College Football Teams That Had Highest 2014 Spring Game Attendance
One of the most fun parts of spring football season has always been ranking—and making a fuss about—which schools did or didn't get a good turnout at their spring game, which is how we know that (a) we are all certifiably insane, and (b) we need the regular season to get here pronto.
Alas, we are still four months away from having real college football games to talk about, which means spring attendance numbers are about the best we can do.
We need something to pass that time, don't we?
In truth, the spring attendance numbers are a good barometer of how a city feels about its program. Because the game means nothing, a team that draws significantly more or less viewers one season than the last is often trending hard in a certain direction.
Last year, for example, Kentucky was the story of the offseason after drawing 50,831 viewers to a spring football game at a basketball school. And even though that number came down a bit (to 35,117) in 2014, the trappings of support were enough to help Mark Stoops land a seminal recruiting class in Lexington.
Was there another UK in 2014? Here is the current top 10.
Note II: Oregon and Oregon State play their spring games May 3. We will update this list accordingly if/when their attendance numbers are released.
10. Florida State
2014 Attendance: 36,400 (10th)
2013 Attendance: 27,500 (T-21st)
A national championship and Heisman Trophy meant a predictable uptick in spring attendance for the Seminoles, who played before almost 10,000 more people this year than last.
Unlike many fans across the country who saw their star quarterbacks limited in the spring game for precautionary reasons, FSU supporters were treated to 56 pass attempts from Jameis Winston—more than he threw in any single game last season.
Winston struggled early but eventually got his act together and led the Garnet team to a 31-14 victory over the Gold.
9. South Carolina
2014 Attendance: 36,412 (9th)
2013 Attendance: 35,218 (12th)
Like it has been on the football field these past few seasons, South Carolina remained a paragon of consistency with regard to spring attendance, bringing in only 1,194 more fans this year than last.
Those in attendance got to see the beginnings of the post-Jadeveon Clowney and -Connor Shaw era in Columbia, as a revamped defensive line and quarterback Dylan Thompson took center stage.
Thompson looked good in preparation for his first full-time starting gig, but the pass-rush and the coverage from a young group of cornerbacks left a lot to be desired and must be improved.
2014 Attendance: 43,500 (8th)
2013 Attendance: 29,200 (17th)
No doubt galvanized by the Sugar Bowl upset of Alabama, more than 14,000 more Sooners fans watched the spring game in 2014 than the season before.
There's a chance they left disappointed, however, as Sugar Bowl hero Trevor Knight reverted back to Weeks 1 and 2 of last season and struggled throughout the afternoon.
Instead, Texas Tech transfer Baker Mayfield, who is not eligible to play in 2014 due to NCAA policy, stole the show by completing all nine of his passes in his Sooners debut. There's a chance he might be the QB of the future in Norman.
2014 Attendance: 46,073 (7th)
2013 Attendance: 45,113 (9th)
Georgia climbed the rankings despite modest raw attendance growth, moving from ninth place in 2013 to seventh place in 2014 with a total of 46,073 viewers.
The star of the show between the hedges was senior quarterback Hutson Mason, who is taking the reins that were held by Aaron Murray for seemingly the past decade. He looked good in his full-time starting debut, although Bulldogs fans did get a taste of him down the stretch of last season.
Also worth watching at the UGA spring game was new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, who got a raise to change schools after winning the national title with Florida State last season. He's got his work cut out for him, but the talent is there for Pruitt to succeed.
6. Ohio State
2014 Attendance: 61,058 (6th)
2013 Attendance: 37,643 (10th)
Last year, Ohio State played its spring game at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, which explains the deflated attendance.
Returning to the Horseshoe this spring, the Buckeyes improved by almost 24,000 attendees, although they did not come anywhere near the 81,112 mark of Urban Meyer's first spring game in Columbus.
Between not being Meyer's debut and the absence of injured quarterback Braxton Miller, however, it's easy to understand why this year's numbers pale in comparison to 2012's.
All things considered, they're still pretty respectable.
2014 Attendance: 61,772 (5th)
2013 Attendance: 60,147 (4th)
Almost 62,000 people were there to witness the Lion King moment between Bo Pelini and his cat, which was well worth the $10 price of admission—even if some other schools do the spring game gratis.
The actual game was starred by backup running back Imani Cross, who took five carries for 100 yards and a couple of touchdowns with Ameer Abdullah watching from the bench.
The quarterback situation also began to get a little muddled, as pre-spring darling Johnny "Football" Stanton outperformed current favorite Tommy Armstrong and Ryker Fyfe. Still, it would be a surprise if anyone other than Armstrong starts Week 1.
2014 Attendance: 68,548 (4th)
2013 Attendance: 61,076 (3rd)
Even if it moved down from third place to fourth place, Tennessee saw a meaningful increase in raw attendance numbers after a (relatively) successful first year from head coach Butch Jones.
What UT lacked in a winning record last season, however, it made up for on the recruiting trail, finishing with 32 commitments and the No. 7 class in the 247Sports team rankings.
Fourteen of those 32 enrolled early and participated in the spring game, highlighted by running back Jalen Hurd, and especially, receiver Josh Malone, who caught six passes for 181 yards and three scores.
Things are trending up in Knoxville.
2014 Attendance: 70,645 (3rd)
2013 Attendance: 83,401 (1st)
Are Auburn fans jaded after last year's historic turnaround, SEC championship and near national title?
The inflated attendance in 2013 was explained by the "One Last Roll" of Toomer's Corner before the famed poisoned trees were removed from campus. Even after a 3-9 season, that was enough for Auburn to lead the nation in spring game attendance last April.
This year's turnout was more subdued but still good. And fans that showed up were treated to a dominant offensive performance from Nick Marshall, Corey Grant and—most exhilaratingly—star JUCO transfer D'haquille "Duke" Williams at wide receiver.
All remains well on the Plains.
2. Penn State
2014 Attendance: 72,000 (2nd)
2013 Attendance: 28,000 (T-18th)
Fans at big programs tend to flock to new coaches, and Penn State made (arguably) the splashiest hire of the offseason, poaching James Franklin from Vanderbilt after Bill O'Brien fled to the Houston Texans.
That explains the size of the crowd at this year's spring game, which came closer to tripling last year's attendance than it did to doubling it. People are that excited.
The game itself was a little bit ugly and featured an offensive line that is clearly not game-ready.
Franklin and OL coach Herb Hand have their work cut out for them, but at least they've managed to drum up some support.
2014 Attendance: 73,506 (1st)
2013 Attendance: 78,315 (2nd)
Alabama did not finish the season first, as it had grown accustomed the past couple of seasons, and will have to settle for finishing atop the spring game attendance chart instead of the final AP poll.
Ironically, however, the Tide moved from second to first in the standings after losing almost 5,000 viewers from last spring to this—which had more to do with the teams around them than themselves.
So fret not, diehard Lane Kiffin supporters. (All one of you.) A bad spring game performance doesn't matter.