College Football 2011: Power Ranking the 20 Toughest College Stadiums

Thomas CopainCorrespondent IFebruary 10, 2011

College Football 2011: Power Ranking the 20 Toughest College Stadiums

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    Oh college football, the corner of the gridiron world that doesn't have to deal with labor negotiations. Of course, there are a lot of other things college football has to deal with but that's another story.

    But there's a lot to love about college football: The pageantry, the tradition, the iconic programs. And then there are the stadiums.

    The cathedrals of the college game, the old spectator benches, the crazy students. It all fits into these venues that are some of the most pastoral in sports. But there's also the intimidation factor, the noise, the players across the field.

    For some, they're the best stadiums around and very friendly confines. But for the visitors, they're houses of horrors. These are the 20 toughest stadiums around.

20. Doak Campbell Stadium (Florida State)

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    It may not be what it once was back in the day when the Seminoles were crushing the rest of the ACC and competing for National Titles every year, but it's still one of the toughest places to play.

    Fans still pack the place every Saturday, making the noise bounce off the walls of the bowl to keep it inside the stadium. And don't tell me you don't get either chills or intimidated when you see Chief Osceola and Renegade ride out to midfield and plant the flaming spear.

19. Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum (USC)

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    It's the history and tradition of the stadium and USC football that makes the Coliseum special. Inside it's no great shakes and the noise tends to rise up and leave the stadium like at Michigan.

    But it's walking around and seeing the Olympic logo at the main entrance. It's being on the same field where some of the legends of football once played. Only a few years ago, it was playing against NFL stars and seeing Hollywood stars on the sideline.

    Plus while the noise level isn't great, the fans try to make up for it.

18. Jordan-Hare Stadium (Auburn)

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    Picking between some of the venues in the SEC can prove especially daunting considering how rabid the fan bases are. But Auburn deserves a mention on this list.

    Jordan-Hare is the 12th largest stadium in college football (somewhat surprising), but it's packed to the gills every week with 87,000-plus Tiger fanatics with orange and blue shakers. Plus the normal pre-game appearance of War Eagle soaring around the stadium sends the fans into fever pitch.

17. Notre Dame Stadium (Notre Dame)

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    Like Florida State, the Fighting Irish are trying to regain the glory from years past. But just because the team has struggled doesn't make Notre Dame Stadium any less intimidating.

    It doesn't mean that it's not a full house every weekend, or that you won't be facing the gold helmets and blue uniforms. It doesn't mean the crowds and your own marching band isn't right on top of you on the sideline with a bunch of screaming students.

    And it also doesn't mean Touchdown Jesus isn't lurking in the background.

16. Husky Stadium (Washington)

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    This was a tough call for me, especially since it was between Husky Stadium and Neyland Stadium in Tennessee. But I decided to go with Husky because of the crowd noise it can create. 

    The two upper decks on the sideline are at a pretty steep angle, which really lets the noise cascade down onto the field and keeps it bottled up even though the fans are separated from the field by a track (what stadiums still have a track around them?)

    It's definitely one of the loudest and toughest places to play when Washington is competitive and going well, not to mention perhaps the most picturesque.

15. Lane Stadium (Virginia Tech)

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    From it's appearance and the way the stands are set up, Lane Stadium doesn't give the appearance of being intimidating. In fact it wasn't that long ago that both end zones were open and the only seating was on the sidelines.

    But as the program boomed, so did the stadium. And now Lane is one of the most intimidating venues in the ACC and the country for it's intimate setting and crazy fans. Plus the fact that the Hokies rarely lose in Blacksburg makes it even tougher.

14. Sanford Stadium (Georgia)

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    Picture it, a warm late-summer afternoon, sitting in the sun and watching Georgia football Between The Hedges.

    If you're a Georgia fan, that sounds good. For an opposing fan or team, not so much. Georgia might be stuck underneath Florida's shadow many times in the SEC, but Sanford is one of the tougher places to play in the country.

    The three-quarters enclosed field help bottle in the noise of 92,746 fans, the seventh largest stadium in College Football and one of the largest stadiums in the United States.

13. Bryant-Denny Stadium (Alabama)

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    Everyone knows about Alabama's rabid fans, "Roll Tide" and "Rammer Jammer", but perhaps Bryant-Denny Stadium might be one of the most underrated venues in the country.

    The recent expansions to the stadium have pushed it over 100,000 in capacity, making it one of the largest stadiums in the country. But that also means more room for Crimson Tide fans who love to rock the house.

    And with the end zones now closed in, the noise reverberates off of the stands, creating a louder and more intimidating experience. Plus, you try beating Alabama at home. Auburn needed 28 unanswered points to do it.

12. Bronco Stadium (Boise St.)

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    Maybe it's Coach Peterson. Maybe it's the fact that Boise State is one of the most dominant teams of this century. Maybe it's how the intimate setting also allows for noise considering the fans are on top of the sideline. It could also be the Broncos haven't lost at home since 2005 and not in the regular season since 2001.

