Big Ten Football 2011: Power Ranking All the Stadiums
One of the major things that make college football great is the iconic stadiums that provide the backdrop for the epic battles of our favorite teams each fall.
Each fanbase believes that its team's stadium is somehow superior than that of their opponents.
The college football season is less than two weeks away, so I decided it is time to settle that argument in my neck of the woods (actually I will probably make the argument worse).
I proudly present to you my power rankings of the Big Ten stadiums—from worst to first.
Just a quick note—for the rankings, I took into account the following things: capacity, history (of the team and the stadium), features and of course my own personal bias.
History will be weighed especially heavily because after all, a stadium is only as good as the team that plays there.
12. Ryan Field Home of Northwestern
Ryan Field is the home of the Northwestern Wildcats and is bringing up the rear on my list.
The major knocks against Ryan Field are capacity and history.
Northwestern's home field holds less than 50,000 people, or less than half of the capacity of some of its conference counterparts.
The capacity of Ryan Field has remained almost the same (within 5,000) since the stadium was opened in 1926.
It's just difficult to create a great atmosphere with such a limited number of fans in attendance.
The second knock against Ryan Field is simply that it has not hosted a very high caliber football team through most of its history.
While the last 15 years have been a much brighter time for the Wildcats, the team has simply been horrible for long stretches throughout its history.
With such a poor history, Northwestern could play in Jerry Jones' masterpiece of a stadium down in Dallas, and they still wouldn't rank much higher in the rankings.
11. Memorial Stadium Home of Indiana
The Indiana Hoosiers home field, Memorial Stadium, finds itself on the bottom of this list for the same reasons as Ryan Field did.
The Hoosiers' stadium stays out of the bottom spot only because it just barely cracks the 50,000 mark for capacity, whereas Ryan Field did not.
Still, Memorial Stadium's capacity is a relatively embarrassing number (just under 53,000) in a conference where six-figure stadium capacities are not out of the norm.
Like Northwestern, Indiana does not have a strong football history to fill their stadium.
The Hoosiers have been to barely more than a handful of bowl games in their existence, and if you are waiting for them to win a conference title, I wouldn't hold your breath.
There is one big thing that Memorial Stadium has going for it—in 2005, former coach Terry Hoeppner attempted to inject some tradition into the program by having a limestone boulder installed in the stadium.
This act led to a very cool nickname for the stadium: "The Rock."
Hoeppner's gesture took on even more meaning after his untimely death in 2007.
Now known as "Hep's Rock," the fixture now serves as an inspirational monument in honor of the former coach.
10. Ross-Ade Stadium Home of Purdue
Ross-Ade Stadium is the home of the Purdue Boilermakers and checks in at No. 10 on my list.
Despite its low ranking, it does have some things going for it.
First of all, Ross-Ade Stadium currently holds about 62,000 Boilermaker fans, but planned expansions should push that number closer to 70,000 in the next few years.
Purdue gets a little bit of extra credit on the capacity issue due to the fact that they've taken the stadium from just over 13,000 to where it is now.
From a history standpoint, Purdue is a level above where our last two teams were.
The Boilermakers are third all-time in wins against teams ranked No. 1 in the country with seven.
They also have a tradition of producing quality NFL-caliber quarterbacks.
In a different conference, Ross-Ade Stadium would probably rank higher.
Unfortunately for them, the Big Ten has some of the best stadiums in the country.
9. Memorial Stadium Home of Illinois
The home of the Illinois Fighting Illini is Memorial Stadium, which checks in at ninth place on the list.
Memorial Stadium is quality stadium with a couple interesting quirks that is simply a victim of the fact that there are a lot of great stadiums in the Big Ten.
Illinois' home field holds a little more than 60,000 fans after renovations which were completed in 2008.
The project updated many of the stadiums amenities, including improvements to the luxury seating, concessions and concourses.
The Fighting Illini have a solid if not spectacular football history, but one major thing they have going for them is their claim on Red Grange.
Grange is widely considered one of, if not the greatest player in college football history.
My favorite part about Memorial Stadium is the fact that during construction, heavy rains led to a bulldozer sinking into the playing field.
Because the cost of removing the bulldozer would have been too expensive, it was left in its place and remains there to this day.
I have to admit this is a large factor in Memorial Stadium cracking the Top 10.
8. TCF Bank Stadium Home of Minnesota
It was hard putting TCF Bank Stadium this far down on my power rankings, but as you will see there was just no room closer to the top.
The home of the Minnesota Golden Gophers is a brand-new, state-of-the-art facility, which opened in 2009.
Despite currently only having capacity for just over 50,000 fans, TCF Bank Stadium was designed so it would support expansion to hold up to 80,000.
I like the forward thinking and optimism which that simple fact carries with it.
The Golden Gophers have a surprisingly impressive history in football as well.
Minnesota claims six national championships (including four AP).
In more recent history, the team has made it to a bowl game in eight of the last 10 seasons.
Overall, TCF Bank Stadium brings a lot to the table, just not enough to get ranked higher than eighth.
7. Spartan Stadium Home of Michigan State
Spartan Stadium is home to the Michigan State Spartans and has the capacity to hold over 75,000 fans.
The stadium wraps up the bottom half of my Big Ten stadium power rankings.
Michigan State's home field was originally built in 1923 and has gone through a few name changes along with a series of expansions to reach its current state.
The Spartans have been a good program for most of their history, but they are not in my mind an elite team.
This fact worked against them in trying to climb any higher than seventh on this list.
