As a Pennsylvania native, James Franklin has a pretty good understanding of what the Penn State-Pitt matchup means to the Keystone State.
Most players in Saturday’s game who weren’t in kindergarten yet the last time the two schools met (2000), but Franklin saw the games and what it meant to the programs and state – albeit from a distance – during his lifetime.
Leading up to the game, one of the most-anticipated of Franklin’s tenure at Penn State, he was asked how he views the game, and if he thinks it’s a rivalry.
“I think obviously being in the same state and the past history of the game is really going to put a major emphasis on it. To me, a rivalry, there is no doubt it’s there from an historical perspective,” Franklin said. “But once again, to me, a rivalry isn’t something that you have to have a discussion about. The fans, the media, the players, the coaches, all view it that way.”
The third-year Nittany Lions coach also emphasized he wants to treat Saturday’s in-state showdown the same as he would for another game. Franklin recalled doing the same when he was at Vanderbilt and played an in-state foe in Tennessee.
“It’s like if you’re playing an opponent like Pitt or if you’re playing a top 25 or top 10 opponent or top 5 opponent or white out game, it’s not like I have to come in and tell them, guys, this is a white out game. I’m not sure if you know this is a big game for us. These things naturally happen without us emphasizing it.”
While Franklin and Penn State are keeping a normal course through the week, Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi has closed the Panthers’ practices and is not allowing players to talk to the media before the game.
Fans won’t be treating this one the same either at Heinz Field on Saturday when the two programs meet for the first time since 2000.