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On the Rivalry: Penn State

In a new feature here at Maize n Brew, we're looking at not only the X's and O's to preview each and every Michigan game, but also the perspective of you, the loyal fans. Each week, we're going to interview one of our fellow SB nation writers about what makes each game truly special. We're looking at great games in history, little-known facts, and the general nature of rivalries. The other side gets their say, but what about you, Michigan faithful? Give us your thoughts "On the Rivalry" in the comments! Q&A about Michigan and the Penn State Nittany Lions with our friends over at Black Shoe Diaries right after the jump.

Remember Bo: Penn State's season hasn't turned out quite like many PSU fans would have wanted, and I'm sure many Michigan faithful can empathize. How much of an effect, if any, do "down" years have on rivalry games?

BSD: Thanks for the empathy, but I don't think Penn State's situation is as bad as people are making it out to be. Everyone knew it was going to be a rebuilding year with all of the talent they lost. Most reasonable PSU fans expected losses to Alabama and Iowa at this point in the season, though the loss to Illinois was tough to swallow. They're a young team trying to learn how to win football games. But with back-to-back good recruiting classes and a coaching staff that has been around the block a million times, they'll fix it without any major overhauls.

But when you go through years like this I think the rivalry games actually become more intense. You are fighting for every win and coming up short more often than you like. Meanwhile, your rivals are having a good time laughing at your struggles and rubbing it in. At this point, Penn State is just trying to get to a bowl game, and even then they're probably looking at the Texas Bowl or Insight Bowl. Nobody expects anything out of them, so a win over a team like Michigan would look pretty good right about now.

RB: The Michigan-Penn State matchup doesn't happen every year, and since the Nittany Lions are fairly new to the Big Ten, the rivalry isn't as established as some of both teams' other big games. How would you characterize Penn State's rivalry with Michigan with respect to other rivalries that Penn State has?

BSD: It's definitely one of the bigger games Penn State fans look forward to. I can't say the hate is there on the same level as Ohio State, and in recent years the heartbreakers at the hands of Iowa have kind of elevated that series to prominence. I would probably rank Michigan third on the list of teams Penn State fans most want to beat.
It wasn't always that way, though. When Penn State first joined the Big Ten the Wolverines were the class of the conference. I think they had won five Big Ten titles in a row or something. The 1993 game was notorious for the stuff at the goal line to seal the loss for the Lions. But then Penn State won the next three games against Michigan, and then came the losing streak that started in 1997. In the middle of that they took two years off which was really disappointing to me. I always felt two powerhouse schools like Michigan and Penn State should have played every year. I'm actually pretty sad that Michigan and Penn State will be in separate divisions in the new Big Ten next year. I think this is a game that has to be played every year, but it will be pretty awesome the first time they meet in the conference championship game.

RB: Looking back on the budding rivalry, there have been quite a few good games between the two conference powers, and I'd be remiss if I didn't point out the 2005 shocker at Michigan Stadium. What's the best M-PSU game that you can remember, and what impact did it have on Penn State's season?

BSD: My favorite game had to be the 1994 game in Ann Arbor. The Penn State offense was demolishing everyone that year with Kerry Collins, Ki-Jana Carter, Bobby Engram, and Kyle Brady. They came into the game with a 5-0 record, but a lot of people were doubting them based on their level of competition. Michigan was ranked #5 in the country and everyone said if Penn State could come out with a win it meant they were legit. It was a tight game that went back and forth until Collins hit Engram for the winning touchdown in the final minutes.

The win was huge for Penn State as it propelled them to No. 1 in the nation after Florida lost later in the day. Two weeks later Penn State destroyed Ohio State 63-14 which I think is still their worst loss ever. The ride was fun for a few weeks until Indiana scored two garbage touchdowns against the PSU reserves to make the 35-29 final score look way closer than the actual game. Unfortunately the pollsters didn't care and dropped Penn State in the rankings behind Nebraska. There was no BCS back then, so Penn State was tied to the Rose Bowl and didn't get a share of the title. We're still bitter about that, which makes Nebraska an instant rival when they join the league next year. We're glad to have that as our protected game.

RB: Ann Arbor takes on a certain vibe when big rivals come to town, but there's always a unique atmosphere when a Big Ten school comes to Michigan Stadium. How does Happy Valley react when PSU plays the Wolverines at home? Anything special during the week?

BSD: Penn State fans always get excited when Michigan comes to town. Even though both teams have a few losses, if you can't get up for Penn State and Michigan there's something wrong with you. Paternoville will be out in full force probably starting on Tuesday night. Penn State has a pep rally scheduled for Friday night. These usually feature a speech from Paterno that makes people laugh, cry, and want to run through a brick wall all at the same time. Other than that there's not much difference from any other game week.

RB: Michigan plays very few night games - the only scheduled night game this year for the Wolverines is in Happy Valley. Could you speak to how the stadium vibe feels in a night game versus a day game?

There's definitely more excitement in the air for a night game. The crowd is a little louder from drinking all day. Seeing the stadium lit up under the dark sky knowing that ESPN is there broadcasting the game across the country gets everyone jacked up. The two greatest live sporting events I ever attended were against Nebraska in 2002 and Ohio State in 2005. Both were night games.

RB: Lastly, any thoughts on PSU's impending D-1 hockey team formation and where they might end up conference-wise?

BSD: I've never really followed college hockey, so I'm probably not the best guy to answer this. But I'm excited to see Penn State making the jump to Div. I. Hockey is huge in Pennsylvania with the Flyers, Pens, and even the Devils over in New Jersey. I think there is a good talent pool to choose from and Penn State has instantly become the big fish in said pool. I also wouldn't be surprised if they could pluck some kids from New England where Boston College gets all the best players. My hope is that the Big Ten eventually comes together and forms a conference. I can find myself getting interested if they play teams like Michigan, Minnesota, and Michigan State. I'll have a tough time motivating myself to watch them play Ferris State or Central Michigan.

The other key factor on my end is if they want me to watch Penn State hockey, they need to get the games on the Big Ten Network. I live in Houston, TX, so I can't go to the games in person. But if they were playing on the BTN on a regular basis, I'd watch it.

Thanks to Black Shoe Diaries for the great work. Be sure to check out their preview page for the Michigan game with answers from your own MnB team! We welcome your thoughts in the comments.