Would you blame James Franklin for leaving Penn State to USC if this opportunity was on the table?

Everyone is constantly asking this question. Depending on who answers, Franklin is either the hot candidate or the hot seat coach. Franklin is able to win both places.

However, Saturday’s 33-24 loss to No. 5 Ohio State showed once again why this exit to the West Coast makes sense. It’s about the absurd nature of dealing with the Buckeyes rock in the Big Ten East.

Penn State and Ohio State played hard, especially in the first half. Nittany Lions limited freshman TreVeyon Henderson’s phenomenon to nine stands for six yards and thwarted CJ Stroud. It was an inspiring performance at Ohio Stadium.

It’s just that every time Pennsylvania gets close, the Buckeyes has an answer.

MORE: Ohio postpones Pennsylvania’s turbulent state show

Chris Olaf hit a TD for 38 yards with 3:48 left in the first half. Jeron Cage, a 305-pound defensive tackle, threatened 57 yards in a scoop and scored on the next possession. Just like that, the Nittany Lions dropped by 10 points.

Pennsylvania did not resign. The Nittany Lions tied the score at 17 in the third quarter. Ohio State kicked a field goal and then Henderson finally fell at 68 yards. Just like that, Penn State is down by 10 points again.

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Until then, the Nittany Lions scored again and it was a 27-24 match before the fourth quarter. Clifford threw in an interception, and Penn State was unable to score in the fourth quarter despite a red zone defense that was limited to the Bucks with two field goals.

On October 9, Penn State led Iowa 17-3 in the second quarter in a top-five showdown. However, quarterback Sean Clifford was injured, and the hockey team won a thrilling 23-20 match. Had Clifford stayed in the game, Pennsylvania might have moved up to number two in the state. This was followed by a nine-day disaster against Illini, and Ohio State denied Penn State’s best shot in a upset. Nittany Lions are 5-3 with Michigan State and Michigan State still on the table.

It’s like the old Nationwide Insurance motto: “Life comes to you fast.” This is a Columbus, Ohio-based company, by the way, and another reminder that Ohio’s shadow is ubiquitous in the Big Ten.

The Buckeyes advance 22-0 in the Big Ten under third-year coach Ryan Day and attempt to win their fifth consecutive Conference Championship. Franklin was the best competitor during this race. An excellent recruit, Penn State has three seasons of 11 wins under his watch and is developing talent there.

Nittany Lions blew up their fourth-quarter servers in 2017 and 2018 with 1-point losses. The average margin of loss in this five-game losing streak against OSU is 7.

Bender: Where does Ohio State stand in the college football game picture?

Penn State proved they could win the Big Ten Championship with Franklin. They did it in 2016 And Beat Ohio State 24-21 in the regular season. However, the Buckeyes went to the College Football Playoff instead because the Nittany Lions lost against Pitt and Michigan. Even when Pennsylvania wins, they lose this battle.

So, actually, this didn’t happen in Pennsylvania so quickly. It’s just the nature of the Ohio State beast. Michigan feels the brunt of that more than anyone else. Wisconsin feels it at Big Ten championship matches. You should know Pennsylvania by now. These three schools are now 1-24 against Ohio State since 2012.

This is a 4% chance that the boulder will not roll back down the hill.

Let Jim Harbo and Paul Crest keep pushing that rock. Michigan State coach Mel Tucker? Do you have it. The next Penn State coach will face the same ridiculous task.

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So the choice is this. Franklin could shut down speculation that he’ll be leaving, keep pushing The Rock and wait for a college football expansion, as the Nittany Lions will be a semi-regular given such a successful track record.

Or, Franklin could redirect this USC function and use the same script that worked in Vanderbilt and Penn State. Franklin could build USC into a Pac-12 champion, and he would upgrade talent with his recruiting touch. He’ll have to deal with Ohio again, but at least he’ll be in the CFP stage.

Which school offers a better job? In the College Football Extension era, Nittany Lions has a better record at 65-30 than the Trojans at 59-33. It splits the hair from there around two programs that vibrate roughly the same.

This is a toss at best. You’ll honor Franklin for staying competitive and continuing to push that rock to catch the Buckeyes.

But with the boulder at the bottom of the hill, you can’t blame him for trying another challenge.

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