Michigan matchup creates trinity of tradition

College football’s most enticing feature – for me at least – has always been the bounty of traditions that sweep stadiums every autumn Saturday.

From Mountaineer fans belting John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads” and the Arkansas Hog Call, to Oklahoma’s Sooner Schooner and Mississippi State supporters ringing their cowbells, rituals pervade the sport in all levels of the game.

As the No. 19 Michigan Wolverines head to State College on Saturday, Nittany Lion fans are about to enjoy a triumvirate of traditions.

As a first-generation Nittany Lion fan, last year was my first time experiencing a White Out in person. And I can already tell, although not one of the oldest, it’s one of the greatest practices in college football.

With Penn State sitting pretty at No. 2 in the nation and looking to avenge last September’s blow-out in Ann Arbor, Saturday’s game was the easy choice for this year’s White Out.

It was also an obvious option for a nationally recognized tradition: ESPN’s College GameDay.

Since 1993, the network selects one college stadium per week from which to broadcast live a preview of the day’s slate of contests. The day revolves around fans frenzying in front of the stage, holding up clever signs and reacting to the panel’s picks, and culminates in Lee Corso – the show’s only remaining original member – making his final prediction by putting on the mascot head of who he predicts will be the victorious team.

When a school is chosen to host GameDay, its fans are given the chance to display their fanaticism on the national stage. When ESPN chose Penn State as this weekend’s location, it encouraged one of the nation’s most impassioned fan bases to take its fandom to a new level.

In other words, ESPN is combining two of the sport’s marquee traditions this weekend for the world to see.

After the Worldwide Leader in Sports announced Happy Valley as this week’s destination for Corso and Co., university leaders had an opportunity to choose where on campus the set would be assembled. They had a chance to show Penn State in the best possible light and invoke one of the most ardent crowds the borough has seen.

In selecting Old Main Lawn, they made the right choice.

The building and its green plot of grass symbolizes Penn State better than any other structure on campus. Students walk by it every day. They play volleyball and suntan on its lawn.  It’s one of the first images that comes up when you Google “Penn State.” When this university was founded, it’s quite literally all Penn State was.

In other words, if you’re looking for history, look no further than Old Main.

As a student, Saturday is an opportunity to watch my school, my football team, and the sport’s most emblematic television show blend together in a litany of tradition.

When the throng of thousands of college students, dressed in white and holding signs, crowds around the set of GameDay on Saturday morning, it will represent everything that Penn State is.

That’s a win for everybody ... except the landscapers who will have to revive the trampled grass on Monday.

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