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College Town Comparison: State College vs. Ann Arbor

The Nittany Lions kick off a tough three-week stretch this weekend against Michigan in a Beaver Stadium White Out under the lights. Both schools are excited to see how they’ll fare this season after a telling matchup.

Off the field, Penn State and Michigan have distinct campuses where each fanbase thrives. Just two days before kickoff, let’s dive into a comparison between the two Big Ten universities and what they have in common.

Football Stadiums

Penn State’s Beaver Stadium has the second-highest fan capacity of any college football stadium, holding almost 107,000. It trails only… Michigan. The Big House, which holds nearly 108,000 people, is the second largest stadium of any sport in the world. It’s been going strong since 1927, and has seen 42 conference championships, 11 national championships, and three Heisman Trophy winners.

Throughout the games, Michigan fans sing “Hail to the Victors” and the alma mater, “Yellow and Blue,” but they don’t have nearly the same impact that Penn State’s traditional tracks do, with “Fight On State” prepping the fans for what’s to come and the Alma Mater bringing them all together at the end of the game.

Other Sports Facilities

Michigan may have a better record than Penn State in basketball, but it doesn’t do much else at Crisler Arena. The Nittany Lions use the Bryce Jordan Center to host THON, which is known for raising over $10 million annually for children fighting pediatric cancer. Michigan holds its own dance marathon, DMUM, but it doesn’t quite stack up against the largest student-run philanthropy in the nation.

Pegula and Yost Arenas for hockey are close in capacity, but differ in history. Michigan’s arena dates back to its days hosting the basketball team starting in the 1920s, while Penn State’s arena, much like the program itself, is just beginning its legacy.

Top Spots To Eat

When someone enters State College, the first place they stop for a snack is Berkey Creamery; the same can be said about Michigan’s Zingerman’s. Zingerman’s hand-crafts its own breads, cheeses, and sandwiches, which forces a line out the door every football weekend. The deli has many more options than the creamery, but each embodies the high quality food each campus has to offer.

Additionally, the Waffle Shop at Penn State is just as big of a hit as Michigan’s Blimpy Burger. As far as bars, the Primanti Bros. and Good Time Charley’s provide their fans with a great place to grab a drink and sandwich.

Popular Tourist Locations

Just like Penn State has the Lion Shrine, Michigan has its own landmark that students love to take pictures near. The block “M” located in the Ann Arbor Diag and “The Cube” are very popular tourist destinations. Before each home football weekend, Michigan students guard the “M” to prevent it from being spray painted in the opposing team’s colors. There’s also a theory that if you step on the “M” then you’ll fail your next exam.

Penn State also has the We Are sign next to the IM Building, which attracts many football fans on the walk to Beaver Stadium. In the fall the Penn State Arboretum is a sight to see when the leaves are changing. Oh, and don’t walk on the university seal.


While Penn State has its Nittany Lion mascot, Michigan doesn’t have its own costumed character to crowdsurf the student section, despite how well-known the university is on a national scale. You can find the Nittany Lion pumping up crowds in State College at sporting events every night of the week.

Another of Penn State’s biggest traditions is camping out before games with Paternoville Nittanyville, where students stay outside Gate A (Beaver Stadium’s student entrance) leading up to gameday.

While Michigan doesn’t have anything quite like Nittanyville, it does host few traditions Penn State can’t quite match. Michigan students symbolically walk through the League Fountain first as freshmen, and again when they graduate, to show how far they have come. Wolverine fans also paint “The Rock” before game days to show school spirit and write messages geared toward the opposing teams. Come Saturday, you can expect both universities to show off these traditions and school spirit as much as they possibly can.

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About the Author

Austin Smith

Austin Smith is a junior broadcast journalism major. He grew up in New Jersey and is a writer for Onward State. He specializes in football, basketball, and the New York Knicks.

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