Top 20 atmospheres in college footballDate: September 12, 2020
By: Jimmy Bliss
Getty Images/Scott Halleran
The college football season is finally upon us. After months of speculation about the college football season being shut down due to the Coronavirus pandemic, numerous conferences across the nation have agreed to go forward with the 2020 college football season. Although the PAC-12 and BIG-10 have opted to either skip this upcoming college football season, or look into starting it at a later date, it’s still a breath of fresh air to see the sport America loves back underway.
The first college football game I ever attended made me fall in love with the sport. At eight-years-old, I attended two games in one day. I went to the Michigan vs Appalachian State game in 2008, and the Toledo vs Purdue game later that day. Yes, I was in attendance for that iconic game. It was one of the greatest upsets in sports history, as the Mountaineers took down the Wolverines by a score of 34-32. Ever since that experience, I knew college football was a sport unlike any other, as the David can take down Goliath on any given Saturday. College football atmospheres are a breed unlike any other, as they blow every NFL atmosphere out of the water. While I haven’t experienced all of these atmospheres, here are the 20 best atmospheres in college football.
20 – Texas (Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium)
The saying “everything is bigger in Texas” applies to the football field, and the Longhorns are home to one of the largest stadiums in North America. With a capacity of 100,119, Saturday nights can get extremely rowdy in Austin. Just ask Joe Burrow about the crowd during the 2019 game between the LSU Tigers and the Texas Longhorns. Tigers’ players ears were left ringing all night after they escaped with a narrow win.
19 –USC (Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum)
Starting off with one of the greatest college football traditions in the land, the USC experience is unlike any other. Under the bright LA sun, Tommy the Trojan provides all viewers with an absolute show, as he throws his dagger up in the air and stabs the USC logo on the 50-yard line. The LA Coliseum can host up to 77,500 Trojan fans, and one may be able to spot a few celebrities in the crowd on any given Saturday. The program’s play on the field has faded over recent years, but the glitz and glamour of their past creates an enjoyable atmosphere that all college football fans would die for.
18 – Georgia (Sanford Stadium)
The first of many SEC schools on this list, the University of Georgia has its fair share of reasons for staking its claim on this list. Playing between the hedges since 1996, opponents know they are in for an all-out war when they step into Sanford Stadium.
With a capacity of 92,746, Bulldog fans make themselves noticeable to the opposition on every third down, every Saturday afternoon and evening. Perhaps their best tradition is the inclusion of Uga, the loveable English Bulldog that sits on the Georgia sideline during every Georgia home game. Now on the 10th dog to represent the ‘dawgs, this has been a tradition since 1955, and each dog that has played Uga that has passed away was buried on the south side of the stadium.
17 – Oregon (Autzen Stadium)
The Ducks have called Autzen Stadium home since 1967 and have recently transformed this stadium to become one of the most hostile environments in the country. With a capacity of 54,000, there may not appear to be too many spectators, but their noise generated per capita more than make up for it. Picking up 19 wins out of a possible 21 over the past 3 seasons, the constant home support of the fans has motivated the Ducks to wins over their hated rivals, including Oregon State, Stanford, and Washington.
The iconic “Throwing Your O” gesture is flashed constantly throughout home games, as an alternative option to cheer the home team on. Also, home to arguably the most well-known mascot in collegiate sports, the Oregon Duck is always on the scene to provide the players, and fans, with a second wind to finish the job.
16 – Nebraska (Memorial Stadium)
Commonly referred to as the “Sea of Red,” Memorial Stadium has been sold out for 375 consecutive Cornhusker games. That record stretches back to 1962 and is over 100 games longer than the second longest streak, which recently ended at 273. With a capacity of 90000, that is no easy feat. Fans of Nebraska pride themselves with the sign “Through these gates, pass the greatest fans in college football” as they enter Memorial Stadium. Although their play on the field has regressed over the past few years, ‘Husker fans reminisce over the better times and have been supportive through the thick and thin.
