One of the things that makes college football so great is seeing the homefield advantages that some of these power schools have. It can really dictate how a game is played most of the time. Fans can be rabid as rabid can get out. Sometimes it is just the sheer numbers of 100,000 plus breathing down on you. Or it is the mystique playing at a certain venue that can be in itself intimidating. Whatever the case may be, homefield has a way of changing outcomes, whether to a game or to a season.
I look at it in a different perspective. People use homefield advantage of showing how loud or how unbearable it is. But I look at it with that AND the fact of how teams have fared in recent memory. So if you are looking at places that have historically been a nightmare such as LSU, Florida, Texas A&M, Michigan, and Oregon, well, forget it. They won’t be here. LSU losing to Troy while Florida taking them on the chin over the last couple of years and A&M unable to beat anybody that’s ranked while Michigan can’t beat their two foes at home all eliminate them. So who has the best homefield currently in college football?
(1) BRYANT-DENNY STADIUM (ALABAMA): Many don’t put this one as the top dog in the nation as it doesn’t really look like a college stadium more than a professional football stadium. But two things here: 1. The place holds over 100,000 plus and 2. When it is a conference game, it is wickedly loud. Also, since 2008, Alabama is 65-4 in T-Town, undefeated in non-conference play (ironically their last home loss to a non-conference opponent was Louisiana-Monroe), and haven’t lost to an SEC East team in that timespan (Georgia was the last SEC East school to take them down in Tuscaloosa). They’ve also won 18 straight home games and have won 34 of their last 35. Whatever Nick Saban is preaching over there, it has to be along the lines of “we have homefield advantage, let’s use it.” But again, teams can go in there, look at this place that is a monstrosity, and then oh yeah, you’re playing against the top program in college football over the past 10 years and one of the most prestigious programs ever. It’s already hard enough knowing you have to put your “A-Game” on Alabama and then all of that. And maybe no shock to anybody but out of the 65 wins, 60 of them have been wins by 2 or more scores and then if you take out 2008, only 3 games have been non-double digit difference wins).
(2) BEAVER STADIUM (PENN STATE): When Penn State is at or near the top of the college football world, Beaver Stadium is nearly an impossible place to win. And it shows as the Nittany Lions are undefeated the last two seasons, winning 14 in a row, dating back to their last loss to Michigan and won 20 of their last 21 games in Happy Valley. It’s a loud venue in part because of how it is laid out as if you look at it, the fans are on top of the visitors sidelines and then you have 3 decks stacked on the end zones so the venue holds in sound pretty darn good. And since James Franklin took over, he’s made it a point that those who enter Happy Valley don’t leave with a smile on their face, and now Penn State is back, it is a nightmare for any team, Big Ten or otherwise.
(3) MEMORIAL STADIUM (CLEMSON): We go from Happy Valley to Death Valley. The Tigers have that college atmosphere where the fans sell out always, and then you have the tradition before games of the Tigers players running down the hill while touching Howard’s Rock before they go. And while it may not scare off the likes of the powers that visit there such as Florida State, it gives the Clemson faithful more reason to scream as Brent Musburger has said it “is the most exciting 25 seconds in college football.” And if Clemson takes an early lead on you, especially if you are playing there at night, you may as well just go home. Since their embarrassing loss to eventual National Champion Florida State in 2013, the Tigers have gone an amazing 29-1 in Death Valley and won their last 8. They’d probably be ahead of Penn State had it not been for the 2016 loss to unranked Pitt, but still, it is an amazing feat that can’t be ignored from a program that is probably the most successful program not named Alabama in the last 3 years.
(4) LOS ANGELES MEMORIAL COLISEUM (USC): Surprised this one is high on the list? While the Trojans do not sell out all the time, the one intriguing bit is that USC is second only to Alabama in terms of power 5 teams with a home winning streak of 16 games. Granted, since Oregon lost Marcus Mariota to the draft and save Washington, the PAC-12 for the most part has been pretty down. But the PAC-12 is also a very unpredictable conference where you have seen upsets to other teams at home. Whatever the case may be, the Trojans take their homefield to heart lately. Maybe it is that history that the Coliseum holds where opposing teams get intimidated by, especially in a conference that has not really seen much national success outside of USC.
