Penn State Preview: Michigan

Each week, we’ll tell you what to expect, what to keep an eye on, and where and when you can catch the Nittany Lions this football season. Let’s breakdown all the info you need for Penn State’s matchup with Michigan.

Game Details: No. 6 Michigan at Penn State. Noon ET kick-off. Broadcast is on ABC.

Venue: Beaver Stadium.

Weather Forecast (via AccuWeather): Clouds and breaks of sun; cooler with a brief shower or two; cold enough during and after the game for wet snowflakes. High of 43.

The Line: Michigan -1.5 (via SI SportsBook)

All-Time Series: Michigan leads 14-10.  

Last Meeting: Penn State won 27-17 last season at Michigan Stadium.

Last Week: Penn State snapped a three-game losing with a 31-14 win over Maryland. Michigan rebounded from a tough loss at Michigan State by thumping Indiana, 29-7.

Penn State v. Maryland (Steve Manuel/The Football Letter)

Other Big Ten Games This Weekend: 
– Northwestern at No. 18 Wisconsin (Noon ET, ESPN2)
– Rutgers at Indiana (Noon ET, BTN)
– No. 19 Purdue at No. 4 Ohio State (3:30 PM ET, ABC)
– Minnesota at No. 20 Iowa (3:30 PM ET, BTN)
– Maryland at No. 7 Michigan State (4 PM ET, FOX)

Throwback Classic: 2008. Penn State 46, Michigan 17.

The week leading up to the showdown against the Wolverines was typically jovial at University Park.

Fans camped outside Beaver Stadium starting on Monday, and hundreds of alumni helped dedicate the Alumni Walk at the Hintz Family Alumni Center on Friday. In between, all the usual wonderment enveloped Happy Valley during Homecoming of the 2008 season. Then, the game started, and the good vibes changed.

Read more in our From The Archives story from 2019.

Penn State v. Michigan 2008 (Steve Manuel/The Football Letter)

The Lead: After going more than a month without a victory, Penn State finally got back in the win column with last week’s 31-14 win over Maryland. It wasn’t always pretty, but you could tell from the postgame celebrations from players and coaches it meant a lot to get the weight of the losing streak of their shoulders. Michigan, meanwhile, showed no signs of a letdown from a crushing loss to in-state rivals Michigan State two weeks ago, cruising past Indiana 29-7. Both teams started the season with aspirations of a Big Ten title. That goal is still very much in the frame for the Wolverines. Penn State is all but out of the Big Ten East race, but the Nittany Lions can play spoiler to the two Michigan schools down the stretch. That starts with Saturday’s game.

Penn State Wins If: The Penn State offense plays to its potential. It feels like that hasn’t happened very much this season. Last week, the Nittany Lions were able to overcome a sluggish offensive performance thanks to Jahan Dotson going nuclear and the defense playing another great game. To beat an opponent at the level of Michigan, the offense is going to have to play a lot crisper. Mike Yurcich is going to need to be at his best calling plays. Who knows, though, maybe Jahan will make me look silly for saying that by following up his 242-yard effort with a 300-yard effort to propel Penn State to another win.

Michigan Wins If: The Wolverines don’t settle for field goals. I probably sound like a broken record at this point, but every opponent Penn State has faced this season has struggled to finish off drives with touchdowns. At times, particularly in the loss to Michigan State, the Michigan offense has put together good drives and only ended up with three points once they reached the end zone. The Wolverines can’t afford to settle for field goals again or the narrow defeat to the Spartans is going to be repeated.

Penn State v. Maryland (Steve Manuel/The Football Letter)

Keep An Eye On: Penn State’s offensive tackles. The offensive line has been pretty disappointing for the Nittany Lions this season. Michigan has two outstanding defensive ends in Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo, both of whom will be playing on Sundays. The Nittany Lions OTs are going to have to have a great game to give Sean Clifford time to find Dotson, Parker Washington and other skill players.

Trivia Tidbit: Despite being two of the most successful programs in college football history, Penn State and Michigan had never played each other until 1993. The Wolverines won that inaugural meeting 21-13.

Number To Know: 829. Running back Hassan Haskins leads Michigan with 829 yards rushing this season. That’s good for fourth-best in the Big Ten.
12. Penn State has held opponents without a score in 12 of 34 red zone possessions this season, including three stops at Maryland.

