James Franklin learned a thing or two from his father, who served in the Air Force.
One concept in particular he’s put to use throughout his Penn State tenure, especially during Pitt week, is “SOP” — standard operating procedure.
With Panthers coach Pat Narduzzi shutting media out from speaking to players and an ever-present excitement surrounding Saturday’s kickoff from both fanbases, the spotlight turned to Franklin at his Tuesday press conference — and he’s not letting any of it change his thinking.
“You focus on the things you can control. Outside noise is not one of them. Expectations are not one of them. Cheers or boos are not one of them,” Franklin said. “So that’s why we don’t change our approach. That’s why I don’t provide access to the media one week and not the next, because our players know what to expect. Our media knows what to expect. Our fans know what to expect. I know what to expect. I wake up in the morning, I know exactly what I’ve got for the day, and I think there’s comfort in that, and I think there’s confidence in that when you have a routine.”
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At its heart, Franklin’s “SOP” is keying in on only the opponent the Nittany Lions face that week.
Everyone knows his focus last week was Akron, Akron, Akron, Akron.
Now, it’s Pitt, Pitt, Pitt, Pitt.
But even in dealing with a rivalry that dates back to 1893 — and an opponent that won 42-39 last season in the first meeting in 16 years — Franklin doesn’t subscribe to the belief that Penn State’s matchup against Pitt is any bigger than the game against the Zips a few days ago.
Sure, the fourth-year Nittany Lions coach understands the significance it holds for college football fans throughout the state of Pennsylvania. But from the sounds of it, that has zero effect on his staff and players.
“I don’t want people to take what I’m saying the wrong way. This is the Super Bowl for us because it’s the game we play Saturday,” Franklin said. “I guess what I don’t understand is, are we supposed to prepare harder this week than we did last week? ... I don’t get it. It never makes sense to me, and people get frustrated with it and all that kind of stuff.”
Now, of course, Franklin is aware of what’s being said prior to Saturday’s game. The coach said he reads and listens to everything.
So he knows that Narduzzi called the matchup a “rivalry” — a word Franklin doesn’t use to describe the current series — in his Monday press conference.
The Pitt coach also embraced the underdog role. Penn State is favored by 20 points on Saturday, according to Bovada Sportsbook. But Narduzzi said it shouldn’t make a difference, claiming that the Panthers were underdogs in last year’s three-point win.
Franklin, unprompted in his opening statement, essentially responded to that false statement. Pitt was favored by a touchdown in 2016.
“We were the underdogs from everything I saw,” Franklin added.
It was an interesting nugget from Franklin, who admitted in 2015 that he didn’t understand how point spreads work.
Outside of that, though, the coach’s message was as expected. He didn’t discount the history of the 97-game series, and he didn’t downplay the fans’ interest in the game.
But Franklin is leaning on his standard operating procedure this week — and that should surprise no one in the state of Pennsylvania.
“We’re not going to change our approach week in and week out. I’m not going to talk about one game differently than another,” the coach said. “It’s going to be consistent. That’s what most people ask for in life.”