The 10 Most Hostile Environments for Road CFB Teams
One of college football's biggest draws is its electric atmospheres, and a ton of difficult environments present stiff challenges to visiting teams across the country.
Any road game is difficult, but in certain places, they become downright impossible. There are plenty of reasons for that, and crowd size is a big one. However, even some of the smaller stadiums belong on the list of toughest venues, as can be seen by their residents' home record and overall consistency.
Traditions can play a factor as well, but recent success has to carry significantly more weight than anything.
Let's take a look at some of the most hostile environments to visit in college football.
Michigan Stadium, Michigan Wolverines
In the Big House, the Michigan Wolverines have the biggest sports stadium in the United States with a capacity of over 107,000. There's definitely a home-field advantage for the Wolverines, but the inability to perform in big games, especially The Game against Ohio State, makes it hard to put this venue in the top 10.
Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Florida Gators
The Ben Hill Griffin Stadium hosts over 88,000 diehard fans, and they've helped the Florida Gators program pick things up as of late. It's definitely a hostile environment, but there are so many other SEC teams that deserve to make the list that the Gators just missed the cut.
Doak Campbell Stadium, Florida State Seminoles
There are few more intimidating scenes in college football than watching almost 80,000 Florida State Seminoles fans doing the tomahawk chop. However, the program hasn't had nearly enough success in the past couple of seasons to warrant a spot among the toughest places to play right now.
Bill Snyder Family Stadium, Kansas State Wildcats
Former head coach Bill Snyder created an unbelievable culture in Manhattan, and the fans have responded in turn over the years. While the Wildcats aren't a powerhouse like the old days, and the stadium only holds about 50,000 fans, it's still worth a mention as one of the tougher places to play.
10. Central Florida: Spectrum Stadium
The UCF Knights may not play in front of the biggest crowd, but their rowdy fans have helped make Spectrum Stadium one of the country's toughest road venues.
Over the last three seasons, the Knights haven't lost a home game, going 21-0. That includes the dream 2017 season under head coach Scott Frost, in which UCF pulled off a perfect 13-0 slate and capped it with a 34-27 win over Auburn in the Peach Bowl.
Spectrum Stadium only holds about 45,000 people, but the student section is what gives it so much energy. As the team has sustained its success in the AAC, the students have continued to rally around the program.
As a Group of Five squad, UCF may never get a shot at the College Football Playoff, barring significant expansion, but the Knights and their crowd will continue to make it difficult for visitors to find W's.
9. Auburn: Jordan-Hare Stadium
It doesn't matter who visits Jordan-Hare Stadium. Even elite teams could lose there.
Although the Auburn Tigers aren't perfect at home, they've gone 5-2 over the last three seasons against ranked opponents. That includes two massive wins over the Alabama Crimson Tide, as well as victories over Georgia, Texas A&M and Mississippi State.
Easily the most memorable Tigers home game of the past decade was the legendary 2013 Iron Bowl, which featured the Kick Six. A crowd of over 87,000 lost its mind as Auburn's Chris Davis returned a missed field-goal attempt 100-plus yards for the game-winning touchdown as time expired.
The SEC features a ton of tough venues, but Auburn's Jordan-Hare Stadium deserves its unwelcoming reputation.
8. Oklahoma: Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium
The Oklahoma Sooners haven't lost a step under head coach Lincoln Riley after Bob Stoops' June 2017 resignation. Because of that, the fans have continued to pack Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium and make it easily the Big 12's most hostile environment.
Under Riley, the Sooners have gone 18-1 at home, with their only loss coming to the rising Iowa State Cyclones in 2017. Their only other loss at home since 2015 came against the No. 3 Ohio State Buckeyes in 2016 when they fell 45-24.
All of those home wins helped the Sooners take five consecutive Big 12 conference titles—even though the Red River Rivalry games against Texas are always played on neutral ground. As for the rest of the Big 12, they've had to face a crowd of over 80,000 and have had little success with taking down the Sooners.
A tradition of consistent prosperity, a bright young head coach and giant crowds have made Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium one of the sport's toughest places to visit.
7. Boise State: Albertsons Stadium
Arguably no Group of Five program has had more success over the past decade than the Boise State Broncos. They may not have the biggest venue or the most appealing facilities for players, but they have a strong fanbase that makes Albertsons Stadium a difficult place to play.
The Broncos pride themselves on their home-field advantage. In fact, over the last 16 seasons, Boise State has gone an impressive 92-8. That includes a perfect 7-0 record and the Mountain West Conference championship victory over Hawaii this past season.
Albertsons Stadium is one of the most iconic venues in college football, most notably for its bright blue field. Compared to a lot of the other stadiums on this list, Boise State's is tiny with a capacity of 36,000-plus.
However, the Broncos have made Albertsons Stadium easily the MWC's toughest venue to visit, and one of most hostile in the nation.
6. Ohio State: Ohio Stadium
The Ohio State Buckeyes have dominated for the past decade under two head coaches and a slew of star players. One factor that has remained constant, however, is one of the nation's biggest, loudest crowds.