Membership Note: If you aren’t using the Alumni Library, you’re missing out on one of the most valuable benefits of membership in the Alumni Association. Find out how logging in can give you access to a treasure trove of knowledge, including tools that can enlighten, inform, enrich, and entertain you—or even provide information you can use to astound your coworkers and delight your boss! Click here for more info.

Listen to ‘The People of Penn State’ podcast at alumni.psu.edu/podcasts. 

Podcast: Our guest for this week’s episode of ‘The People of Penn State,’ is Daniel Berlin ’92. Dan has never let his vision loss affect the life he wanted to live. He is co-founder and former CEO of Rodelle, a world-leading vanilla extract company, and the co-founder and president of Team See Possibilities, a non-profit organization which empowers young people with vision loss to thrive. Dan has also traveled the world as an endurance athlete and advocate for the blind. Dan joined us and discussed coming to terms at a young age with his vision loss, the founding of Rodelle, the impact of Team See Possibilities, and his experiences as an endurance athlete. Listen to the show today or check out the video version on YouTube.

Score Predictions:
John Patishnock: Penn State 21, Michigan 17
Vincent Lungaro: Penn State 24, Michigan 20



Penn Staters At The Next Level: Week Nine

Hard to believe we’re already through the halfway point of the NFL season. Nine weeks down and nine to go.

It was a quiet start to Pat Freiermuth’s NFL career, but the rookie has officially entered the spotlight for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Freiermuth is quickly becoming a fan-favorite in the Steel City.

“MUUUUUUUTH,” as Steelers fans have dubbed Pat in the mold of “HEEEEEEATH” for former tight end Heath Miller, caught two touchdowns in Pittsburgh’s Monday Night victory over the Bears.

Freiermuth is now tied with Falcons star Kyle Pitts as the two highest-rated rookie tight ends in the league, according to Pro Football Focus. Pretty, pretty good.

Mike Gesicki, Tight End, Miami Dolphins

Welcome back to the win column, Dolphins fans. Miami snapped a seven-game losing streak on Sunday by topping the Houston Texans, 17-9.

Mike Gesicki made some spectacular grabs in the Miami win. Despite all the struggles for the Dolphins this season, Gesicki has been a constant bright spot. He leads the team with 529 receiving yards on the season.

Micah Parsons, Linebacker, Dallas Cowboys

While Micah Parsons hasn’t appeared on our countdown each week, it certainly seems like he has.

Dallas’ six-game winning streak came to an end in a 30-16 loss to the Denver Broncos, but Parsons shined once more. He led the Cowboys with 10 tackles while also recording 2.5 sacks.

If he’s not the NFC Defensive Rookie of The Year, it will be an outrage.

Ultimate Competitor

Safety Ji’Ayir Brown called sophomore cornerback Joey Porter Jr. (9) “the ultimate competitor.” Porter ranks fourth on the team in tackles (40) and has broken up four passes this season. Photo credit: Steve Manuel

A little more than midway through the third quarter of Penn State’s clash with Ohio State last month, the Buckeyes were driving. Deep. In fact, they were only about a yard or so away from a touchdown, with the score tied at 17.

The Nittany Lions stuffed a couple runs. Then, quarterback C.J. Stroud threw to wideout Garrett Wilson, who was matched up 1-on-1 against Penn State sophomore cornerback Joey Porter, Jr. In a goal-line situation, Porter didn’t have any help. It was just him against Wilson, the guy in front of him.

Porter broke up the pass, tangling with Wilson in midair to knock the ball away. After the play, Porter jumped up and shook his head. Not in a cocky way. More confident, sure of himself. Essentially, he was saying, “You’re not going to beat me 1-on-1.”

Ohio State settled for a field goal.

This is just one example of how Porter embraces the times when he doesn’t have help in coverage.

“I love those moments,” Porter said. “Those moments are for a corner to really show what he’s about, really put it on for your team, especially when you know the play is coming to you. One-on-one, there’s nothing you can do about it but defend it. I like stepping up to the challenge, I like those 1-on-1 matchups. You really get to see who’s better, me or him. I enjoy that.”

Porter ranks seventh on the team in tackles (40) and has broken up four passes while pulling in an interception. He also recovered a fumble and returned it for a touchdown against Auburn, though the play was called back because of a penalty. Following the game in Columbus, we recorded his postgame media availability, and you can see that on our YouTube page.

“Joey Porter, he’s the ultimate competitor,” safety Ji’Ayir Brown said. “He might be the most competitive guy on the defense. Joey, he loves to compete. He loves the 1-on-1 matchups you get. He loves going against the best. It’s a blessing to have a corner like him to be able to watch him play and watch him do the things he does very well.”

