Every Reason Penn State Needs A Win At Michigan

There are two types of Penn State fans: those dreading another Big House beatdown and those with the naivety of a child who believe the Nittany Lions will pull off an upset on the road against Michigan this weekend.

I identify with the latter. I don’t know how it will happen or how it’ll be possible, but there’s something forcing me to believe the Wizard of Camelot has just a little bit more magic and one more brilliant performance left inside of him.

Simply put, the Nittany Lions need a win. And it’s not to keep conference championship and College Football Playoff hopes alive. Nor is it to preserve a perfect season or cement a top-five ranking. A win in Ann Arbor, as unlikely it seems, has the potential to reverse a few different storylines, namely that of the rocky 2018 season.

Beating Michigan could turn the whole season around.

A 6-2 record in early November is far from a lost season. But when you enter the season with expectations of a playoff appearance, a pair of gut-wrenching blown fourth quarter leads feels like a calamity.

Meanwhile, at 7-1 and in control of the division, Michigan is having the season so many Penn State fans believed their team was destined to have. This weekend can change all that…sort of.

Beating Michigan would give Penn State plenty of momentum heading into the final stretch of the regular season and make the Nittany Lions a near lock for a New Year’s Six Bowl. Plus, the experience of beating a top-five team on the road would be a huge confidence builder for such a young team entering next season.

Although it’d make the Ohio State and Michigan State collapses sting even more (imagine that) and force fans further into the painful trap of wondering what could’ve been, a win this weekend can make this season a success as opposed to the cold, dark abyss of utter disappointment and emptiness that it’s felt like for the last month.

For once, Penn State can ruin someone else’s season.

National championship-caliber seasons have been spoiled by Michigan in 2005, Pitt in 2016, and Michigan State in 2017 — all mediocre teams that decided to show up and play spoiler. The last time the Nittany Lions pulled off a major upset, the team it beat made the playoff over them. I promise I’m over it.

Wouldn’t it be great to switch it up and be the one wreaking havoc for once and just throw a giant wrench into Wolverines fans’ travel plans to Indianapolis and Santa Clara? 

James Franklin needs a big win.

Somehow, some fans are impulsive enough to already be calling for Franklin’s job — ironically, something they were doing after the last time Penn State played at the Big House.

As successful as he’s been, winning a conference championship and making two New Years Six Bowls in as many years, Franklin still hasn’t broken into the upper echelon of coaches in his own division. Sure, he can recruit, but can he win when it counts?

His team has led at some point in the fourth quarter in each of its last five losses. He’s also 3-8 against Ohio State, Michigan State, and Michigan, often out-coached by his more experienced and tactful counterparts in the fourth quarter.

Franklin is the coach who will one day bring a national championship back to Penn State, but this weekend is yet another test — an opportunity for Franklin to prove he’s ready. The last few times he’s had that chance, he’s wasted it away with fourth-and-five runs and poor clock management.

A win on the road at the second largest stadium in the world would begin to reverse the narrative on Franklin. At the very least, it’d assert him above Jim Harbaugh in the Big Ten’s coaching hierarchy.

Penn State sucks in Ann Arbor.

Winning on Michigan’s home field, of all places, would make this game an even more impressive feather in Penn State’s cap.

In addition to struggling on the road against good teams in general, Penn State has barely found any success in Ann Arbor. The Nittany Lions have won at the Big House only once since 1997, the year many of the players on this year’s team were born. Included in that 1-7 run at the Big House are two of the team’s worst losses in recent memory: the 49-10 beatdown in 2016 and Chad Henne’s last-second touchdown to Mario Manningham in 2005.

This Michigan team is incredibly unlikable.

The player who flipped off Beaver Stadium feels like the Nittany Lions disrespected his team last year by winning 42-13. Another one dug his cleats into the midfield logo of another team, because he felt offended. Another one tweets stuff like this:

That’s about all you need to know about this Michigan team. 

Trace McSorley deserves to end his career playing meaningful football.

Few things are sadder than the thought of Trace McSorley playing his last college game on an overcast day in Tampa in front of a lifeless, sparsely populated crowd.

While it might not come in the form of him hoisting the Playoff trophy next to Mark Emmert, McSorley deserves a hero’s send-off after all he’s accomplished at Penn State and done for the program. A win this weekend could ensure his farewell tour concludes somewhere exciting and with plenty of media/fan attention.

Harbaugh might actually win the Big Ten.

Imagine a world without memes about Jim Harbaugh finishing third and never winning a Big Ten Championship.


Like the Joker, I just like to watch the world burn — especially when it comes as a result of Penn State, not at its expense.

A Penn State win might not do much (or anything) for its essentially nonexistent chances at a division title or Playoff berth, but it’d certainly make for an exciting November for college football in general. And sometimes, the best time to be a college football fan is when your team sucks too much for you to have anything riding on the most exciting part of the season.

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About the Author

Anthony Colucci

Anthony Colucci was once Onward State’s managing editor and preferred walk-on honors student who majored in psychology and public relations. Despite being from the make-believe land of Central Jersey, he was never a Rutgers fan. If you ever want to know how good Saquon Barkley's ball security is, ask Anthony what happened when he tried to force a fumble at the Mifflin Streak. If you want to hear the story or are bored and want to share prequel memes, follow @_anthonycolucci on Twitter or email him at [email protected]. All other requests and complaints should be directed to Onward State media contact emeritus Steve Connelly.

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