The History Of The Land-Grant Trophy & The Penn State-Michigan State Rivalry
Although Penn State football is a self-proclaimed “unrivaled” group, the rivalry week matchup for the Nittany Lions has been Michigan State each season. Nearly every year, the pair of teams battle it out for the Land-Grant Trophy.
With conference realignment following this season, the yearly rivalry matchup between the Nittany Lions and the Spartans will come to a halt.
The matchup wasn’t always deemed a rivalry, and the battle for the Land-Grant Trophy wasn’t established until Penn State’s entrance into the Big Ten in 1993. The rivalry was agreed to in that same season by the two school’s head coaches: Michigan State’s George Perles and Penn State’s Joe Paterno. Perles designed the trophy to be the Land-Grant Trophy, honoring the two universities — founded just 10 days apart in 1855 — as two pioneer land-grant universities in the United States.
Black Friday will be the 38th meeting between the two programs, and the all-time series is tied at 18-18-1. Penn State was victorious in three of the last four matchups.
The first meeting between the teams happened in 1914, and Michigan Agricultural crawled out of State College with a 6-3 victory. The two teams didn’t meet again for 11 years. In the second matchup, Penn State defended its home turf and won another low-scoring matchup 13-6.
The battle began to gain some familiarity from the 1940s to the 1960s. The Nittany Lions faced off against the Spartans a total of eight times. Penn State went 0-7-1 during this span.
Then, in 1993, the rivalry began. The yearly tradition of the Land-Grant Trophy stayed in place until 2010 when the teams switched divisions within the Big Ten conference. Although Penn State had been 1-8-1 in this series prior to it being deemed a rivalry, the Nittany Lions won 13 of the first 18 Land-Grant Trophy contests.
In 2014, the two schools switched divisions again and both landed in the Big Ten East. With this switch, the battle for the Land-Grant Trophy resumed.
Since 2014, the matchup has occurred every season. The Spartans won the following two matchups in 2015 and 2016 and have beaten the Nittany Lions in five of the last nine games since 2014.
A season ago, the Nittany Lions dominated the Spartans with a 35-16 victory. After two first half touchdowns by tight end Theo Johnson, one from former quarterback Sean Clifford, and one from wide receiver KeAndre Lambert-Smith, Penn State found a commanding 14-3 lead at halftime. Michigan State hung around for most of the second half and cut the lead to 21-16 early in the fourth quarter. It remained this way for much of the fourth quarter until Lambert-Smith caught a touchdown pass just 30 seconds after Nick Singleton caught one of his own. The eventual score landed at 35-16.
Both teams come into Friday’s matchup looking for the upper hand in the all-time matchup. Michigan State is traveling east to Detroit after beating Indiana 24-21 a week ago, while Penn State handled business against Rutgers 27-6 in its home finale.
Folks can tune in to NBC at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, November 22, for this year’s battle for the Land-Grant Trophy.
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