    Who are we kidding, it's gotta be the smurf turf.

11. Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium (Oklahoma)

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    Memorial Stadium is nothing special in terms of design or wacky features, it's just plain loud and plain intimidating. 

    But as an opposing player and to watch the fans get ramped up as the Sooner Schooner rides across the field, it's a pretty intimidating scene. Plus, Oklahoma doesn't lose there that often. The last home loss for the Sooners in Norman was back in 2005, when they were shocked by TCU on the opening weekend.

    Oh, those Rhett Bomar days.

10. Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium (Texas)

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    Like Oklahoma, Texas's stadium has nothing phenomenal about it, save for GodzillaTron. Although to be fair, the athletic department and school have invested a lot of money into upgrading the facility and adding a large number of seats.

    It gets loud, as expected with a full house and fanatical fan base. But like Oklahoma, it's the whole atmosphere that can be intimidating. That and the Longhorns are tough to beat at home historically. Any time a team can go into Austin and get a win, it's still a big deal.

    At least before this year.

9. Memorial Stadium (Nebraska)

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    Like with Texas and some of these other schools on the list, the great sign of an intimidating stadium is one where you can boast you went in there and won.

    Memorial Stadium in Lincoln may have lost its luster stuck in the Big 12 North, but the sea of red is still a tough place to go into, as the Big Ten will find out next year. They're still a football-crazed state and a fan base that covers the entire state.

8. Camp Randall Stadium (Wisconsin)

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    For all the great venues in college football and especially in the Big Ten in terms of tough places to play, Camp Randall is kind of forgotten about. But then you remember about all those fans packed into an extremely intimate venue for it's capacity, the students weekly tradition of making the stadium bounce to House Of Pain and the noise that flows down to the field like rain.

    If you need proof, Ohio State's lost two of its last three trips to Madison.

7. Kyle Field (Texas A&M)

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    The 12th Man. You could stop it right there and that'd be more than enough.

    For a big game, there are few atmospheres better than College Station. The ROTC students waving towels, the chants, the Aggie Band, not to mention three decks packed to the gills making a huge amount of noise on each sideline.

    One of the most unique experiences out there.

6. Michigan Stadium (Michigan)

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    Michigan Stadium, with the famous bowl and the largest capacity for a stadium in the country is one of those traditional atmospheres that are part of the fabric of college football. 

    Like Notre Dame, it's one of those places that is a mecca of the sport. Although from everyone who's been there, it's not that noisy for a place that size. The way its built means the noise just leaves the stadium because it was built out, not up. 

    But the aura of the Big House still puts it on this list.

5. Beaver Stadium (Penn State)

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    What can you say about Happy Valley? Really what can't you say.

    Big game, under the lights, and the opposing team comes out to 107,000-plus (and sometimes closer to 110,000), all in white screaming their lungs out while the "We Are...Penn State" chant echoes from sideline to sideline and off the dual-decked end zones.

    Let's put it this way. It's the only stadium I've ever seen where teams will no-huddle to neutralize the student section and the noise.

4. Ben Hill Griffin Stadium (Florida)

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    The Swamp. Another mainstay when it comes to intimidation.

    The old bleaches that box in the field and box in the crowd noise with it, plus the fans being right on top of the field while doing the Gator chomp. The Swamp has the feel of one of those old-time baseball or basketball/hockey venues because of how close the fans are, and it makes it that much tougher to play in.

3. Tiger Stadium (LSU)

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    One of the most intimidating venues not just in college football, but all of sports.

    Again, one of these old stadiums where the fans are right on top of the action. But because of the unique slant of the sideline bleachers and the dual-decked end-zone on one end of the field, once again it creates that old-timey feel to it that makes it one of the loudest stadiums around. Add the old-style goalposts and the actual field itself (markers every five yards and the tiger eye at midfield) and it's downright scary.

    It's not called Death Valley for nothing.

2. Ohio Stadium (Ohio State)

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    Like Nebraska, you exit the visiting tunnel and it's a sea of red in front of you, complete with the "O-H-I-O" chant. The fans are a little farther back than some of the other stadiums, but the unique shape of The Horseshoe keeps the noise bottled in, especially during a big game.

    Another stadium that's stood the test of time and hasn't really changed other than the improvements since it opened. Classic and scary.

1. Autzen Stadium (Oregon)

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    Extremely intimate (a single-level bowl), yet extremely loud. For some reason, Autzen is one of the loudest stadiums in the country and is able to keep the crowd noise compact and swirling around the field.

    50,000-plus may not seem like a lot for college football, but the stadium makes it sound a lot louder and definitely makes it the toughest place to play in college football. Then again, it may not be the stadium that makes it tough to play Oregon at home.

    Maybe other teams are scared off by the uniforms.