Power Ranking the Top 25 College Football Towns in America

Carl StineCorrespondent IJune 6, 2013

Power Ranking the Top 25 College Football Towns in America

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    Every college football program has its own unique traditions, history and atmosphere that can be enjoyed on game day.

    That said, not all are created equal, as some college towns provide a better overall experience than others.

    There are excellent college towns all across this country, from Eugene to Columbus, and this list ranks them in order from 25 to 1.

    Please bear in mind that power rankings are a reflection of the current college football town landscape, and this list was not developed using a formula and several computers.

    That doesn't make it infallible, but it is still a better system than that by which we decide our current college football postseason.

    Read on for the list.

Honorable Mention

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    Columbia, South Carolina: Passionate fans, Cockaboose, Five Points South Carolina's hometown just missed the cut.

    Morgantown, West Virginia: Home to burning couches and Owen Schmitt, that is all.

    Athens, Ohio: Not home to a traditional football power, but Ohio University fans are knowledgable, passionate and know how to party.

    Los Angeles, California: The area around USC and UCLA is not ideal. That said, it is freakin' Los Angeles, and thus provides a host of entertainment options on game day.

    Stillwater, Oklahoma: There is not much going on in Stillwater, but the town is moving up the charts as the football team gains momentum.

    Auburn, Alabama: This might be a little low. Auburn has one of the most passionate fanbases, as well as plenty of sights to enjoy the day of the game. The inferiority complex fans have regarding Alabama brings this one down.

    Atlanta, Georgia: Georgia Tech has a decent football team, with tons of tradition and an historic stadium location. There is plenty to do in Atlanta, but the fact that fan loyalty is divided so many different ways brought the ranking down just a little bit.

     


25. Louisville, Kentucky

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    Before turning away from this list in disgust, remember that it had been six years before 2012 since Louisville had won more than seven games in a season.

    The fans have had plenty of time to develop a great game-day experience, as the games themselves had not been great for the last half decade.

    Currently, the atmosphere is buzzing, and with quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and the rest of the Cardinals emerging as a great team, the experience in Louisville will continue to get better.

    Kentucky might not be a vacation destination on many bucket lists, but Louisville and in-state rival town Lexington both provide an excellent game-day experience in a great college setting.

    Stop by sometime and check it out.

24. Boise, Idaho

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    Just take a look at this picture for a brief moment.

    You see the customary display of team colors in standard format: sweatshirts, ball caps and storm trooper attire.

    Yes, storm troopers, wearing Boise State colors. Star Wars fans, this is the place for you, apparently. But it doesn't stop there.

    Sesame Street also makes a blurry appearance in the background.

    Sign me up to party with these fans. Boise is a beautiful city, with plenty of places to find food, entertainment or beverages of choice.

    And the fans, they are incredible. We give a pass to dedicated and knowledgeable Alabama fans, Ohio State fans and USC fans.

    So why the hatred toward Boise State fans? Enjoy the company of an interesting fanbase that has enjoyed immense success for the first time ever over the past decade, and enjoy Boise while doing so.

23. Chapel Hill, North Carolina

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    Not usually associated with the "in" crowd when it comes to tailgating and game-day activities, Chapel Hill, home to North Carolina, is in a beautiful part of the country, and yet offers a great town atmosphere that all can enjoy.

    Larry Fedora has infused new life into this program, and in his second season with the team, he has a very real shot at leading them to the ACC title game.

    The Tar Heel faithful, though generally more attached to basketball, have an excellent grasp on the concepts of football and partying, which leads to plenty of good times in and around Chapel Hill before, during and after a game.

22. Clemson, South Carolina

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    Heading into Clemson, there is a highway, with paw prints painted on it.

    On one's first trip that direction, it begs the question: "What the heck was walking here?" Upon arrival at the destination in Clemson, however, it is discovered that they lead to the center of one of the most underrated college towns in the nation.

    Clemson fans are deeply passionate people, and the area surrounding Clemson is peppered with orange and purple athletic attire, bumper stickers and even vehicles.

    The town itself, while small, has a beautiful downtown area, and folks looking for a little more lively scene can drive the 30 minutes to Greenville.

    The tradition surrounding Clemson is often overlooked, but Howard's Rock, and the claim to being the original "Death Valley" grant the program a place high in the pantheon of the deep South and it's football lore.

    Stop once, it is definitely worth experiencing the culture and fans.

21. Tallahassee, Florida

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    The beautiful brick facade and wonderful statues surrounding the stadium help earn Tallahassee a spot on our list.

