As the Michigan football team prepares for its toughest road environment of the season, the Wolverines are getting used to not being able to hear.
Penn State’s Beaver Stadium is the nation’s second-largest college football stadium behind only Michigan Stadium. It seats 106,572 people.
And with hoards of Nittany Lions fans ready to scream their lungs out when the Wolverines visit State College on Saturday, Michigan is bracing for the noise using two differing approaches: incessant music and complete silence.
“Whenever we play away games, we’ll always practice with music on,” said redshirt junior guard Erik Magnuson. “There will be speakers all throughout the field, and it will be really loud and you won’t be able to hear anything. And then if we’re not doing that, we’ll try to eliminate talking. Take out the sound … nobody can talk, or the quarterback only whispers, stuff like that. (We) try to practice without being able to hear.”
Saturday’s matchup has major Big Ten East title implications, as the Wolverines can keep their conference championship hopes alive with a win.
But after scares in its past two road contests — a three-point win at Minnesota and a double-overtime victory at Indiana — it’s crucial that Michigan is better prepared for a nasty road environment this week.
“We struggled a little bit last week,” Magnuson said. “Atmosphere was a little bit more than we were expecting. We didn’t expect it to be that loud, so it got to us at times. We had to adjust throughout the game, going to a silent cadence, stuff like that.”
With a “white out” crowd looming at Penn State, the atmosphere is only going to get more hostile.
So far this year, the Wolverines have posted a 3-1 road record with a plus-31 point differential. But that number is buoyed by a 28-0 win at Maryland, a game in which Michigan won in a blowout without looking its best.
Every other game has been close, dating back to the Wolverines’ season opener at Utah, which the Utes won, 24-17.
“I think we’ve come a long way,” Magnuson said. “That was a hard game to start the season off with, tough place to play. But I think we’ve improved a lot. Jake’s gotten a lot better, been really consistent. The last two games were career highs for him, but I think everyone’s getting better the whole year.”
And while Magnuson acknowledged how loud the stadium would be on Saturday, he also put it into perspective.
“All loud stadiums are the same,” Magnuson said. “(If) you can’t hear, you can’t hear. There’s no difference.”
With their Big Ten East destiny largely in their own hands, the Wolverines don’t need to win pretty on Saturday.
Like their wins over the Hoosiers and Golden Gophers, an ugly victory still gets the job done. But that doesn’t mean Magnuson wouldn’t appreciate a chance to make the Nittany Lions’ loud crowd go quiet.
“I like playing in front of our crowd better, but it’s fun going into a hostile environment,” Magnuson said. “Kind of being, like, the bad guys.”