Since 2010, opponents have found it nearly impossible to take down the Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium. The team has gone an incredible 67-5 over that span, with one of those few losses coming to the Sooners and their high-flying offense in 2017, led by Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield.
Buckeyes fans will also be quick to tell you that the Michigan Wolverines haven't won in Columbus since 2000.
All of those wins have helped Ohio State consistently make trips to the College Football Playoff—and even win the national title in 2014. A crowd of almost 105,000 can overwhelm even the most talented opponents, especially on offense, as trying to hear the play call or any pre-snap adjustments can be difficult.
The Big Ten has a lot of tough competition, but the Buckeyes keep winning home games. They'll host the Wolverines once again to finish the 2020 slate and look to keep their rivalry hot streak going.
5. Georgia: Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium
As one of the SEC's best teams, the Georgia Bulldogs have the pleasure of playing in one of country's most unwelcoming environments.
Over the last three seasons, the Bulldogs have lost just one game at Sanford Stadium, with that coming last season in a heartbreaking upset against South Carolina. That consistency between the hedges has allowed the Bulldogs to compete for both conference and national titles.
Sanford Stadium can pack in over 92,000 people, and that can be an overwhelming sight for teams from smaller schools. The stadium's layout doesn't put all of those fans on top of the field, but it can still get plenty loud.
Georgia doesn't have a ton of tough opponents on its upcoming schedule, but the Auburn Tigers will head to town for a difficult midseason matchup.
4. Penn State: Beaver Stadium
Even if the Penn State Nittany Lions don't win the 2020 Big Ten title, they'll still have arguably the conference's toughest home crowd to play in front of.
Few scenes are more exciting to witness than a "white out" night game at Penn State. The Nittany Lions went undefeated at Beaver Stadium last year with a 7-0 record, and the program hasn't lost a home game in three of the last four campaigns.
That success is just as much a result of how rowdy the fans get compared to the overall size of Beaver Stadium. The venue features over 106,000 seats, and the vast majority of those are filled with extremely loud Nittany Lions fans.
Penn State will host some tough Big Ten opponents this season, with Ohio State, Iowa and Michigan State heading to town. However, if their fans can give them the edge and help pull off wins in all of those contests, they could sneak into the College Football Playoff.
3. Clemson: Memorial Stadium
The Clemson Tigers have been an elite program during head coach Dabo Swinney's 12-year tenure, but the fans have been some of the loudest for even longer.
Led by quarterbacks Deshaun Watson and Trevor Lawrence, the Tigers have gone 34-1 in Death Valley over the last five seasons. All of that success has helped Clemson go to five consecutive College Football Playoffs and win two national titles.
Memorial Stadium boasts a capacity of about 81,000, and the crowd is ready to go even before kickoff thanks to the dramatic entrance Howard's Rock and Running Down the Hill help provide. To be fair, it's hard to not get fired up when Metallica's "Enter Sandman" starts playing.
The Tigers may not have as big of a stadium as the likes of Michigan or Alabama, but what they do have is a loud fanbase and a recent history of home success that makes Death Valley one of the country's toughest places to play.
2. LSU: Tiger Stadium
When it comes to intimidating places to play, away teams would probably rather go just about anywhere else than LSU's Tiger Stadium.
Death Valley has always been a hostile venue for opponents, and 2019 was no exception. LSU went 7-0 at home with big wins over both Florida and Auburn on its way to an undefeated season and a national championship.
Over the last three campaigns, the Tigers have gone 18-2 at home. The crowd is always loud in Baton Rouge, but things have reached a fever pitch under head coach Ed Orgeron. The passionate head coach and his players consistently operate with tons of energy, even walking into the stadium before games, and the crowd of approximately 102,000 feeds off that.
Even without the soon-to-be No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow, the Tigers will be competitive in the SEC. Teams such as Alabama and Texas will have a hard time hearing on the field next season when they head to Baton Rouge.
1. Alabama: Bryant-Denny Stadium
Playing the Alabama Crimson Tide under Nick Saban has been a challenge regardless of venue, but teams having to play at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa might as well be prepared to add a loss.
Since 2010, the Crimson Tide have gone 65-5, with only one of those losses coming since 2015. That loss came at the hands of the undefeated LSU Tigers last season in a tough 46-41 defeat, with a hobbling Tua Tagovailoa trying to play through a high ankle sprain.
Since taking over as head coach in 2007, Saban has had extremely high expectations for his players, but also for the students attending games. He's openly criticized fans for not showing up for lesser opponents or leaving blowout wins early. The school has even started to track students' locations to penalize them for leaving early.
There might not be another student section that has as much pressure put on them by their head coach, but that's what comes with attending Alabama. Consistent success like the Crimson Tide have had doesn't come easily, and a loud home stadium is a factor in that.
With over 101,000 seats and 17 national championships to back them, Bryant-Denny Stadium is probably college football's toughest environment to play in.