10 Toughest College Football Stadiums to Play In

Greg Wallace@gc_wallaceFeatured ColumnistMay 22, 2015

10 Toughest College Football Stadiums to Play In

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    Tiger Stadium is one of the most intimidating spots in college football.
    Tiger Stadium is one of the most intimidating spots in college football.Jonathan Bachman/Associated Press

    In college football, no road game is easy. When you take your team on the road, you run into a number of factors, from unfamiliar locker rooms to hostile fans to stadiums that keep the noise hovering low over the field, making on-field communication nearly impossible.

    However, a few stadiums stand out as places where a victory should truly be treasured, where overcoming the odds, the noise and the fans rising against you is really special. They’re the toughest places to play in college football. Here’s a look at the 10 toughest stadiums for visiting teams.

10. Auburn: Jordan-Hare Stadium

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    Jordan-Hare Stadium has consistently been one of college football's toughest environments.
    Jordan-Hare Stadium has consistently been one of college football's toughest environments.Butch Dill/Associated Press

    Situated on the plains of east Alabama, Jordan-Hare Stadium is a bit smaller than the behemoth SEC stadiums for programs such as Texas A&M, Alabama and Tennessee, but its impact is no less important. At 87,451 seats, Auburn’s football home is consistently a loud, difficult place for opposing teams to visit. And Auburn’s administration is consistently updating and improving it, including the addition of college football’s largest scoreboard.

    A new locker room and updated recruiting lounge are also on the way, along with other upgrades, per Brandon Marcello of AL.com. When Auburn is performing well, as has often been the case under Gus Malzahn, Jordan-Hare’s noise levels become nearly untenable for opponents. If you haven’t been, it should be on your list of must-visit college football spots.

9. Virginia Tech: Lane Stadium

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    Lane Stadium is one of the most intimidating environments in college football.
    Lane Stadium is one of the most intimidating environments in college football.Steve Helber/Associated Press

    Imagine you’re waiting to run out onto the field as a visiting team, standing huddled in the tunnel. You hear Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” pulsate from the stadium’s speakers and hear a thunderous roar as Virginia Tech spills onto the field.

    That’s what visiting Lane Stadium is like for opposing teams. The home of the Hokies is a truly oppressing environment for visitors and one of college football’s toughest places to play. Lane sits atop the Eastern Continental Divide at 2,057 feet above sea level and is consistently populated by raucous Hokies fans.

    Lane seats 65,632 fans, and under head coach Frank Beamer’s watch, it has become a difficult place for opponents to visit. The Hokies have slipped a bit over the last four seasons, but that shouldn’t take anything away from their stadium’s impressive reputation.

8. Ohio State: Ohio Stadium

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    Even a spring game means huge crowds at Ohio Stadium.
    Even a spring game means huge crowds at Ohio Stadium.Al Behrman/Associated Press

    Ohio Stadium is no longer truly a horseshoe. But that doesn’t make it any less intimidating for Ohio State's opponents. Over the years, the stadium earned the nickname of “The Horseshoe” or simply, “The Shoe,” for short. But recent renovations have all but closed in the south end zone, raising its capacity to 104,851, the third-largest in the nation.

    Under Urban Meyer, Ohio State shook off NCAA probation quickly, going undefeated in Meyer’s first season and nearly making the BCS National Championship before falling to Michigan State in the 2013 Big Ten title game. Last fall, the Buckeyes actually suffered a shocking home loss to Virginia Tech but broke through for their first national title since 2002.

    This fall, “The Shoe” will be rocking as a loaded Ohio State roster takes the field. You can bet it’ll be a tough place to win once again.

7. Clemson: Memorial Stadium

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    Few moments in college football can match Clemson running down The Hill.
    Few moments in college football can match Clemson running down The Hill.RICHARD SHIRO/Associated Press

    If you have a college football bucket list, Clemson and Memorial Stadium should be on it, particularly if that trip coincides with an important game. The stadium hosts what is known as “The Most Exciting 25 Seconds in College Football,” with players boarding buses following their pregame warmups and driving around the stadium, where they assemble at the top of the east end zone.

    After a cannon fires and the band launches into the Clemson fight song, Clemson players pour down the hill, rubbing Howard’s Rock at the top before descending. It sets the tone for a raucous day of football in Clemson, South Carolina, one of college football’s toughest environments.

    Seating 81,500, the field sits low below a pair of grandstands that rise above each sideline, keeping noise in the stadium and making for an explosive environment when the Tigers are playing well. Under Dabo Swinney, that happens more often than not. Clemson has won at least 10 games in each of the last four seasons, with an ACC title in 2011. Tiger fans are loyal and loud, and Memorial Stadium has truly earned the nickname “Death Valley,” especially for opponents.

6. Wisconsin: Camp Randall Stadium

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    Camp Randall Stadium has an incredible gameday environment.
    Camp Randall Stadium has an incredible gameday environment.Morry Gash/Associated Press

    When you attend a game at Camp Randall Stadium, be sure you’re in your seat as the fourth quarter begins. The Camp Randall sound system blares the House of Pain hit “Jump Around,” and students (as well as other fans) jump in time to the music, causing vibrations through the entire stadium.

    This, along with other traditions, is why Camp Randall is one of the most fun, intimidating places in college football. After Barry Alvarez brought the Wisconsin football program back to prominence in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the stadium, which currently seats 80,321 fans, acquired a reputation as one of the loudest, most passionate locales in college football.