15 – Virginia Tech (Lane Stadium)
When opposing teams hear “Enter Sandman,” start playing, they know they’re in for a long night. Causing seismic activity on four separate occasions, with the most recent occurring in 2017 vs the Clemson Tigers, this is one stadium that punches well above its weight class. Although Lane Stadium only has a capacity of 66233, it is consistently ranked as one of the loudest stadiums in America, as the students’ section does everything in their power to distract the opposing offense. Occasionally, students will all take out their keys and jingle them in effort to create more noise.
14 – Oklahoma (Gaylord Family- Oklahoma Memorial Stadium)
Every home game begins with the iconic “Boomer Sooner” tradition, in which a wagon is pulled by 2 horses around the field, while the “Boomer Sooner” song is sung by the crowd. Containing a maximum of 84000 patrons, this stadium only trails only hated rivals, Texas, for the largest stadium in the Big 12. The historic Oklahoma Sooners program has excelled for decades and gives Sooner fans plenty to cheer about during the course of their games. Their tailgates are also second-to-none, as the Texas-Oklahoma rivalry has reached a new level off the field.
13 – Auburn (Jordan-Hare Stadium)
Kicking off each home game with the War Eagle tradition, the Auburn atmosphere should be on everyone’s bucket list. With a maximum capacity of 87,451, Jordan-Hare Stadium can be an intimidating place for anyone to enter, especially if you’re a member of the Crimson Tide.
The student section is still settling down from the famous “kick-six” play that decided the 2013 encounter between the Auburn Tigers and the Alabama Crimson Tide. That Iron Bowl ending was all down to the student section, as their volume rattled the Alabama Kicker, allowing Chris Davis to work his magic and return the missed field goal 100 yards on the final play of the game to win 34-28.
12 – Notre Dame (Notre Dame Stadium)
Saturdays in South Bend, Ind. hold a special place in people’s hearts all across the country. Notre Dame Stadium, with a present-day capacity of 78,000, has been standing since 1930. If you pick a random town across the United States and ask every resident what college football team they support, more often than not you will find a fan of the Fighting Irish.
With arguably the largest following of any college football program in the nation, these fans come prepared for each and every home game. Their green-out games are only out-done by one school, who will be revealed later in this list. Experiencing a football game at Notre Dame should be on every sports fans’ bucket list, even if you detest Notre Dame.
11 – Michigan (Michigan Stadium)
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Narrowly missing out on the top 10 is Michigan Stadium. Often referred to as “The Big House,” Michigan fans pride themselves in having the largest stadium in the land. With an official capacity of 107,601, Michigan is one of the most respected programs in college football, and their stadium atmosphere helps back that up.
Watching the Wolverines run out of the tunnel, hitting the “Go Blue” banner is a thing of beauty that fans of all colleges can admire. Their fight song, “Hail to the Victors” is a simple and catchy song that people of all ages can sing along to. Saturdays in Ann Arbor, Mich. are an impressive feat, especially when archrivals Ohio State come to town. Expect to go home with your ears ringing, surrounded by a sea of maze and blue, after experiencing “The Game.”
10 – Wisconsin (Camp Randall Stadium)
The atmosphere that Camp Randall Stadium, which resides in Madison, Wisc. Is one to remember. The most well know tradition of Wisconsin is known as “Jump Around” as the 80,321 capacity stadium shakes at the end of the third quarter. Every fan in the stands jumps for the entirety of the break between quarters and has even recorded some seismic activity in the past.
Another tradition of the Badgers is known as the fifth quarter, where the Wisconsin marching band performs for about 45 minutes following the game, which keeps about 30,000 fans in the stands. But before you can enjoy the football game, Wisconsin is well known for their “Badger Bash” that starts two and a half hours before kickoff, which includes bands playing and festivities for families to enjoy.
9 – Texas A&M (Kyle Field)
The 12th man is alive and well in College Station. At Kyle Field, four fighter jets fly over the stadium prior to every kickoff, paying tribute to the military. The Aggies are home to one of the largest ROTC programs in America, so spectators of any game at Kyle Field should expect to see a fair few amounts of ROTC cadets in the stands. This only intensifies the atmosphere at Kyle Field, as the student section use a variety of military chants to cheer their team on.