Against Maryland last Saturday, Porter recorded five tackles, one of six Nittany Lions to tally five or more. Photo credit: Steve Manuel

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The Roaring 20: Penn State-Maryland

It wasn’t always pretty, but Penn State is back in the win column and snapped a three-game skid with a 31-14 win over Maryland on Saturday. Here are 20 insights from this past weekend.

1. Jahan Dotson is special. Hands down the biggest takeaway of this weekend was the play of No. 5. There have been some great WRs in Penn State’s history: Bobby Engram, Chris Godwin, Allen Robinson II, KJ Hamler, Kenny Jackson, OJ McDuffie, DaeSean Hamilton, etc, etc. It’s time we put Jahan Dotson’s name near the top of that list. He’s a special, special player.

2. Dotson set a Penn State single-game record with his 242-yard effort against the Terps. Add in the fact he scored all three of Penn State’s offensive touchdowns on the day and that might have been the best single-game performance from a Penn State wide receiver.

3. With Penn State suddenly tied 14-14 early in the fourth quarter following a touchdown and two-point conversion from Maryland, the pressure was on the Nittany Lions offense to come up with something to spark the team back into life. Dotson answered the call, streaking down the middle of the field and into the end zone for a huge strike.

4. Now, back to the start of the weekend. Always great to come down to the Washington, D.C. area and see a terrific turnout from the vast amounts of Penn Staters in the area. Great mixer event Friday night in D.C. at The Admiral put on by our Metro Washington, D.C. Chapter.

5. Speaking of great turnouts. Penn Staters showed out and brought the energy at our Pep Rally before kick-off on Saturday. Catch the full Pep Rally livestream recording on our Facebook page.

6. I always enjoy seeing the warm reception longtime editor of The Football Letter John Black gets on our travels. Penn Staters always seek him out to exchange stories and thank him for all the great Letters he’s scribed over the years. He and Football Letter photographer Steve Manuel got a nice ovation during our Pep Rally program.

7. I’m going to reference a great turnout from Penn Staters a third time. There was PLENTY of blue and white in the stands at Captial One Field at Maryland Stadium, including the entirety of the Penn State Blue Band.

8. Here’s the Blue Bands halftime pertformance.

9. Another great showing from the Penn State defense on Saturday. The Nittany Lions stood up time and time again when the offense struggled to develop a rhythm.

10. Despite only putting up 14 points, I came away pretty impressed by Maryland QB Taulia Tagovailoa. The Terrapins quarterback was 41-of-57 for 371 yards and made some challenging throws in tight coverage. Without a couple drops from his receivers and that statline looks even better.

11. The Nittany Lions’ running game was better if not great. Nittany Lion backs combined for 109 yards. Penn State ended with 93 yards rushing because college football takes sack yardage into account (that’s really dumb, but that’s a conversation for another day. You still feel like this group lacks that dynamic rusher to give this offense a different dimension.

12. Always great to hear the Alma Mater after a W, especially on the road and especially to end a three-game losing streak.

13. As always, plenty of great postgame coverage from John Patishnock. Can’t say enough about the work he’s done this season. If you’re not following The Football Letter Twitter account, you’re missing out on a lot of great video coverage from him that you can’t get anywhere else.

14. Penn State is now 15-1 all-time at Maryland, and Penn State fans let Terps fans hear about it after the game.

15. I mentioned Jahan Dotson’s historic day earlier. Check out some of these eye-catching notes about Jahan’s day and season. Give this man the Biletnikoff Award, please!

16. Awesome moment postgame with James Franklin, Jahan…and a Penn State baby! Check it out below.

17. Penn State has some terrific student-athletes, and three of them are up for the Senior CLASS Award. An acronym for Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School®, the Senior CLASS Award honors the attributes of NCAA Division I senior student-athletes in four areas: community, classroom, character and competition. The award program is designed exclusively for college seniors who are utilizing their complete athletic eligibility, remaining committed to their university and pursuing the many rewards a senior season can bring. Nittany Lions Sean Clifford, Jonni Parker and Pierre Ready are up for the award. Vote for them at this link.

18. Two early goals propelled Penn State Men’s Soccer to a Big Ten Tournament opening round win over Michigan State. Survive and advance!

19. At the time of writing, we’re still waiting on Penn State Field Hockey’s selection to the NCAA Tournament. It’s almost a certainty the Nittany Lions hear their name called, it’s just a question of who and where they will be playing.