    There are few pregame traditions that are as awe-inspiring as Chief Osceola's flaming spear, and while Braves' fans stake claim to the "tomohawk chop" as their signature move, it really belongs to the FSU faithful.

    The culture of winning built by Bobby Bowden and continued by Jimbo Fisher has led to an excellent fanbase and plenty of opportunity to enjoy some pleasant company and wonderful traditions during the weekend.

    While it is hazardous to one's health to mention the words "Gator," "Tebow" or "Free Shoes" in town, the overall feeling toward visitors is generally one of goodwill.

    On top of all that, the Seminoles play some good football.

20. Lincoln, Nebraska

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    Lincoln, Nebraska is not a destination that might be considered tropical or a hot vacation destination by any stretch of the imagination.

    There are no sandy beaches, the only vegetation surrounding the city are rows and rows of corn, and the resorts leave a little something to be desired.

    That said, judging from the atmosphere during football season, the level of commitment demonstrated by fans who sell out the stadium on a record-setting basis, as well as the options for tailgating and celebrating the wonderful unifying even that is football, it deserves a position on this list.

    Sitting at No. 20 seems to be a bit low, even, for such a dedicated fanbase that stands by this team good or bad.

    The Huskers, led by sensational quarterback Taylor Martinez, have a shot at a Big Ten title in 2013, and if they play well this season, this town will be a definite must-visit.

19. Charlottesville, Virginia

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    Yes, it's a bit unorthodox to consider Charlottesville a great college football town, but despite a long period of mediocrity from the team, this fanbase remains dedicated.

    Head coach Mike London and his emphasis on stellar defense have begun a resurgence by the Cavaliers, so much so that they competed for a shot at the ACC title game two years ago.

    The football will never be Ohio State- or Alabama-like, but Charlottesville is a beautiful town with plenty to do.

    Yes, there is football, sometimes not great, but the fans and tailgating scene make up for what the football lacks.

    Definitely a great town to visit, and Cavalier fans will be happy to see they check in above their in-state rival.

     

18. Tuscaloosa, Alabama

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    Alabama fans will argue, as they should, that this ranking is too low.

    After all, if there is such a thing as college football royalty, it currently resides in Tuscaloosa in the form of Nick Saban and his back-to-back BCS champion Crimson Tide.

    And while the team is second to none, and fans are incredibly well-informed, the town itself is not much better than average as college towns go.

    Truthfully, the SEC could dominate this list like it does the BCS, but this is one category in which Alabama does not lead the way.

    Other than the football, there is little reason to be in Tuscaloosa. Admittedly, that is excellent, but only good enough to earn T-town a place in the top 20.

17. Boulder, Colorado

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    The football in Boulder has been abysmal for the past decade.

    Not so much the town itself. Boulder is located in a beautiful position, where the Rocky Mountains are clearly visible and the views as the sun rises and sets are incredible.

    Located at the base of the Rocky Mountains, Boulder is home to one of the craziest traditions in college football, and besides the beautiful vistas, it is to Ralphie the Buffalo that Boulder owes its spot on this list.

    Before each game, handlers run along with Ralphie in a pregame ritual that is absolutely terrifying.

    The faces these students are displaying are of sheer terror, except for the guy in back, who seems to be a little bit too happy to be behind the buffalo instead of alongside or in front.

    The sight of a buffalo weighing over 1,000 pounds tearing across the field at breakneck speed is sight you must catch at least once in your lifetime, and Boulder is a beautiful city.

16. Norman, Oklahoma

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    The name of the town is Norman, which seems like a great place to raise a kid rather than an exotic locale.

    The city that houses Oklahoma is an incredible place.

    Oklahoma fans bring an intensity to every football game that is equivalent to the fervor that has gripped SEC country.

    The Sooners have beautiful facilities, great fans and a town that provides plenty of color and entertainment options for those visiting.

15. South Bend, Indiana

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    South Bend may not be the most beautiful place on earth, but the tradition and history surrounding the Notre Dame program earn it a spot in the top fifteen of our list.

    The Notre Dame faithful, though sometimes delusional, are undoubtedly loyal, and inhabit Notre Dame Stadium, come rain or shine, hot or cold, with a fervor that is second to none.

    Outside of the usual places one might like to visit in South Bend, the College Football Hall of Fame is located in South Bend, as are some beautiful museums.

    For those less interested in culture and history, the party never stops over the weekend of a game, and when it' is a big game, things can get really crazy.