With a capacity of 102,733, Texas A&M has the largest stadium in the SEC, just 300 seats larger than Tennessee’s Neyland Stadium. On the evening before every home game, a party is held right outside of Kyle field, known as a yell. This typically occurs at midnight, with over 25,000 Aggies in attendance. Once “Power” by Kanye West is played, the Aggies know its game time.
8 – Florida State (Doak Campbell Stadium)
Florida State has the greatest pre-game tradition in all of college football. There, I said it. Chief Osceola comes out of the tunnel, riding on top of Renegade, and plants his flaming spear in the ground on the 50-yard line. Greeted by the Florida State faithful all participating in the Tomahawk chant, this intro to a college football game is enough to give anyone goosebumps.
Nothing in the history of college football will ever top that intro, but Florida State’s play on the field is a close second. Doak Campbell Stadium, with a capacity of 79,560, is home to the rowdiest fans in the ACC, who all play their part to get into the opposing teams head.
7 – Alabama (Bryant-Denny Stadium)
Men and women across America dream of watching college football powerhouse Alabama in Bryant-Denny Stadium. Since 2013, the Crimson Tide have won 47 home games, compared to just 2 losses. Their 95.9% home win percentage is the best in college football over that span. This is largely due to the 101,821 passionate fans that can attend each game. “Roll Tide” is a phrase associated with the Alabama faithful, and if you attend a game at Bryant-Denny Stadium, you’ll hear it a thousand times.
The Bear Bryant Museum is located right outside of the stadium and is a must-see attraction for college football fans across the nation. It honors the life and legacy that Bear Bryant left behind, which laid the foundation for what Alabama Football is today. Just two hours before kickoff, the walk of champions gets underway. Thousands of Crimson Tide fans and students gather around as the players walk from the bus into the stadium. It’s quite the site to see.
6 – Florida (Ben Hill Griffin Stadium)
Commonly referred to as “The Swamp,” Ben Hill Griffin Stadium is home to some of the best college football fans in America. Ranked as the third loudest stadium in college football, according to ESPN, a trip to “The Swamp” is a game that every opponent dreads. The saying “only Gators make it out alive,” is enough to send shivers down a college football fan’s spine, let alone experiencing it.
Mel Kiper, an ESPN NFL draft expert famously spoke the words “Florida Field is the nation’s loudest stadium. Take any heavy metal album, crank it, then place your speakers in a tin basement. That sounds like a library compared to ‘The Swamp.”
Hyperboles aside, Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, while holding 88,548, is one of the greatest atmospheres in college football, and you should expect to have your ears ringing for the next few hours after exiting the stadium. You should expect to see the iconic “Gator Chomp” in large volume during any Gator game. Apart from the sheer noise that “The Swamp” generates, the newly added tradition of singing “Won’t Back Down” by Gainesville native Tom Petty, is a nice touch to bring together the Gator faithful at the end of the third quarter.
5 – Clemson (Memorial Stadium)
Starting with the most out-of-place pregame tradition, Memorial Stadium is a great place to see a football game if you’re a Clemson fan, but not so much if you’re a fan of the opposing team. Every Clemson home game starts with the Tigers boarding three busses, one for the offense, one for the defense, and one for the special teams. In full uniform, the Tigers wait patiently as the bus takes three right turns, before being let off. Then, they wait for everyone to get off the bus, so they can run down the hill in unison. Just prior to running down the hill, Clemson players and coaches will place a hand on “Howard’s Rock,” which is a rock that derives from a desert in California known as Death Valley.
When opposing teams see this, they know they’re in for a long night. Also known by the nickname of “Death Valley,” Memorial Stadium is one of the loudest stadiums in America. Recently ranked as the second loudest stadium in college football, Death Valley can host 81,500 patrons. These fans show up ready to do anything in its power to give their beloved Tigers an edge.
4 – Army (Michie Stadium)
When you step onto campus in West Point, New York, you can already feel the tradition. Located right on the Hudson River, attending a game at Michie Stadium is a tradition unlike any other. The tailgates just prior to the football game cannot be matched, and that is only the beginning of the traditions you will endure when watching an Army football game. Prior to each game, a paratrooper lands on the field of play and delivers the game ball to the head official.