20. See everyone at Beaver Stadium on Saturday. Go State. Beat Michigan.

D.C. Chapter Connection ‘Best Thing’ About Postgrad Move

Metro Washington, D.C. Chapter President Meghan Maffey ’17 greeted a packed room of Penn Staters in downtown D.C. this evening, with thousands of alumni and friends traveling to Maryland for the Nittany Lions’ showdown with the Terrapins on Saturday afternoon. Maffey said the mixer “is a great opportunity to bring us all together. Photo credit: Steve Manuel

So, it’s a funny story.

This is how Meghan Maffey began explaining how she became a Penn Stater. It wasn’t always a lock. It just feels that way now.

Maffey grew up in New Jersey, and she doesn’t like the cold. Don’t worry Meghan, you’re not alone there. Though after visiting the University Park campus in May, when it was still snowing — yes, that happens in State College sometimes in the spring — she was hooked. Specifically, she was wowed with the history of the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications, the knowledge of the faculty and staff of the college, and the overall atmosphere of being on campus.

Going in, she didn’t think Penn State stood a chance. But soon, Happy Valley became the runaway favorite.

“We got in the car after the tour and I looked at my mom and said, “I’m going here.”

Fast forward to Friday night, when Maffey, a 2017 Penn State grad and communications major, greeted more than a hundred alumni and friends to downtown Washington, D.C. That’s part of her role as president of the Alumni Association’s Metro Washington, D.C. Chapter, a position she relishes considering how big of an impact Penn State’s had on her life.

“There are so many Penn Staters that are in this area,” Maffey said. “It just is a really great opportunity to bring us all together and really just shows everybody that Penn State shows up and that we are here and we are proud to be here.”

Penn State Alumni Association President Anand Ganjam ’15 (far right) joined with alumni who were thrilled to see the Penn State Cheerleaders and Nittany Lion at the Friday night mixer in downtown D.C. Photo credit: Steve Manuel.

Maffey immediately became involved with the Washington, D.C. Chapter after graduating. Initially, she helped with the chapter’s THON support, starting as the fundraising lead before becoming the communications chair. Then within the last year, she became president.

The crowd she greeted was diverse: recent alumni, Penn Staters of different generations and backgrounds. That’s not entirely surprising, considering Maffey correctly points out that there are a lot of Penn Staters in the D.C. area. There are nearly 25,000 Penn Staters living in Maryland, and tens of thousands more in neighboring states, still not counting Pennsylvania.

You can see an archived version of tonight’s program featuring the Penn State Cheerleaders and Nittany Lions on our Facebook page. You can view a slightly different angle of the Nittany Lion’s entrance and cowbell performance. The latter is available on our Twitter page.

Going back to Maffey, there’s a lot of substance behind her story. Her previous career stops include interning in the Washington National’s brand marketing department and National Geographic’s production and post-production management. Currently, she works for a recruiting and employment staffing agency in the area. Having a healthy Penn State network has helped her professionally. With the Nationals, Maffey’s supervisor was a Penn Stater. Same for her hiring manager with National Geographic.

She said Penn Staters love taking care of Penn Staters. Maffey would know. The transition period after graduating can be uncertain, uncomfortable, and perhaps even a little rocky. That’s perhaps to be expected. Thanks to the support Maffey received from fellow alumni, there were smooth spots to even things out.

Now, she’s in a position to give back as someone who’s both successful and familiar with the area. Now, Maffey fits right in.

“I didn’t know anybody down here, and the best thing I got out of moving to Washington D.C. is being part of the chapter,” Maffey said. “I’ve made connections, I have gotten jobs from being a part of the Alumni Association. It’s just a great experience, and I’m so happy and so thankful to be president of the chapter.”

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Penn Staters At The Next Level: Week Eight

Missing starting quarterback Dak Prescott, the Dallas Cowboys needed their defense to play at a high level on Sunday night. They did just that and former Nittany Lions Micah Parsons was a big part of it as Dallas came away with the 20-16 win.

Parsons recorded a team-high 11 tackles, including four tackles-for-loss as the Cowboys D bottled up Dalvin Cook for 78 yards on 18 attempts.

Micah was subsequently named NFC Defensive Player of the Week for Week Eight.

Blake Gillikin, Punter, New Orleans Saints

A third-straight appearance in this rundown for Blake Gillikin? You bet ya!

Gillikin was his usual terrific self in Sunday’s win over the Buccaneers, sending off three punts for an average of 52.7 yards and a long of 63 yards.