    Any town that features "touchdown Jesus" as part of the football landscape is going to make this list.

14. Ann Arbor, Michigan

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    Ann Arbor is home to the largest stadium in college football.

    It's home to an incredible set of fans who bleed Maize and Blue and a football team that has a history second to none.

    Ann Arbor is a city that caters to a more cultured folk, with botanical gardens, an arboretum and coffee houses galore.

    But don't think that means that football fans are left out.

    For a good time during the game, visit Ashley's or the Ann Arbor Brewing Company, or if you prefer to tailgate, just wander around close to the stadium until someone invites you to to join them.

    It will happen, as people in the Midwest are much hospitable than they have a reputation for being.

    To sum it up, there is a little bit of everything for everyone in Ann Arbor, with the possible exception of Ohio State fans.

13. Baton Rouge, Louisiana

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    The experience in Baton Rouge is something else.

    It is spicy, entertaining and filled with fans decked out in purple and gold.

    It is imperative that the football game one chooses to attend at Tiger Stadium be a night game, as the atmosphere is second to none and fans really amp up the intensity for night games.

    During the day, the tailgating scene is incredible, with everything from gumbo and jambalaya to steak and shrimp available at various points across town.

    On top of all that, there are few people in the city that can stand Nick Saban, so if at a loss for conversation, just start talking about what a great guy he is. I guarantee the conversation to follow will be entertaining.

12. Blacksburg, Virginia

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    If "Enter Sandman" as the Hokies enter Lane Stadium doesn't get you amped up, you're hopeless.

    Despite the rough season last year, the football team at Va. Tech has been one of the most consistent in the country over the past two decades, led by Frank Beamer and a stellar defense.

    Tech fans are crazy intense, arguing stats and a players' specific value at the drop of a hat, and of course they are scattered all over Blacksburg.

11. Knoxville, Tennessee

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    One word.

    Sailgating.

    Oh, and Smokey the Hound.

    And Neyland Stadium.

    So it takes more than one word, but you get the idea, Knoxville, while not a massive metropolis with options abounding, provides an excellent football atmosphere.

    Neyland Stadium is impressive, and the volume of ugly orange floating around on game day is legendary.

    Knoxville is surrounded by beautiful mountain scenery, plenty of color in the fall and fans that stick around whether the team is Peyton Manning good or Derek Dooley bad.

10. East Lansing, Michigan

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    East Lansing does not get much hype when it comes to tailgating or college town credibility.

    Thanks to the history of Michigan, Michigan State tends to fade into the middle distance, giving way to its more flamboyant brother.

    But East Lansing is the better college town, at least for the purposes of this list.

    The fans are underrated. Any group of fans that continues to stay loyal and support a team that is consistently mediocre deserves major kudos.

    The city of East Lansing is surprisingly beautiful, with a mixture of nature's beauty at different points throughout the city, as well as plenty of college watering holes and places where the Michigan State faithful gather to bash Michigan and enjoy Mark Dantonio's resurgent squad.

9. Gainesville, Florida

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    Contrary to popular belief, Gainesville is not replete with jorts.

    And despite Charlie Weis' brief visit and Will Muschamp's incredibly intense demeanor, the entire city has yet to be destroyed.

    Granted, wide receivers coach Joker Phillips is doing everything in his power to photoshop recruits away, but the Florida fans just hang around.

    They have been there through Tebow, Spurrier and Meyer, and cheered through last season's successful campaign, hanging around even when the team fell to Louisville in a BCS bowl.

    Gainesville is the consummate college town, replete with "college hang-outs" plenty of orange and blue and one of the greatest college football stadiums in the history of the game.

    If it weren't for the humidity early in the football season, Gainesville might be closer to the top of this list.

    As is, No. 9 is pretty high for Gator town.

8. State College, Pennsylvania

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    There is nothing quite like hearing "We are Penn State" chanted by over 100,000 people clad in white and cheering on a team that is playing for pride and little else.

    The State College community has pulled together behind Penn State football in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal and Joe Paterno fiasco.

    Whether fans and denizens of the town are JoePa backers, they came out in droves last season to support the Nittany Lions, despite the fact that the team could not play in the postseason.

    For this alone, they deserve a nod on this list.

    Besides the support of the fans, the rural location of Happy Valley, surrounded by mountains and beautiful scenery adds to the points the town garners towards power ranking on this list.

7. Athens, Georgia

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    No, the picture has little to do with Athens except for its relevance to Georgia's rivalry with Georgia Tech.

