James Franklin has kept his message simple for all 54 games he has coached at Penn State: "The most important game on our schedule is the next game."
Many fans who follow the Nittany Lions' rivalry with Pittsburgh think the most important game of the entire season will be Saturday night at Heinz Field, not because it's the next game but because it's the 99th edition of the best intrastate Pennsylvania rivalry in major college football.
Franklin again had to address the topic Tuesday at his weekly teleconference, being asked about a comment he made last season after a 33-14 victory over the Panthers. In trying to explain then how he treats every game the same, Franklin said that "for us, it was just like beating Akron," the Lions' opponent the previous week.
"I think it's still being misinterpreted," he said Tuesday at the start of a two-minute answer during which his voice rose a few times.
"I hear people saying, 'Well, this is a big game and anybody that says this isn't a big game is kidding themselves.' This is the biggest game in the world. This is the Super Bowl for us. It is the most important game on our schedule. Why? Because it's the game we're playing this week.
"Last week was the Super Bowl for us, the most important game in the universe. This week is a huge game for us. I've never denied that from the very beginning. This is the most important game on our schedule. It is our Super Bowl, the most important game in the universe. I don't know how much clearer I can be on that.
"That's how we approach it. So I'm not saying that this game isn't really important. I'm actually saying the opposite. I still think it's being misinterpreted. It's one game at a time and we focus on the task at hand, and I'm never going to say that one game is more important than the other except for the game that we are playing right now. That's the message. That's the message I was trying to say last year."
At his Monday news conference, Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi addressed this week by saying, "Anybody wants to argue and say this is no different than any other week, OK, it is. That's a fact. If you want to ignore that, you can ignore it. It's a big game."
Franklin again praised the performance of Appalachian State after Saturday's 45-38 overtime win for the Nittany Lions. But he said his film review showed that "we played like an inexperienced football team" with a lot of mistakes.