    Wisconsin fans love to party before games, and they bring that energy inside Camp Randall’s gates, which, combined with the Badgers’ bruising style, spells trouble for opponents. It’s no wonder head coach Paul Chryst, a Madison native and former Wisconsin player and coach, jumped at the chance to come home to lead the Wisconsin program last fall.

5. Alabama: Bryant-Denny Stadium

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    Bryant-Denny Stadium has gotten bigger and louder in recent years.
    Bryant-Denny Stadium has gotten bigger and louder in recent years.Butch Dill/Associated Press

    As a college football fan, there are few things better than arriving at Bryant-Denny Stadium before a game and hearing the opening notes of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama” fill the air. While Alabama experienced some dark times following the end of Gene Stallings’ tenure, nothing has dimmed Crimson Tide fans' passion.

    And as Nick Saban has returned the Tide to their place atop the college football world, Bryant-Denny has only become tougher for opponents.

    Over the past decade, capacity has increased from 83,818 to 101,821 with north and south end zone expansions, bowling in the stadium and making it even louder. With Saban’s  stellar recruiting, Alabama doesn’t need many advantages against its opponents, but Bryant-Denny Stadium, packed to capacity, is certainly one of them.

4. Oklahoma: Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium

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    Oklahoma's football environment has gotten even better with recent renovations.
    Oklahoma's football environment has gotten even better with recent renovations.Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    In the Big 12, environments don’t get tougher than Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. With the Sooner Schooner charging onto the field and Oklahoma’s football team close behind, it creates an environment that’s hard to match.

    While last fall was difficult for head coach Bob Stoops and the Sooners, it doesn’t take away from the fact that OU’s home is consistently loud and difficult for opponents to succeed in. Through last season, it sported a horseshoe design, with the south end open. However, Oklahoma is beginning a $160 million renovation that, among other things, will enclose the south end.

    The capacity of 84,000 will be the second-largest in the Big 12 behind Texas, and it should be even louder as offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley’s Air Raid offense makes its Oklahoma debut.

3. Oregon: Autzen Stadium

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    Oregon has an excellent environment at Autzen Stadium.
    Oregon has an excellent environment at Autzen Stadium.Steve Dykes/Associated Press

    At 54,000, Autzen Stadium has a far smaller capacity than any other venue on this list, but anyone who has visited Oregon’s home knows bigger isn’t always better. As Oregon has ascended to the nation’s college football elite, Autzen has come along for, and fueled, the ride.

    Fans are seated very close to the field, which is sunken into the ground and helps trap noise. Oregon fans are also extremely enthusiastic. The program has a streak of 101 consecutive sellouts, dating back to the 1999 season.

    With the Ducks’ fast-paced offensive system pioneered under Chip Kelly continuing under Mark Helfrich, Oregon fans have plenty to get excited about. Wins by visiting teams (like Arizona’s upset last fall) are rare. Few programs escape Eugene and Autzen Stadium unscathed.

2. Texas A&M: Kyle Field

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    The 12th Man makes Kyle Field tough for any Texas A&M foe.
    The 12th Man makes Kyle Field tough for any Texas A&M foe.David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    Plenty of college football teams like to say they have a 12th man on the field with them (their home fans), but only one team has trademarked the concept. That’s how loud Kyle Field is. Texas A&M fans, the “12th Man,” consistently make the Aggies’ home one of the loudest in college football. Until recent renovations, the Kyle Field press box would sway as A&M students sang the A&M War Hymn, the school’s unofficial fight song.

    A $450 million renovation will reconstruct both the east and west decks of the stadium as well as the south end zone, and when it is complete this fall, Kyle Field will seat 102,500, the largest stadium in Texas and the SEC and the fourth-largest in the nation. Last fall, an A&M-record crowd of 110,614 attended the Aggies’ home game against Ole Miss.

    It is a highly intimidating environment, rated as the second-toughest in the nation behind LSU in a 2014 poll of FBS coaches by ESPN. Texas A&M’s fortunes have improved recently under head coach Kevin Sumlin, which will only make Kyle Field tougher for opponents to leave victorious.

1. LSU: Tiger Stadium

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    A game at LSU should be on any college football fan's bucket list.
    A game at LSU should be on any college football fan's bucket list.Jonathan Bachman/Associated Press

    Call it Death Valley. Call it Deaf Valley. It doesn’t matter. Tiger Stadium is loud, and it is one of the most intimidating stadiums in college football, as anyone who has ventured to Baton Rouge to face off with LSU can attest to.

    As LSU has become one of college football’s elite programs in the past 15 years, Tiger Stadium has gotten bigger and louder. The stadium’s capacity has increased five times since 1999, going from 79,940 to 102,321 following an $80 million south end zone expansion that was completed in 2014. Last fall, LSU attracted at least 100,338 fans to all seven home games, including three capacity crowds.

    It isn't easy attracting quality opponents, either. LSU athletic director Joe Alleva told ESPN Radio 104.5 in Baton Rouge he has trouble making home-and-home series with big-time foes (via The Advocate).

    "Teams don't want to come to Tiger Stadium and get their butts beat," he said. "That's just a fact of life. I'm being as blunt as I can be...they don't want to schedule losses."

    And LSU’s fans are loud, proud and boisterous. They typically set up hours before home games, fueling up for the hotly anticipated kickoffs. Last fall, LSU was 5-2 at home, losing to Alabama and Mississippi State. The Bulldogs and Crimson Tide savored those victories. They know how tough wins are to come by in Baton Rouge.

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