Following an eventful first six weeks of the college football season, Penn State gets a much needed rest this week from its scheduled bye.
The Nittany Lions are getting the bye week at the perfect time in 2021, as a plethora of injuries in the season’s first loss to Iowa have caused reason for concern about some players’ status in the upcoming weeks.
The most notable player to get banged up is quarterback Sean Clifford, who left Saturday’s game in the second quarter and did not return with an undisclosed injury.
While this gives James Franklin’s team a chance to get healthy, it also gives the program a chance to prepare for a difficult second-half schedule that will feature three top-10 opponents in the final five weeks.
Here’s a look at how the eighth-year head coach has been able to perform following the mid-season break in the recent past.
2019, 5-game win streak
There was no bye week in 2020 due to the pandemic-ridden season, but the last time Penn State came off the bye in 2019, it had a successful five-game run.
The Nittany Lions rattled off five straight wins, two of which were against ranked opponents to move their record to 8-0.
Franklin’s team took on Maryland coming out of the off week and made a statement on a Friday night in College Park.
Penn State put a 59-0 beatdown on the Terrapins, following that up by beating No. 17 Iowa on the road and No. 16 Michigan at home in back-to-back weeks.
This stretch allowed the Nittany Lions to reach yet another New Year’s Six bowl, as they defeated No. 15 Memphis in the Cotton Bowl 53-39.
2018, home loss to Michigan State
The year before 2019, Penn State had some undesired results following its bye week.
After a heartbreaking home defeat to Ohio State prior to the Saturday off, the Nittany Lions returned home to Beaver Stadium to take on an unranked Michigan State team looking to pull off an upset.
Franklin’s No. 8 Lions lost a close 21-17 game to the Spartans, as wide receiver Felton Davis III caught a touchdown from Brian Lewerke to give Michigan State the lead with less than a minute remaining in the game.
They were rare back-to-back home losses and caused Penn State to drop heavily in the AP poll to No. 18, killing the momentum the program had prior to the two games.
The team would go on to lose in the Citrus Bowl to No. 16 Kentucky 27-24.
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2016, 7-game win streak
Following the early struggles of 2016, not much went wrong for the Nittany Lions and much of their success came after the bye week.
Penn State went into that week 4-2 with minimal expectations on the national scale for the remainder of the season.
The Nittany Lions threw those expectations out the door, of course, as they saw themselves with a conference title and a Rose Bowl berth by the end of the season.
The Nittany Lions rattled off seven straight Ws, including classics against No. 2 Ohio State at home and Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship.
It certainly helped that Penn State had two weeks to prepare for No. 2 Ohio State at home and make some adjustments heading into that week, but 2016 is about as good as it can get for a team following its bye week.
2015, 3-game losing streak
Prior to the majority of Franklin’s success at Penn State, he had a tough stretch following the bye in 2015.
The Nittany Lions went on a three-game losing streak after their week off, which included losses to No. 14 Michigan at home and No. 6 Michigan State on the road.
Franklin’s team then went on to play Georgia in the Taxslayer bowl, where the Bulldogs left victorious by a score of 24-17.
While the bye week came late in the 2015 season, this was the coaching staff’s worst output following the off week, as it did not win a game the rest of the season.
It had a chance to prepare heavily for the talent it would face but could not take advantage of the opportunity given.
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