Gillikin’s stellar play has earned him NFC Special Teams Player of the Month

Pat Freiermuth, Tight End, Pittsburgh Steelers

Four catches for 44 yards and a touchdown for Pat Freiermuth as he continues to find a bigger and bigger role within the Steelers offense.

Freiermuth also had one of the plays of the weekend in Sunday’s win over the Browns.

Check out this circus grab for six.

Chris Godwin, Wide Receiver, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Another great week for Chris Godwin in an otherwise disappointing day for the Bucs.

Godwin snagged eight 140 yards and a touchdown.

Penn State Preview: Maryland

Penn State v. Maryland 2019 (Steve Manuel/The Football Letter)

Each week, we’ll tell you what to expect, what to keep an eye on, and where and when you can catch the Nittany Lions this football season. Let’s dive into this week’s preview or Penn State and Maryland, with the blue and white looking to get back on track and snap a three-game skid.

Game Details: Penn State at Maryland. 3:30 PM ET kick-off, broadcast on FS1.

Venue: Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium, College Park, MD.

Weather Forecast (via AccuWeather): Mostly sunny with kick-off temps around 55 degrees.

The Line: Penn State -10 (via SI SportsBook)

All-Time Series: Penn State leads 40-3-1.

Last Meeting: Maryland topped Penn State, 35-19.

Last Week: Penn State fell on the road to Ohio State, 33-24. Maryland defeated Indiana 38-35.

Penn State v. OSU 2021 (Steve Manuel/The Football Letter)

Other Big Ten Games This Weekend: 
– No. 5 Ohio State at Nebraska (Noon ET, FOX)
– Illinois at Minnesota (Noon ET, ESPN2)
– No. 3 Michigan State at Purdue (3:30 PM ET, ABC)
– No. 21 Wisconsin at Rutgers (3:30 PM ET, BTN)
– No. 22 Iowa at Northwestern (7 PM ET, BTN)
– Indiana at No. 7 Michigan (7:30 PM ET, Fox)

Throwback Classic: 2017. Looking to secure a New Year’s Six berth, Penn State left nothing to chance in the 2017 regular season finale in College Park. The Nittany Lions used three total touchdowns from Trace McSorley and three more from backup QB Tommy Stevens to rout the Terrapins, 66-3. Penn State led 31-0 at halftime, finished with 534 yards and didn’t give up a touchdown. The Nittany Lions went on to win the Fiesta Bowl over Washington, 35-28.

Penn State v. Maryland 2017 (Steve Manuel/The Football Letter)

The Lead: A pair of 5-3 teams will face one another in College Park this weekend, looking to set themselves up for a strong finish to the regular season. Penn State battled Ohio State closely last week but ultimately suffered its third-straight loss. Maryland got back on track after three-consecutive losses of its own with a win over Indiana. If Penn State has any real hopes of landing in a warm-weather bowl game at the end of the season, it has to win this game. Maryland, meanwhile, has matchups with No. 3 Michigan State and No. 7 Michigan looming in the next two weeks, so this presents an opportunity to secure bowl eligibility ahead of the regular season finale at Rutgers in a few weeks time.

Penn State Wins If: The Nittany Lions show the kind of effort and energy they did at Ohio State. Eighteen-point underdogs in Columbus, Penn State showed a ton of fight at The Horseshoe last week, which makes the lethargic display against Illinois a week prior all the more frustrating. Sean Clifford looks almost all the way back to his normal self and that’s huge as Penn State gears up for the home stretch of the regular season. It’s a given at this point that the Penn State defense is going to hold an opponent in check enough to give its offense a chance to win. If Penn State can move the ball effectively the way it did for most of the game against the Buckeyes, the Nittany Lions should win this game.

Maryland Wins If: Taulia Tagovailoa takes care of the football and the Terrapins finish off drives. When Tagovailoa has been good this year, he’s been really good. Last week against Indiana he was terrific, completing 26-of-40 attempts for 419 yards and two touchdowns. The problem in losses for the quarterback has been turnovers. He threw seven interceptions in Maryland’s three-game losing streak to Iowa, Ohio State and Minnesota. If he avoids turnovers and the Maryland offense can finish off drives with touchdowns — something just about every opponent has struggled to do against the Penn State defense this season — the Terrapins can hang with the Nittany Lions and pull off an upset.

