Big Ten media days are here, and so are the Nittany Lions.
James Franklin, along with Penn State seniors Trace McSorley, Amani Oruwariye and Nick Scott, are in the Windy City to answer questions about the Nittany Lions’ upcoming season, which kicks off Sept. 1.
Coming off a Fiesta Bowl win and yet another 11-win campaign, Franklin and his players should earn some attention this week. The Nittany Lions are set to speak with the media Monday afternoon with half of the conference, while the other half — Ohio State, Wisconsin and Michigan State included — will go on Tuesday.
Let’s take a look at three storylines to watch this week for the Nittany Lions.
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1. “The Man”
That phrase will be uttered to or about McSorley to no end on Monday. Saquon Barkley is gone, and it’s McSorley’s offense now. It’s his team. He’s the big man on campus. While a lot of it may be cliche, this is the storyline heading into Penn State’s season — and the questions, especially from national outlets, will reflect that. McSorley, a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate, is expected to shoulder the load in offensive coordinator Ricky Rahne’s first year as Joe Moorhead’s replacement. What will the offense look like? Can McSorley keep winning? How will the gunslinger handle the pressure?
The truth is, McSorley has been ready for this moment. He is extremely confident in himself. He always has been. And the quarterback will be reminding people of that yet again this week.
2. Wagering on the Lions
Sports gambling — which was legalized federally in May — will be a topic of discussion at Big Ten media days. Betting on Penn State was always legal in Las Vegas. But now that Delaware and New Jersey casinos have opened sports books — and Pennsylvania is in the clear to eventually do the same — there is some added intrigue with the relatively recent federal repeal. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany will speak Monday, followed by Franklin and more coaches. Delany surely will be asked about what effect, if any, the expanded betting world may have on the conference and its programs.
Penn State President Eric Barron asked last month that no betting on in-state schools be allowed in Pennsylvania for two years; the moratorium would be used to study an “integrity fee” and to “educate, train and protect” the student-athletes and coaches. How does Franklin feel about local fans legally betting on his team’s performance? The most recent open media session with Franklin was at his final stop on the Penn State Coaches Caravan on May 9 — five days before sports betting was legalized. Franklin, who is close to the vest about offering injury news, might have a thought or two on the possibility of Pennsylvania sports books.
3. CTE talk
North Carolina head coach Larry Fedora made waves at ACC Media Days last week — doubting the connection between football and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and claiming new safety rules will affect the fiber of America. “I fear that the game will get pushed so far to one extreme you won’t recognize the game 10 years from now,” Fedora said. “And I do believe if it gets to that point that our country goes down, too.”
Will a Big Ten player, coach or official top that scorching hot take? Probably not. But talk surrounding CTE — especially at an open forum event like media days — is unavoidable. And after Fedora’s rant, it will be interesting to see what Franklin and his peers say.