Michigan State did win a share of the Big Ten title last year—the question is was this just one great year or the start of something big in East Lansing.
While Spartan Stadium comes in at No. 7 on my list, it definitely would win the award for the Big Ten's best stadium name.
6. Kinnick Stadium Home of Iowa
Kinnick Stadium is home of the Iowa Hawkeyes and comes in at sixth on my power rankings.
The home of the Hawkeyes seats over 70,000 people.
I'm just going to cut to the chase.
Iowa's history is not as good as the level of the program would lead you to believe.
They have claim to only one national title, which was in 1958 and was not recognized by the AP.
They have played in 25 bowl games, though, which is in their favor.
The real reason that Kinnick stadium is this high on the list is because of the visitor's locker room.
The locker room for opposing teams was painted pink by legendary coach Hayden Fry in an attempt to psych-out visiting schools.
It may not seem like much, but I find it hilarious and it wins major points on my list.
Another factor that Kinnick stadium has going for it is the fact that it was named after Nile Kinnick, who is the school's only Heisman Trophy winner.
Kinnick died while serving in World War II.
5. Camp Randall Stadium Home of Wisconsin
Camp Randall Stadium is home of the Wisconsin Badgers and was named after the Civil War training ground that was formerly on the grounds where the stadium sits.
The stadium was completed in 1917, making it the oldest stadium in the Big Ten.
The Badgers home field is now arguably one of the tougher places to play in the Big Ten and provides Wisconsin with a significant home-field advantage.
The stadium holds just over 80,000 fans. While more than respectable, it is less than each of the top four teams on my list.
Another factor for Camp Randall not being higher than No. 5 is the fact that until the last 20 years or so (aside from a few glory years), Wisconsin was not a very good football team.
It wasn't until Barry Alvarez took over that the Badgers started to transform themselves into a national player in football.
The biggest things Camp Randall Stadium has going for it are its name (and the name's origin) and the atmosphere of the stadium on game day.
Those two things are enough for it to grab the fifth spot in my power rankings.
4. Ohio Stadium Home of Ohio State
Ohio State University makes Ohio Stadium its home for Buckeyes football games.
The stadium opened in 1922 and now has the capacity to hold over 102,000 fans.
Obviously, Ohio State has a rich football tradition, which goes a long way toward its place on this list, as does the stadium's enormous capacity.
Even being able to seat over 102,000 fans, though, it is still smaller than two of my top three venues.
Ohio Stadium being fourth on my rankings is by no means an indictment on the quality of the stadium. It simply speaks to how many incredible venues there are in the Big Ten.
This is the portion of the list where football tradition really starts to take over.
The Buckeyes claim seven national titles (four AP) and nine undefeated seasons.
Ohio State is obviously one of the best programs in the country, and that goes a long way toward solidifying Ohio Stadium's place at No. 4.
3. Beaver Stadium Home of Penn State
Beaver Stadium is home to the Penn State Nittany Lions and holds an astonishing 107,000 fans.
The stadium was built in 1960 and reached its current capacity in 2001.
Penn State is one of the most storied college football programs in the country and belongs to an elite group of blue-bloods that each of the top four schools on this list are a part of.
Personally, my favorite part of Beaver Stadium is the White Out tradition that was started in recent years.
Seeing more than 100,000 people all dressed in white packed into the stadium is quite the scene.
Obviously the Nittany Lions' tradition plays a huge part in their place at No. 3.
The team has appeared in 43 bowl games and lays claim to seven national titles (two consensus).
One interesting fact about Beaver Stadium is that it is the only venue on this list that is close to having a shorter tenure than the coach that roams its sidelines. Here's to you Joe Pa.
2. Michigan Stadium Home of Michigan
The runner-up on my stadiums power rankings is Michigan Stadium, home of the Michigan Wolverines.
Michigan Stadium holds almost 110,000—slightly less than the population of Ann Arbor.
Like Ohio State and Penn State, Michigan stands in the top tier of college football's elite.
The Wolverines have played in 40 bowl games and lay claim to 11 national titles (two AP).
They also hold the NCAA record for most all-time wins (884), highest winning percentage (.735), most winnings seasons (112) and most undefeated seasons (23).
Clearly, Michigan has the history and capacity categories completely covered.
Come to think of it, that is all the reason I need to put Michigan Stadium at No. 2 on my list.
Let's reveal the top spot.
Memorial Stadium Home of Nebraska
I am ready to take the heat for this one.
The first overall spot in my Big Ten stadiums power rankings goes to Memorial Stadium, home of the Nebraska Cornhuskers.
Before you start writing angry comments, hear me out.
Memorial Stadium currently has a capacity of over 81,000, but expansions are under way to push that number to about 87,000.
While that is significantly less than Ohio Stadium, Beaver Stadium and Michigan Stadium, there is an attendance record Memorial Stadium has to its name that those venues cannot touch.
The Huskers have sold out the last 311 games played at Memorial Stadium, a record that continues to climb and has no end in sight.
The streak dates all the way back to 1962.
That means that next season will mark 50 years since there has been an empty seat in the house. On game day, Memorial Stadium is the third-largest "city" in Nebraska.
Nebraska has the tradition to back up its place on this list as well.
The Huskers claim five national titles (all recognized by either the AP or Coaches Poll) and have appeared in 47 bowl games.
The school has also produced three Heisman Trophy winners.
So there you have it, the best stadium in the Big Ten is Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Nebraska—if you still disagree, feel free to post comments.
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