy Valley. For the program it would continue a trend towards something more positive.

If nothing else, it's something tangible fans are able to grasp. Recruiting and behind the scenes progress is evident, but nothing calms choppy waters like winning. In a season that has had many ups and downs, Penn State can end a chapter of the program's history with a victory, an occasion not always available.

"I don't think that there is any doubt that a lot of progress has been made in a lot of different areas," Franklin said, a not-so-silent battle cry of his throughout the season. "Do we still have progress that needs to be made? No doubt about it. I think like most things 95% of our fans and 95% of the people who follow our program, they get it, they understand all of the progress and all of the positive things that are going on right now."

In the end he isn't wrong. 

But a win on Saturday would go a long way towards proving it.



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