After guiding Michigan back to the top of the college football world with a run to the national championship, Jim Harbaugh is leaving his alma mater for a chance to return to the NFL head coaching realm. Harbaugh is leaving Michigan to become the new head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers with his next goal in his career to get back to and win the Super Bowl. Given the all-time results Penn State had against Harbaugh during his run at Michigan, the Nittany Lions are not sad to see Harbaugh go.
Penn State had its battles with Harbaugh and Michigan, some more frustrating than ever. Penn State was 3-6 against Harbaugh’s Wolverines and they have lost three consecutive meetings following the 2023 season. Penn State was already going to get a breather from playing Michigan on the field in 2024 with the expanded Big Ten moving Michigan off the schedule in 2024 in favor of matchups against three of the new Big Ten members (USC, UCLA, and Washington).
Michigan is not about to fall off the top spot in the Big Ten easily, although many are expecting the Wolverines to take a slight step back next fall due to roster turnover and the loss of Harbaugh, but Michigan is not going to settle for mediocrity any time soon.
Here is a look back at the history Penn State had against Jim Harbaugh as he returns to the NFL.
2015: No. 14 Michigan 28, Penn State 16
Penn State’s first battle with Jim Harbaugh took place in Beaver Stadium in 2015. The Nittany Lions were still in a bit of a rebuilding mode coming out of the NCAA sanction phase for the program, while Michigan was well on its way to competing for a Big Ten title in Jim Harbaugh’s first season. The Wolverines fell short of a Big Ten title shot in 2015 but clearly showed they were going to be a factor moving forward.
2016: No. 4 Michigan 49, Penn State 10
Michigan absolutely blasted Penn State in Michigan Stadium early in the 2016 season. The Wolverines flexed on the Nittany Lions early and often in a rout in the Big house, Penn State’s second loss of the month of September that season. Of course, Penn State would eventually get the last laugh as they came away with the Big Ten East Division title as Michigan stumbled later in the season. But this loss severely hurt Penn State’s argument to be included in the College Football Playoff in the 2016 season.
2017: No. 2 Penn State 42, no. 19 Michigan 13
Building off the momentum of the previous season and in an effort to hand out some payback, Penn State blew away Michigan in a primetime matchup in 2017 in Beaver Stadium. Trace McSorley and Saquon Barkley were at their finest and Michigan was left scrambling for answers.
2018: No. 5 Michigan 42, no. 14 Penn State 7
The back-and-forth blowout trend continued for a third straight season when Michigan went on its so-called revenge tour in 2018. Michigan dominated Penn State in Ann Arbor with the defense making Penn State’s offense look lost. Michigan’s running game helped pull away. But the Michigan defense was on fir and on a mission.
2019: No. 7 Penn State 28, no. 16 Michigan 21
Penn State jumped all over Michigan early on and it looked like we were on our way to another blowout in this series. But, to their credit, Michigan hung tough and slowed things down in the second half and crawled back into the game. Michigan had a chance to tie the game late in the fourth quarter but the Penn State defense stood tall in the clutch.
2020: Penn State 27, Michigan 17
The COVID season was one to forget for both Penn State and Michigan. Penn State picked up its first win of the season with a road victory at Michigan. This ended up being the final game Michigan played that season as COVID protocols prevented the Wolverines from finishing the season, which led to some suspecting the program was ducking rival Ohio State.
2021: No. 9 Michigan 21, no. 23 Penn State 17
Penn State was close to pulling off the upset of the Wolverines in 2021 but could not hold on to a fourth-quarter lead long enough. Erick All stunned Penn State with a long catch and run for the go-ahead score and Penn State could not find an answer in a close loss to Michigan. This win for Michigan helped spring the Wolverines to its first Big Ten title under Harbaugh and a spot in the College Football Playoff for the first time.
2022: No. 5 Michigan 41, no. 10 Penn State 17
A familiar result was found in Ann Arbor in 2022 with Penn Stae getting run over by Michigan in 2022. A top-10 matchup proved to not be worth the hype as the Wolverines ran for what felt like 1,000 yards on the Nittany Lions. Penn State’s offense was no match for Michigan’s defense in the blowout loss.
2023: No. 2 Michigan 24, no. 9 Penn State 15
The 2023 game is included here but needs some context. Technically speaking, this was Harbaugh’s team but the head coach was serving the first game in a three-game suspension issued by the Big Ten. So, technically speaking, Penn State did not lose to Harbaugh.
You decide how you want to officially look at the final record., but Penn State is either 3-6 against Harbaugh or 3-5. Neither one is great.
Penn State is not scheduled to face Michigan again until 2016, although the possibility of a matchup in the Big Ten championship game (or the expanded College Football Playoff) in 2024 or 2025 does exist.