In 2008, as a result of a lawsuit that forced Michigan to add more disabled seating, the capacity of Michigan Stadium dropped from 107,501 to 106,201. That meant Penn State's Beaver Stadium got to take over the title of largest in the county for two years, as it has a capacity of 107,282. Michigan still usually outdrew Penn State because it counts everybody in the stadium as part of its attendance number, but on paper the Big House wasn't the biggest stadium in the country.
With the Michigan Stadium renovation set to come to an end, meaning the new press box, luxury suites and club seats will open this upcoming season, the Big House has a new capacity: 109,901. This is the largest Michigan Stadium has ever been, making it the largest stadium in the country once again, leaving Penn State in the dust with more than 2,600 people to spare.
Considering the Big House's new capacity is 2,400 people larger than the pre-renovation capacity, Michigan is going to shatter its old attendance records this season. The largest crowd to ever watch a game in all of college football was in 2003 when Michigan beat Ohio State. 112,118 people crammed into the Big House that day for the 100th meeting between the Wolverines and Buckeyes, and that record hasn't really been threatened once, as all of the other highly-attended games at Michigan Stadium have had an attendance of something in the 111,000s.
Generally, attendance at Michigan games against decent opponents will result in around 3,000-4,000 extra people in the stadium. Michigan counts everybody for attendance, including the bands, cheerleaders, journalists in the press box, event staff and so on. That is how a stadium with a capacity of only 107,501 was able to set a record of 112,118 back in 2003.
Keeping that in mind, there is a chance that Michigan could set a new record that nears 115,000 this coming season. Although Notre Dame and Ohio State are not on the home schedule (games against those teams always draw extremely well), there is a game against Michigan State. That will definitely be highly attended, and if you consider that there are probably going to be many more stadium employees at the games (for the luxury suites/club seats and new concourses opening up), it's possible that attendance could threaten 115,000. At the very least, we should see attendance pass the 114,000 mark for that game and blow away the old records for the other games.
Going forward, it would be nice if this were the capacity every year, but unfortunately the final capacity will be somewhere in the 108,000s. This is because Michigan is going to widen aisles and seats in the stadium in the next few offseasons, eventually making it so all seating includes more space. Personally, I don't think the extra half-inch to an inch that people will receive is enough to warrant losing all of these seats, but Michigan is going ahead with plans to give people more space. As a result, the Big House will lose seats, causing the capacity to drop a little bit from 109,901 each offseason. Michigan Stadium will still be No. 1 in capacity after the seat widening is complete, but it would be nice to have that night game against Notre Dame in 2011 or an Ohio State game at home with a capacity of 109,901, because I think they would both hit the 115,000-people mark.