Penn State head coach James Franklin took responsibility for his team's inability to handle the national spotlight after reaching the No. 2 ranking in the Associated Press Poll before consecutive losses to Ohio State and Michigan State.
"I would describe us as a young program," Franklin said Saturday after the team's 27-24 loss to the Spartans in East Lansing, per Dan Murphy of ESPN.com. "We haven't been a part of these conversations for a long time. We haven't handled it well, and that's on me."
He continued: "When things are going well, there's a lot of noise, a lot of positivity, a lot of patting on the back. Then when you lose the game, it's the complete opposite. It couldn't be more negative. For us in the past, we haven't worried about all those things. There's playoff rankings coming out. There's this. There's that. Stuff that doesn't matter."
The two losses have almost assuredly ended Penn State's College Football Playoff hopes and put its Big Ten title game aspirations on ice as well. In fact, it's Michigan State that controls its own destiny in the Big Ten East—win out, and the Spartans will qualify for the title game, where undefeated Wisconsin seems likely to be awaiting.
With a trip to Ohio State next weekend, however, doing so will be no easy task.
For Penn State, meanwhile, the goals for the remainder of the season will become much less broad. Franklin said Saturday he would go back to the approach on insisting that no one game is more important than any other and focusing on one week at a time rather than the big picture.
"That won't happen again because the formula that I know works, we're getting back to," he said. "We're not talking about anything else. Goal-setting, I don't believe in it. We're not goal-setting. We're focusing on the task at hand."
Win out, and the Nittany Lions can still put themselves in position for a solid bowl game and keep their incredibly thin Big Ten title hopes alive. That may be a disappointing position to be in for a team that lost by a combined four points on the road to Ohio State and Michigan State—and has a Heisman Trophy candidate in Saquon Barkley—but the Nittany Lions have little choice but to turn their focus to Rutgers next week.