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Pac-12 Football: Power Ranking the Conference's 5 Most Intense Fanbases

Jeff BellCorrespondent IJune 5, 2014

Pac-12 Football: Power Ranking the Conference's 5 Most Intense Fanbases

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    Oregon fans are known for getting loud in support of the Ducks.
    Oregon fans are known for getting loud in support of the Ducks.Steve Dykes/Associated Press

    Pac-12 fans may not quite stack up with those from the SEC in terms of intensity, but the conference of champions has supporters who can be found around the world.

    While it may be difficult to measure intensity or compare it to other college football conferences, you still wouldn't want to stand in the way of an argument between a UCLA and USC fan—or a Husky and a Cougar. Heck, even the Buffaloes and Utes have mustered up some animosity.

    Then again, intensity isn't measured solely in hatred for rival programs. It's about how a win feels on Saturday versus the long, cold week following a loss. If neither result has an impact on the rest of your week, you don't belong anywhere near this list.

    Naturally, our list will have a modern feel, as there's really no way to gauge the amount of support teams such as Oregon State or Washington State had 45 years ago. The easiest way to make the cut as a program is by filling the stadium, making it loud and having a presence outside the venue itself.

    Though it may seem obvious, keep in mind that this relates to the football portion of each fanbase, so UCLA's strong basketball following or Arizona's terrific softball crowds have no weight here.

    So which Pac-12 teams have the most intense fanbases?

1. Oregon Ducks

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    Oregon runs out of the tunnel
    Oregon runs out of the tunnelDon Ryan/Associated Press

    The Oregon fanbase was lethargic at best in the '70s and '80s, the result of a product so bad that any mention of a bowl game was followed with laughter.

    However, Rich Brooks slowly turned things around, and the Ducks finally won the Pac-12 in 1994 and made it to the Rose Bowl. Mike Belotti then took over the reins, turned things over to Chip Kelly in 2009, and, well, you know the rest.

    Today, the University of Oregon is home to one of the best football programs in the country, though that's not why its fans make the list at No. 1. The Ducks have the most intense fanbase in the Pac-12 because Autzen Stadium is one of the loudest venues in the country, and expectations for the team are consistently through the roof.

    You won't find many Duck fans content with last season's 11-2 record, despite the fact that reaching 10 wins was considered phenomenal even five years ago.

    Those who bleed green and yellow may be a little obnoxious, a little crazy or even folks you wouldn't want to ever associate yourself with (if you're a Husky or a Beaver, that is), but they are truly the league's most intense group of fans.

2. Arizona Wildcats

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    The Arizona Wildcats' mascot
    The Arizona Wildcats' mascotUSA TODAY Sports

    There's one aspect of Arizona football that gives it a spot on this list as opposed to wallowing around the 10-12 range: the ZonaZoo.

    The aptly named student section isn't literally full of caged animals, though based on the noise and passion displayed at every home game, the untrained eye might need a closer look just to make sure.

    It's no coincidence that the Wildcats have managed to upset a number of top teams in recent years. No. 2-ranked Oregon came calling in 2007, and though quarterback Dennis Dixon's injury played a role in the outcome, the atmosphere was off the charts and helped the home team notch a major upset.

    Fast forward six years and you see the Ducks losing yet again on the road in Tuscon. In 2012, it was USC suffering a major blow at the hands of Rich Rodriguez's team. The players are making it happen, but you could certainly make a case that all three of those results would have been different away from the friendly confines of Arizona Stadium.

    If we were including basketball, the Wildcats would be a no-brainer at No. 1 here. But the football team has yet to develop the same kind of reputation on a national level. If or when it does, you can bet the ZonaZoo will be making more noise than ever.

3. Utah Utes

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    A Utah Utes flag
    A Utah Utes flagUSA TODAY Sports

    How about a little love for the new kids on the block?

    Utah has only been in the Pac-12 conference for three years now but has already made a name for itself with its passionate fans. On the field, the product has steadily declined and is in dire need of a repair.

    But that hasn't stopped Rice-Eccles Stadium from rocking loudly and proudly throughout the fall, often at full capacity. In fact, the stadium has a sellout streak of more than 20 games entering the 2014 season.

    While all those things are nice, what really gives a program a leg up on the competition in making this list is having an organized student section, and few match up to the "MUSS" at Utah. This is the group responsible for rallying the crowd and creating as much noise as possible.

    It's also the section most likely to come pouring out on to the field first following a major upset. Even with a tough 2013 campaign, Utah was able to knock off Stanford at home, a win that changed the landscape of the Pac-12 conference.

    You know your fanbase is intense when your football team is struggling, and opponents still fear traveling into your den. That's the case at Utah, where future visitors better arrive prepared for the craziness that is sure to ensue.

4. Washington State Cougars

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Like several other schools on this list, Washington State has something outside of a generally loud home crowd and fun game-day atmosphere that puts it among the most intense fanbases in the league: It has Ol' Crimson!

    Every school has a variety of flags that they'll wave at games, hang out the back of cars on the road or try to get on television. But what if that flag made television every week during the season for over 10 years? And what if it wasn't just on television, but it was also on one of the more popular weekly shows that's filmed live at the site of the week's biggest game, ESPN's College GameDay?

    That's right, Ol' Crimson has made the rounds and reached the screens of every television turned to the morning football program every week it's been on since 2003. Talk about intense!

    Then, of course, there's sweet little Martin Stadium. It's not the biggest, baddest kid on the block, but much like home turf of the next team on our list, it's not somewhere away teams can just stroll in and steal a win from the home team. The best teams have still had to work for it, even in the recent rough patch the Cougars have gone through.

    Now, however, things are looking up with Mike Leach at the helm; the excitement is back. There aren't too many fanbases with as much passion as Washington State's.

5. Arizona State Sun Devils

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    USA TODAY Sports

    To be perfectly honest, there are a number of teams that could have squeaked onto this list, and the No. 5 spot was the hardest to select.

    In the end, it was Arizona State making the cut due to a solid home environment, a party atmosphere that makes for an intense game-day experience and an increase in attendance from 2013 that cannot be ignored.

    That's right, Sun Devil Stadium was one of just three venues in the Pac-12 that saw a more than 10 percent increase in attendance last fall, per NCAA official data (via Ted Miller of ESPN.com).

    That's obviously due to the excitement coach Todd Graham has brought with him to the program, but as we mentioned in the opening slide, this isn't a look at how intense fanbases were 10 years ago; it's about right now.

    And currently, Sun Devil fans are showing up in full force and investing themselves in their team more than ever. Look for UCLA's visit to the desert in 2014 to quietly become one of the must-see games of the season in college football.

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