The Penn State–Syracuse rivalry is an American college rivalry between the Penn State Nittany Lions sports teams of Pennsylvania State University and Syracuse Orange sports teams of Syracuse University. It is one of the most storied rivalries in Northeastern collegiate athletics.
The two teams have matched up 105 times in men's basketball over the course of the programs' histories. Syracuse leads the series 62-43. Although they have not played each other since 1982, it remains the third most active rivalry in Syracuse history behind Colgate and Cornell. Penn State has only played more games against Pittsburgh during its history.
It is the football rivalry, however, that has most excited partisans and the public. After an almost twenty-year break in the series, the two programs played in Syracuse's Carrier Dome on September 13, 2008, with the Nittany Lions prevailing 55-13 over the Orange. The contest did not generate a sellout crowd at the Carrier Dome. They met again the next year. The Nittany Lions won 28–7.
Penn State leads the all-time series 42-23-5.
Conference realignment and scheduling disagreements have dampened the intensity of the rivalry between the teams. During the 1950s and 1960s the rivalry enjoyed a competitive and often controversial string of contests. Syracuse football was led by Ben Schwartzwalder, and Penn State by Rip Engle and from 1967 Joe Paterno. From 1950 to 1970, Syracuse won 11 to Penn State's 10 games.
Racial divisions in the Syracuse locker room decimated the football program in the early 1970s and contributed to the retirement of Schwartzwalder in 1973. As Syracuse floundered, Paterno's Penn State teams would go on to win 16 straight in the series from 1971 to 1986. Penn State fans and players increasingly turned their attention to the Pittsburgh rivalry.
In 1987, Coach Dick MacPherson finally led Syracuse to a resounding 48-21 victory over the Nittany Lions in the Dome. Syracuse won again the following year in Happy Valley but lost the final two games before the suspension of the series in 1991.