Power Ranking Top 5 Home-Field Advantages in Pac-12 Football
The trainers, coaching staffs and players that make up each program in the Pac-12 undoubtedly have the biggest impact on wins and losses. But part of what makes college football so special is the pageantry and atmosphere surrounding stadiums throughout the country every Saturday.
That atmosphere, aside from creating buzz and excitement, can often provide a very real advantage for the home team. That comes from deafening noise which makes it difficult for offenses to communicate and momentum that you can practically feel swirling around the stadium and washing over the home team.
But stadiums aren't simply built with an advantage in place. It's the crowd that creates the edge, and players feed off of it.
So which programs have the best home-field advantages in the Pac-12? Here's our top five.
All stats via cfbstats.com. We're looking at home-field advantages as they stand today in 2014. A list taking into account the entirety of a team's history would look much different.
Just missed: Washington State-Martin Stadium, Arizona-Arizona Stadium
5) Oregon State, Reser Stadium
We begin the list with a school not necessarily known for its winning tradition or storied history on the gridiron. In fact, Oregon State isn't known for those things at all. But the state knows passion, as evidenced by the support for the Portland Trailblazers, Portland Timbers and Oregon Ducks, and the Beavers are no exception.
The fans are passionate and often carry a chip on their shoulders having had to look up at Oregon in the standings in recent years, and that's typically how the team plays as well. With a capacity of nearly 46,000, the sheer size isn't overwhelming.
But the stadium went through massive renovations in 2005, and now the crowd maintains a reputation of being louder than most despite being smaller than most. And if simple descriptions of the place aren't enough to convince you, how about wins over Top Five ranked USC in 2006 and then the No. 1-ranked Trojans in 2008?
It matters not that the Beavers are routinely finishing third or fourth in the North Division, or that the Ducks have won three games in a row in Corvallis. The fact is that Reser Stadium is not a friendly place for opponents to seek shelter from the grueling college football schedule.
Instead, it's another major hurdle on the road to glory, but one that's high enough to trip almost all visitors.
4) UCLA, the Rose Bowl
We're already at a point in the countdown where we've come to a stadium that does not have the same level of crowd noise as the one from the previous slide. But, while the Rose Bowl isn't known for sheer volume, it houses a team on the rise in UCLA and remains a symbol of success in the sport as a whole.
Getting to play in the Rose Bowl outside of the regular season likely means you've either won your conference or you're playing in the national championship. That will change this year, although it still plays host to one of the semifinal games in the new College Football Playoff.
The point is that The Rose Bowl is one of the most iconic places in the game, and many players grow up dreaming about the chance to play a big game in it. That isn't always the case when taking on UCLA, but there's still a sense of awe and magnitude of the moment whether the contest is on Jan. 1st or Oct. 8th.
It just so happens that in 2014, the Bruins are real contenders led by head coach Jim Mora and quarterback Brett Hundley. So in addition to opposing teams perhaps feeling a bit intimidated by the environment, they'll be taking on one of the nation's top squads.
Oh, and while it may not be known strictly for getting loud, it still houses over 90,000 fans. You can expect the place packed each and every week the Bruins play there in 2014, which will help create one of the top five home-field advantages in the Pac-12.
3) Utah, Rice-Eccles Stadium
Rice-Eccles Stadium is one of the most scenic venues in all of college football, and it should be on every fan's bucket list of places to see. But you aren't alone if you put one hand over your eyes before every play when your team plays there.
It's no secret that the Utah Utes are struggling as of late, and back-to-back five-win campaigns won't sit well with a fanbase just six years removed from a dominant Sugar Bowl win over Alabama. But then out of nowhere, you see a team like Stanford losing to the Utes in 2013, dashing any hopes the Cardinal had of competing for a national championship.
It's that ability to sneak up and hang with anyone and everyone that makes the Utes so dangerous, and that quality coats the team whenever it plays in Rice-Eccles. That's not to say it's going to win every home game, but how else do you explain slugfests against UCLA, Oregon State and Arizona State even in a five-win season?
The leaders of the 45,000+ are the students who make up the MUSS, short for Mighty Utah Student Section. They're one of the more organized student sections in all of college football and are known for setting the tone for the rest of the crowd during big plays.
The final reason teams tend to struggle in Salt Lake City is that the trip almost feels like a fun little getaway. There are mountains in the background, the city is still relatively new to the conference and, on the surface, Utah doesn't pose a serious threat to the heavyweights. But that's exactly the attitude the home team wants to see in the Utes' opponents before they step on the field to do battle.
2) Washington, Husky Satdium
If you take a trip to Rice-Eccles Stadium and think that's scenic, you might fall over backwards when you travel to Husky Stadium, especially if you arrive by boat.
The "sailgating" at Washington's Husky Stadium is unrivaled, and, combined with a strong tradition and boisterous crowd longing to bring back the dominance of the 80s and 90s, you have a pretty strong home-field advantage.
The Huskies are entering the 2014 campaign with new coach Chris Petersen at the helm, and if his days as the head man at Boise State are any indication, Washington may never drop a home game. We're exaggerating of course, but the stadium can get as loud as any in the country, including the top-ranked spot on our list.
There's also the siren that rings out after every score by the home team, and outside of a recent decade filled with misery, the sound was associated with terror by visiting teams and sweet victory by those clad in purple and gold.
If Petersen can keep the recent turnaround headed in the right direction, opposing fans will be shocked at how loud Husky Stadium can get. It hasn't been that way for some time now, but after a nine-win season in 2013, it seems like only a matter of time before the siren once again means something.
1) Oregon, Autzen Stadium
You knew what was coming, so seeing Oregon's Autzen Stadium at the top of our power rankings shouldn't be much of a surprise. The Ducks have ruled at home for years and have suffered just two losses in Eugene since the start of the 2009 season.
What was once a scary place for heavy road-favorites to travel to is now the home of a college football powerhouse that somehow maintains that same level of underdog-buzz and electricity. The difference is that fans now expect the contests to be well in hand by halftime, so the durability of their collective voices may not be what it was.
But Autzen remains one of the loudest venues in the sport, and the Ducks are one of the top teams in the country, checking in at No. 3 in the preseason AP Top 25.
Looking for an example of what makes the place so special? Look no further than Sept. 6th, when Michigan State travels west to take on the Ducks in what looks like the nonconference game of the year. It's been awhile since a reputable opponent outside of the Pac-12 was willing to take on Oregon in Eugene, and you can bet the crowd will be ready.
They'll also want revenge when the Ducks take on Arizona, and words can't even describe how badly fans will yearn for a win against Stanford on Nov. 1st. It could be a special season for Oregon in 2014, and one of the biggest reasons is the home-field advantage provided by Autzen Stadium.