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Penn State looks to spoil Michigan State’s Rose Bowl dreams

The Michigan State Spartans have not played in the Rose Bowl since 1988. If Penn State has anything to say about it, that Rose Bowl drought will continue for at least one more season.

With the Big Ten’s plane tickets to Pasadena up for grabs between the Spartans,Wisconsin and Ohio State it may come down to which team is ranked highest in the BCS rankings. This tiebreaker does not bode well for the Spartans, who are third highest among Big Ten teams (Wisconsin is ranked highest in the BCS standings at fifth). If Wisconsin stumbles against Northwestern and Michigan upends Ohio State then all Michigan State would need is a win on Saturday against the Nittany Lions to clinch the conference’s automatic berth in the BCS, which would send them to the Rose Bowl.

But a win in State College has not come easily for Michigan State.

Penn State is 9-4-1 against the Spartans all-time in games played in State College but the last win for Michigan State in Beaver Stadium came in 1965, 28 years before Penn State joined the Big Ten. Michigan State won the first game in the series between the two Land Grant rivals by winning in the Keystone State in 1914. The Spartans won again in 1948 and played Penn State to a tie in 1949 in games played at Penn State. The Spartans won again in 1951 on Penn State’s field. Michigan State enjoyed an eight game unbeaten streak against Penn State overall between 1945 and 1966.

Once Penn State joined the Big Ten (1993) the Nittany Lions have owned the series by a mark of 13-4, including a perfect 8-0 record in games played in Beaver Stadium. Only once in Big Ten play has Penn State failed to score at least 32 points against Michigan State and that came in a 17-13 decision in 2006. Penn State has defeated Michigan State by an average of 23.3 points per victory in Beaver Stadium since 1994 and has outscored the Spartans 348-162 in that span.

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Michigan State has not scored more than 20 points in Beaver Stadium since 2000, when they scored 23 points. From 1994 to 2002 the Spartans scored fewer points in each game played in Beaver Stadium and although the point total has gone up in the last two meetings (to 18 points) the problem has been the defense giving up big points and big yardage.

Here is a listing of the game results of Big Ten games between Penn State and Michigan State played in Beaver Stadium.

  • 1994 – PSU 59, MSU 31
  • 1996 – PSU 32, MSU 29
  • 1998 – PSU 51, MSU 28
  • 2000 – PSU 42, MSU 23
  • 2002 – PSU 61, MSU 7
  • 2004 – PSU 37, MSU 13
  • 2006 – PSU 17, MSU 13
  • 2008 – PSU 49, MSU 18

This is not the same old Spartans though, right?

At times the Spartans have looked like they would fall back in to some bad habits this season but more often than not they came through in the clutch. The lone blemish on the Spartans’ record came at the hands of Iowa in a game Michigan State had no business winning but there are a few games that really stand out that suggest Michigan State has been flirting with disaster all season.

Michigan State used a fake field goal attempt in overtime to stun Notre Dame. Last week the Spartans looked defeated against Purdue before storming back for a late victory at home.

Will Penn State be able to play spoiler and keep Michigan State from going to a BCS bowl game for the first time in Spartans history?

Penn State hosts Michigan State on Saturday, November 27 in a Big Ten game that starts at noon. The game will be carried on ESPN2 and streaming on

About the Author

Kevin McGuire
Contributor to College Football Talk on Also a contributor to Athlon Sports and The Comeback. Member of Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. Follow on Twitter @KevinOnCFB.