What's on Penn State head coach James Franklin's mind this week as his second-ranked team prepares for a night game in Happy Valley? It's hard to tell based on his response when asked how he dealt with a quickly-dispelled coaching rumor that popped up last week.
"Michigan, Michigan, Michigan, Michigan," Franklin said on Tuesday, referring to this Saturday's visitor to Beaver Stadium. He dropped nine consecutive "Michigan's" at another point in the same exchange in attempt to drown out what he sees as the many distractions swirling around his team at the start of the second half of the season.
Penn State is playing its "White Out" game this Saturday under the lights against the Wolverines. ESPN's College Gameday will be in town to take a closer look at Franklin's team, which jumped to No. 2 in the AP poll while sitting out for a bye week this past weekend. The Nittany Lions are 15-1 since an embarrassing, blowout loss to Michigan last October. That adds up to a lot of exterior storylines for Franklin to guard against. He said he's trying to keep his team focused on the same routine they have each week.
A report last week from CBS Sports that Penn State officials were preparing for Texas A&M to "make a run" at Franklin if they parted ways with current coach Kevin Sumlin added one more unexpected distraction to Franklin's pile. He responded last Friday by blaming the rumors on other programs doing their best to disrupt Penn State's recruiting efforts.
Recruiting is a crazy business, people will do anything to create drama
1. From PA
2. #3 Ranked Team
3. #3 Ranked recruiting Class#WeAre
— James Franklin (@coachjfranklin) October 13, 2017
On Tuesday, he said he was happy and "in a good place." He added that he only responded to the rumors on Twitter in an effort to point the focus back toward the upcoming game with Michigan.
"I wasn't going to respond at all to be honest with you," he said. "But our fans, they were wearing me out on Twitter. I think our players were perfectly fine. Our coaches were perfectly fine. I just wanted everybody to stop talking about it and let's start talking about Michigan, Michigan, Michigan, Michigan, Michigan, Michigan, Michigan, Michigan, Michigan. Not the white out, not the rankings, not last year's Big Ten championship, not any of these other things. I want to keep our team focused and keep our routine the same."
Franklin, who grew up in Pennsylvania, went on to say he and his family are enjoying life in State College. He told reporters he's lost 10 pounds recently, goes on regular walks and is eating healthy. Don't ask about the recipe for his green breakfast smoothies, though. That sounds like a distraction.