The cadets roar as the paratrooper hits the ground, sensing that opening kickoff is right around the corner. Cannons are fired off for every Army Black Knights touchdown, which may startle a few first-time visitors. The cadets also do the same number of pushups as the number of points on the score board on a Black Knights scoring play. Although the stadium only has a capacity of 38,000, this stadium can get louder than stadiums with double its capacity limit. Seeing a game at Michie Stadium has to be on every sports fan’s bucket list.
3 – Ohio State (Ohio Stadium)
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Walking into Ohio Stadium and seeing the buckeye decal on the helmets of Ohio State player is a special experience. Players get more stickers on their helmet as the season progresses, as they are awarded with more stickers based upon their play on the field. Ohio State is also home to one of the best tailgating scenes in America, as Ohio natives are well-known for their pulled pork sandwiches. The rivalry between Michigan and Ohio State lives on, even in the early weeks of the season, as Buckeye fans find anything and everything, they can to insult their rival Wolverines.
Many fans in the 104,944-capacity stadium come to the Horseshoe to watch the marching band at their best. Known as “The Best Damn Band in the Land,” the marching Buckeyes put on a halftime show to remember and needs to be experienced at least one time in your life. Their play on the field replicates the performance of their fans and their marching band, as Ohio State possess a .729 all time winning percentage, which is the greatest in college football history. Even Michigan fans can admit that the gameday atmosphere in Columbus, Ohio, is truly one of a kind.
2 – Penn State (Beaver Stadium)
The single greatest atmosphere in college football is the white-out game at Beaver Stadium. 106,572 Nittany Lions fans pack into Beaver stadium, dressed in head-to-toe in white clothing. This sight is enough to take your breath away, but just wait until you hear the noise that the fans generate. The noise level has been known to exceed 200% the recommended daily dose, in just three hours. Now put yourself in the shoes of opposing 18, 19, 20 and 21-year-olds, and that is an extremely terrifying situation.
White-out games only occur once a year in State College, which makes every white-out game even more special. Walking into the stadium on white-out night, which is typically Penn State’s biggest home game of the year and hearing the “We are Penn State” chant can send a shiver down your spine. Aside from white-out games, the average Penn State home game draws crowds over 100,000, with each fan pouring their heart and soul into every moment of every game. Going to a Penn State game, whether it be a white-out game or just a tradition Saturday afternoon game, is a must for not just sports fans, but for everyone in America.
1 – LSU (Tiger Stadium)
The greatest college football atmosphere resides in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Your day will start with the best tailgating experience in America, as the words “Louisiana Cajun food” is enough to make many mouths water. Just prior entering the stadium, many elects to pass by LSU’s live mascot, Mike the Tiger, for good luck, as his cage is right next to the stadium. In years past, LSU has brought Mike the Tiger on the field of play and kept him in his cage right outside of the visiting team’s locker room, in attempt to strike fear into them.
When the pregame festivities end, the real show begins. With a capacity of 102,321, Tiger Stadium, also dubbed as Death Valley, is the loudest collegiate stadium in the US. Often referred to as Deaf Valley, this nickname is more than warranted. After attending a game in Death Valley, expect your ears to ring for the rest of the night, and in some cases, it may carry on until the morning after. You will most likely lose your voice midway through the first quarter to contend with Tiger fans, and not find it again until your ears stop ringing. The physical look of Tiger Stadium looks like something out of the Roman Empire. But the structural design is also used as a point of intimidation, as it is designed to amplify the noise generated.
With a French influence, the term “Geaux Tigers” can be seen and heard hundreds of times during the course of the game. Literally translating to “Go Tigers,” this has been a tradition for decades in Baton Rouge, La. and looks to continue for the foreseeable future. The Tigers are host to the best atmosphere in college football by a country mile. That’s no disrespect to the other great atmospheres in this top-five, but Death Valley is head and shoulders above each and stadium in the country. If you call yourself a college football fan, you must take a trip to LSU and attend a game.
Jimmy Bliss can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.