Blue White Illustrated

September 2023

Penn State Sports Magazine

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Page 37 of 67

3 8 S E P T E M B E R 2 0 2 3 W W W . B L U E W H I T E O N L I N E . C O M I t was hard enough when there was just one perennial superpower for Penn State to leapfrog if it was going to reach the Big Ten Championship Game and vie for a spot in the College Football Playoff. But now? It's fair to say that the Nittany Lions' challenge has been compounded with the re-emergence of Michigan as a top-five program and the equal of Ohio State following two decades of scarlet- and-gray hegemony. Do the words perennial superpower sound a little bit hyperbolic, given that the Wolverines have won two consecu- tive Big Ten titles and are still a long way TO THE HOUSE Penn State eyes a return to the Big Ten Championship Game, but some formidable obstacles lie ahead on the road to Indianapolis M A T T H E R B | MATT.HERB@ON3.COM BIG TEN PREVIEW from matching the dominance that Ohio State achieved when it won or shared 14 league crowns and claimed two national championships from 1993-2020? Maybe so, but the Wolverines are the winningest program in college football history with a 989-353-36 all-time re- cord, and they clearly have their cham- pionship mojo back after having been overshadowed by the Buckeyes for years. Assuming that coach Jim Harbaugh is done casting flirtatious glances at the NFL, they appear built to last. They've been picked to win the league again this fall by Athlon and Lindy's, among others, and the recent on-field success is hav- ing an impact on recruiting. As of mid- August, Harbaugh's class was eighth in On3's 2024 Team Rankings. What makes the Wolverines' rise even more vexing for Penn State is that they play a style of football that contrasts sharply with Ohio State's. If the Nittany Lions are going to win the East Division and earn their first trip to Indianapolis Pe n n St a te h as n ' t b e e n b a c k to Lu cas O i l Stadium since defeating Wisconsin 38-31 in the league title game in December 2016. PHOTO COURTESY C5MEDIA

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