(5) JORDAN-HARE STADIUM (AUBURN): It seems like in recent memory, the craziest things happen on the Plains in Auburn. Sometimes homefield advantage does that. Auburn has rolled to 12 straight victories on their homefield since their loss to Texas A&M in 2016. When the Tigers are near the top of the college football world, it is nearly impossible to win down there, even if you’re their two hated rivals of Alabama and Georgia (where Auburn outscored both by a combined 54-21 in 2017) and again, strange things happen especially if you’re a top dog and go down there, such as dropped passes, botched snaps, things that should go the other team’s way but fail. And like other places, fans are on top of you to go along with steep 2nd decks to keep volume inside the place. And before the game the fans get riled up seeing their War Eagle fly across the sky. And maybe at least in Georgia & Alabama’s cases, the fear of the fans storming down the field after the game if the Tigers win plays into it a little bit.
(6) OHIO STADIUM (OHIO STATE): The Buckeyes are 40-3 at the Horseshoe under Urban Meyer. Now, some may wonder I don’t have the Buckeyes higher which is a legit argument, but given that Auburn put down two #1 teams inside their 12-game winning streak at Jordan Hare and both were the National Title participants while Ohio State fell to a Playoff participant last year by double digits, well, there you go and on top of it, playing a top level non-conference power 5 team hasn’t panned out well for the Buckeyes in recent memory. But either way, going to Columbus has been a disaster for those involved. And of the 3 losses, only 1 was within the conference (Michigan State-2015) and hold a 23-1 record among their Big Ten foes since 2012. While fans are not atop of the action, the place has that aura while the decks are tall enough to keep the sound in which makes it tough for any team to say the least to focus. Ask Penn State how that turned out last year in the 4th.
(7) CAMP RANDALL STADIUM (WISCONSIN): Wisconsin doesn’t get the same love as the others and while the Big Ten in the last few years has been talked about with Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, and Michigan State, it is Wisconsin that keeps getting overlooked. Of course, there may be some merit as the Badgers have been known to fail in the big games against the Buckeyes, Nittany Lions, and Wolverines in recent memory. But that said the Badgers have won 10 in a row in their digs and have won 30 of 34 since 2013. While it doesn’t stand out as being a monstrosity compared to the others, the fans are close to the action and create a nice 12th man.
(8) SANFORD STADIUM (GEORGIA): If you’re an NFL fan, you know the Oakland Raiders “Black Hole” fan base is probably the most rabid, unforgiving fan bases to opposing teams and their fans for years. Well, Georgia has the college version of it. 93,000 plus strong every game, rain or shine, top dog or cream-puff, sea of red, etc. But while you have a good portion of college girls dress to the tens, you also have those girls and the majority of the guys dress like something out of Mad Max, complete with face paint, bald heads painted red, football pads with spikes out a la Legion of Doom, fans screaming the whole time, etc. And opposing fans who visit Sanford Stadium have said it is definitely not the most friendliest places to say the least as Georgia fans earned a bad rap of treating them pretty poorly. And I don’t mean just fans of their foes out down the road at Georgia Tech, South Carolina or Auburn (and those fans have no love loss for UGA), but the ones out in Mississippi State and LSU have said how brutal they can be and prefer to go to Tuscaloosa to watch a game. So Southern hospitality ends at Sanford Stadium. But hey, keep ’em quiet to give more an advantage. Since 2011, Georgia is 38-6 between the Hedges despite a few years of inexplicable losses (Vanderbilt in 2016, Tech in 2014 and 2016, etc.) but you could see a nice little run at home for the next couple of years to pile up their streak of 6 wins and could rank higher on this list come next year.
(9) GAYLORD FAMILY OKLAHOMA MEMORIAL STADIUM (OKLAHOMA): Oklahoma doesn’t really stand out in having anything fully unique about the place as it is relatively open (no second decks on the end zone levels), and doesn’t hit the 90,000 mark for attendance, but they do have seating on the same level as the end zones which does create a bit of a noise factor. And the Sooner Schooner rolling around before the game gets fans into a bit of an excitement. The last 3 years Oklahoma has enjoyed a 16-2 run in Norman as they typically dominate their Big 12 foes in their yard. Can’t really move them up as they show hiccups at times at homes, notably prior to 2015 and then again in last year when Iowa State stunned them. But still, winning in Norman is no easy task.
(10) HUSKY STADIUM (WASHINGTON): Like Georgia, this will also get higher if the Huskies have an undefeated season at home. Washington has won 8 straight in Seattle while winning 14 of their last 15. It is known for being one of the loudest stadiums in college football despite only holding 70,000. A key reason is the sideline stands have roofs overhead where it traps the sound and fans stomp on the bleachers, adding more loudness to the place.
That is it for this week. Another week down before the season starts!
-Fan in the Obstructed Seat