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Penn State football’s recent history at Michigan State, the impact of a Ford Field relocation

Land Grant Trophy

Penn State football players hold a Land Grant Trophy after defeating Michigan State 45-12 at Beaver Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 26, 2016.

“Big Ten weather” is a phrase used in the college football world to describe unpleasant or less-than-ideal conditions, which can frequently be found across the midwest region during the college football season.

There have been attempts by the conference to prevent playing in these conditions, such as limiting night games after October, but sometimes a snow game or two is unavoidable.

Penn State and Michigan State are two schools that are well aware of the “Big Ten weather” experience, having gone through several unpleasant matchups in recent history.

In the 2017 edition of the divisional rivalry, the game included a 3 ½ hour delay due to lightning in the second quarter.

Fans who chose to watch this game in person had to brave the elements for seven consecutive hours, making it hard to create a strong home environment and ruining the fan experience.

Penn State was ranked as the No. 7 team in the nation entering the matchup and was still holding onto playoff hopes coming into that game before ultimately falling 27-24 to the Spartans.

Two years later in 2019, both teams were met with pouring rain when they clashed at Spartan Stadium.

Due to the downpour, the quarterbacks went a combined 37-for-75, completing under 50% of passing attempts, and the game featured five total turnovers.


Then, in the teams’ most recent clash at The Woodshed in 2021, the foes had to battle through freezing temperatures and snow for a 60-minute slugfest.

Each team recorded three fumbles, though four were ultimately recovered. Meanwhile, the Penn State defense was gashed for 451 yards, as defending with poor footing and lowered visibility proved to be too much to overcome for what had been a strong defense all year.

Michigan State went on to win the game 30-27 in an uncharacteristically poor defensive showing from Penn State. In fact, the only other team the Nittany Lions allowed more than 24 points to that season was Ohio State, which put up 33.

Across these contests, Penn State posted a 1-2 record, as well as sloppy on-field performances.

Not only were these games miserable for the players, they were bad for the viewers as well. Watching poor performances as players slip and slide around the turf is a less-than-ideal showing and doesn’t allow the players to perform at their best, which ultimately diminishes the product on the field.

In a matchup that’s historically balanced, with the head-to-head record sitting at 18-18-1, these teams are usually competitive. Unforeseen circumstances, which negatively impact either team’s ability to perform, can prove costly and lead to unusual results.

With the teams recently announcing that this year’s meeting would take place on Black Friday at Ford Field instead of Spartan Stadium, it all but guarantees good weather conditions for the game. This allows both teams to perform at maximum capability and lowers the chance of a fluky performance.


Additionally, by moving the contest indoors, it allows for the game to be played at 7:30 p.m. in primetime. The night-time slot allows for more national exposure, which benefits both brands, and also allows fans of both teams a chance to finish work before making their way to the stadium.

On top of this, it allows a unique experience for players and teams alike, who get to attend a college game at an NFL stadium. The game will mark the first time since 2018 that Penn State has played a regular season game in an NFL stadium, as the Nittany Lions took a trip to Heinz Field to play Pitt.

With so many benefits, it seems like the move will provide for a better overall experience for the teams and fans and could set a precedent for similar games in the future.


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