    Consider this a graphic representation the of matchup between the Bulldogs and Yellow Jackets. You guess who is who.

    Georgia fans are as avid as any SEC fanbase in the conference, with plenty of vitriol toward everything Nick Saban and plenty of football knowledge to be spread around.

    Besides the historical sites scattered around and a plethora of local watering holes to provide nourishment and sustenance to masses of college football fans, Athens is also home to Georgia Museum of Art and the State Botanical Gardens, both facilities that can provide an alternative for football fans to the standard sports-related locations.

    Sanford Stadium is phenomenal and provides an excellent venue in which to watch football.

    Look out, though, as Mark Richt has lost control of the hedges.

6. Columbus, Ohio

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    Like it or not, Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes were the only team to finish with a perfect record in 2012.

    The team will be even better in 2013, barring a major meltdown of some sort.

    All that said, it's tough to argue against a college town as dedicated to its school as Columbus is to Ohio State.

    There is no professional football team in the city, as is the case with many college towns, so the plethora of fans have latched on to the Buckeyes with an enthusiasm bordering on obsession.

    Fans of OSU know what they are talking about, and while unwaveringly biased toward the Buckeyes, they are an incredibly intelligent people when it comes to all things football, tailgating and Michigan.

    The crisp fall weather coupled with excellent football and crazy fans are a recipe for a successful football weekend, as long as you are not affiliated in any way with the Michigan Wolverines.

    If so, duck.

5. College Station, Texas

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    College Station is built around Texas A&M. The school and its fans dominate the landscape during football season, and they do so even when the team is not a top 10 team.

    There is a ridiculous amount of barbecue and "Tex-Mex" food available for consumption, and there are few fanbases in America that tailgate like Texas A&M fans.

    "Yell Practice" provides a unique experience, and watching the fans stand for the entire football game in homage the the famous "12th man" is an opportunity that should be experienced at least once.

    And then there is the football. A&M's recent transition to the SEC has worked out well so far, and 2013 looks as if it will be a special season.

    If given the opportunity to stop by College State, particularly on Sept. 14 when the Aggies take on Alabama, do it.

4. Oxford, Mississippi

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    Forget the quality of football, the town or anything else.

    This one college town earns its spot high on this list by virtue of the best tailgating in the nation.

    "The Grove" at Oxford provides an incredible experience, where fans "...always win the party."

    Ole Miss colors are everywhere, as fans mingle dressed in formal wear under chandeliers hanging from various tents/overhanging shade.

    The food variety is second to none, the fans take pride in keeping up their tailgating reputation and a weekend at "The Grove" with an Ole Miss game in the middle is an experience a football fan will not soon forget.

3. Eugene, Oregon

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    If it were not for the presence of the University of Oregon in Eugene, football fans would not be flocking in droves to the city.

    But take an excellent football team that has developed a unique style over the past decade, coupled with an incredible stadium experience and the funding to back up the athletic department, and fans flock in droves.

    The city's emphasis on being "green" means it is one of the best kept cities in America.

    Fans of the Ducks are easy to identify, by their loud quacking and boisterous colors, and if the Ducks don't score at least 45 points, something is wrong.

    Make Eugene a stop for game day when possible, and it won't disappoint.

2. Austin, Texas

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    Austin, home to the Longhorns, is one of the best college towns in America, despite the recent downturn in the football team's fortunes.

    The town provides plenty of music; if you doubt that, just google "live music capital of the world."

    While the hipster scene and vibe is not for everyone, fans can also find great Longhorn ambiance at college bars around campus and plenty of Texas colors scattered all over town on game day.

    The Colorado River provides entertainment of the aquatic variety, and the fans, while sometimes arrogant, are usually generous, knowledgeable and entertaining.

    The weather is excellent during football season, and the variety of entertainment and dining options second to none.

1. Madison, Wisconsin

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    Wisconsin is not only home to the best brats and beverages in the nation, its fans are avid, the city of Madison is beautiful and the football team has played some good football for the past several seasons.

    The city is situated on two lakes, Mendota and Monona, which provide excellent scenery during football season. The leaves are changing, the air is crisp and no matter where you wander in town, you are involved in a party.

    The party scene on State Street is legendary.

    The stadium itself, Camp Randall, is historic, large and always full, and the Badgers don't lose there often.

    "Jump Around" is one of the great college football traditions and definitely an experience that contributes in a big way to the experience at the game.

    There are better football teams and coaches, but you would be hard pressed to find a better college town anywhere in the country.