Bad weather? First-game jitters? AP Top 25 poll votes?

Penn State coach James Franklin isn't worried about any of them.

He's only focused on one thing: the Akron Zips.

Coming off a high from last Saturday's thrilling victory over Central Florida, the Zips are next up for Franklin's squad. On paper, it doesn't look like much of a challenge for the Nittany Lions. But then again, that's exactly what Franklin is worried about.

Saturday's game has all the makings of what is often referred to as a "trap game." One that the team overlooks because the opponent is not held in high regard. It can be especially easy to do after a big win the week before.

But Franklin knows what he's doing. He isn't overlooking anything. After all, the Zips aren't as bad as you might think.

Last week, Akron amassed 513 yards on offense, 400 of which were through the air. It also posted 41 points while holding Howard to zero. Sure, the Zips were playing Howard, but still, the sheer numbers are rather impressive.

And they will be doing the hunting. Akron has the upper hand in that regard. The Zips don't have the pressure of it being the home opener. They don't have the possibility of a first Top 25 ranking since the unprecedented sanctions were levied hanging over their head.

All they have to do is play football. So, to level the playing field, that is exactly what Franklin is preaching to his team. All of the other stuff is out of the Lions' control.

THREE QUESTIONS:


Advertisement

Can the offensive line allow the running game to get going?: Last week, four Lions combined for 57 rushing yards. With an inexperienced offensive line that is missing a lot of key players from last season, it will be vital for the line to come together quickly if Penn State is to have any success on the ground.

Will Christian Hackenberg continue his stunning sophomore debut?: The young gunslinger effortlessly tossed the ball around Croke Park last Saturday and broke the Penn State single-game passing-yards record. Back at home, can the quarterback build on what he started against UCF and continue inching his name closer to the elite QBs of the college game?

Will Beaver Stadium sell out?: Franklin remains optimistic that all 107,000 seats in the historic stadium will be filled by game time Saturday. He said he won't be satisfied until Penn State is known for selling out every single weekend. While it's unrealistic that Saturday's game will begin that trend, it will be a good benchmark for Franklin and his staff.

If last weekend's game is any indication, Franklin is pretty good at getting his team to disregard the outside noise. On a much smaller scale, that's what he's trying to do.

Asked whether he would be emotional leading his team out of the tunnel for the first time, the coach tried to play it off. He claims he will allow himself about 30 seconds to revel in the Beaver Stadium atmosphere.

But you can't prepare yourself for the first time you see the student section in full force, the first time you hear the alma mater being sung by a choir of Penn State fans.

Like it or not, emotions may get the best of Franklin and his team in the first home game of the season. And that may not be a bad thing. Because if history repeats itself, emotion can be the motivation, which is exactly what the Lions need to just play the game.

Garrett Ross writes about Penn State for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at sports@yorkdispatch.com.