It may come as a surprise to younger Michigan fans the Maize and Blue has only faced Penn State 21 times, given how frequently the teams have recently seen each other. Since joining the Big Ten in 1993, the Nittany Lions have been on Michigan’s schedule all but four times, and with the current division structure they will continue to be an annual opponent for the foreseeable future.
Head coach Jim Harbaugh has a 2-1 record at the helm against Penn State, with the past two outings ending in lopsided victories for the home team. Michigan will need this trend to continue on Saturday if it hopes to keep its playoff aspirations alive; Vegas and the national media believe it very well may.
2015: Michigan 28, Penn State 16 (State College)
No. 12 Michigan entered the game 8-2 and earned a solid road win during Harbaugh’s first season. Penn State scored just one touchdown, but stayed close throughout the game. The Wolverine defense was too much, though, holding the Nittany Lions to just over 200 yards and a 3-for-14 third down conversion rate.
Jake Rudock threw for 256 yards and a couple scores, hitting both Amara Darboh and Jake Butt, who each had more than 60 yards to go with their touchdowns. Neither De’Veon Smith nor Sione Houma racked up a ton of yardage, but each found the end zone, including Smith’s leap with five minutes remaining to seal the win.
2016: Michigan 49, Penn State 10 (Ann Arbor)
The Wolverines might have been a little fortunate to get Penn State so early into the year, as the Nittany Lions would win each of their next eight games to claim the Big Ten Championship. However, No. 4 Michigan absolutely dominated them all game and had the contest wrapped up by halftime.
Wilton Speight may have not lit up the box score, but he had a good outing with a touchdown and no interceptions. Almost every Wolverine had a good afternoon, with Khalid Hill, Smith, Karan Higdon, Ty Isaac, and Chris Evans all recording a rushing score. The lone receiving touchdown came from Devin Asiasi, as the pass catchers were hardly needed in the blowout.
2017: Penn State 42, Michigan 13 (State College)
It started with a 69-yard breakaway score by Saquon Barkley and never seemed to end, as Barkley and Trace McSorley absolutely stomped over Michigan during a White Out last season. No. 19 Michigan played perhaps its worst game of the Harbaugh era, having absolutely no answer for the No. 2 Nittany Lions.
Though the Wolverines fell behind early, they almost tied the game late in the first half after touchdowns by Higdon and Isaac. However, Penn State quickly added to its lead before the break and shut out the Maize and Blue for the rest of the game. John O’Korn did not do much in the air, and the Wolverines barely rushed for 100 yards as a team. The defense was simply overpowered, surrendering 506 total yards.