Penn State v. OSU (Steve Manuel/The Football Letter)

Trivia Tidbit: Jahan Dotson and Parker Washington are the first Penn State receiver duo with multiple 100-yard games since 2014 when DaeSean Hamilton and Geno Lewis did it. Dotson caught a career-high 11 passes for 127 yards against the Buckeyes, while Washington snagged a joint career-high nine catches for 108 yards. That follows up their 100-yard performances against Villanova earlier this season.

Numbers To Know: 11.5: Arnold Ebiketie’s 11.5 tackles for loss this season leads all Power Five defensive linemen.
1. Quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa has only thrown one total interception across Terrapin wins this season. He threw seven in the three losses.

Membership Note: The Penn Stater magazine is now available in its entirety online at pennstatermag.com, and if you’re a member of the Penn State Alumni Association you have full access to the site’s content. To access the full contents of the site, visit pennstatermag.com and log in with your email address and Alumni Association ID number. You can find your ID number at the bottom of emails you receive from the Alumni Association.

Listen to ‘The People of Penn State’ podcast at alumni.psu.edu/podcasts.

Podcast: ICYMI: The Alumni Association recently launched a new podcast, ‘The People of Penn State.’ Episode One featured Tokyo 2020 Paralympian and alumni volunteer leader Jake Schrom ’11, while Episode Two saw us joined by US Air Force First Lieutenant, San Francisco 49ers Cheerleader, and Entrepreneur Haley McClain Hill. Access the show at alumni.psu.edu/podcasts!

Score Predictions:
John Patishnock: 31-21
Vincent Lungaro: 28-17

Building Momentum

Managing emotions plays a key role anytime the Nittany Lions travel, like they did last weekend to Columbus. Penn State hits the road again this week, with a 3:30 p.m. kickoff Saturday against Maryland. Photo credit: Steve Tressler.

James Franklin remembers how things used to be.

The day before a game, players and coaches would quiet down, tighten up, and get emotionally juiced 24 hours before kickoff. The idea being that you needed to be laser-focused that far ahead in advance.

This is going back to Franklin’s days playing high school football, and college ball at East Stroudsburg, and even as recently when he first became a college head coach.

Times have since changed.

Through talking with people and looking at studies, Franklin said this approach has shifted over the last 10-15 years.

“You don’t need ’em locked in mentally and emotionally and physically that long before the game, where there’s no talking on the bus ride to Maryland, that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense,” Franklin said Tuesday afternoon during his weekly press conference. “So, what we do is we build up. You should be able to feel a difference. Say you got a Friday dinner and you’re playing a Saturday night game like we had last week — the Friday night dinner should still be focused, but guys should be enjoying themselves with their positions and going through their test and tip sheets.”

Onward State photographer Mira DiBattiste captured the scene at Ohio Stadium as Penn State football arrived.

That evolution continues the next morning, with Franklin saying team breakfast should feel different than dinner, with the intensity naturally increasing up until when the team leaves the hotel, when Franklin says the team should be totally locked in on the bus ride over to the stadium.

The speed at which the intensity rises can change depending on kickoff time. At Wisconsin, for example, kickoff was at 11 a.m. local time. That’s a difference of eight-and-a-half hours from Saturday in Columbus. Think of it this way: You act differently if you’re flying out at 6 a.m. the next morning, then if your flight leaves in the afternoon or evening.

“I’m focused and not doing too much and staying calm,” offensive lineman Rasheed Walker said of his night-time routine before a game, which includes studying the aforementioned test and tips sheet. “When I wake up the day of the game, I wake up and I’m tuned in.”

Something that James Franklin emphasizes is consistency in all areas of his program, including pregame preparation on the road. Photo credit: John Patishnock

Of course, there’s a human element at play. Looks can sometimes be deceiving, and reality may not match up with perception. It’s why they play the games, as the saying goes, which is one major reason why college football is beloved on a level rarely seen in other areas of society, at least across the entire country.

This juxtaposition can also be bewildering for coaches in charge of leading their teams onto the field. Franklin recalls speaking with fellow coaches in his profession, both new to the game and more experienced, when they’ve seen their teams appear to be too loose leading up to a game, and then the players go out and play their tails off (Franklin’s words). The exact opposite can be just as true, Penn State’s head coach said.

So, for a guy who’s a big believer in routine, what’s there to do? Stick to a familiar approach, prepare the same way, and account for the unexpected as much as possible.

“It’s kind of hard to read and there’s so many different factors that kind of go into that,” Franklin said. “That’s why we try to keep our process as consistent as we possibly can.”

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