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The game itself is merely a piece of college football – people don’t love the sport simply because of what happens on the field. It’s the pomp and circumstance, the bands interjecting at every opportunity, the students painting their naked torsos in breath-defining temperatures, and the general ethos that envelopes college football atmospheres across the United States.
Character is the name of the game. It comes from old songs sung in perpetuity, authentic trophies aged a century, and stadiums so rich you can feel the memories. No two gameday atmospheres are alike in college football, and the best ones stand out as the most iconic, most rabid, and most difficult places to play in the country.
If you don’t see your team on this list, allow me to assure you of how sorry I am to deliver my opinion. I must admit, I have not attended a game at every college football stadium in America, let alone in the FBS. I am but a tiny speck of dust drifting around on a bigger ball of dust, and I recently had a run of staining my shorts with food in three out of four days. But I have an internet connection, and you’re on the same bigger ball of dust as I am, so you’re stuck with me. Deal with it.
If you do see your team on this list, you’re welcome for validating what we all so obviously knew already. We all know that you’re better than your rival Buckeyes, Longhorns, Tigers, or whoever it is in every way, including this one. We’re all thinking it, I’m just the one with the guts to tell it like it is.
These are the top 25 best college football atmospheres as determined by me, a guy who has spent hundreds of Saturdays in his life watching college football from 12 p.m. to 2 a.m.
25 Best College Football Atmospheres
Filled stadium capacity data from College Football News. Remember that five-year filled stadium capacity data includes seasons impacted by the pandemic.
25: Texas Tech (Jones AT&T Stadium)
2022 Filled Stadium Capacity: 94.53%
5-Year Filled Stadium Capacity: 76.78%
Originally Clifford B. and Audrey Jones Stadium when it first opened as a thanks for a $400,000 donation from the family to help construct the stadium, the home of Texas Tech can create one of the most hostile environments in the Big 12. Red Raiders fans have a reputation for rowdiness, and they unrelentingly unleash that when their team has a big game.
Texas Tech is like a loner who can’t wait for confrontation, and it shows when Texas, Oklahoma, or any other program that brings out the best (or worst, depending on your vantage) in the school comes to Lubbock. The Red Raiders consistently throw tortillas onto the playing surface of whatever sport is unfolding in front of them, including football, a unique way to show support for their team that dates back to 1992 when an ESPN commentator said Lubbock had “nothing but Texas Tech football and a tortilla factory.” TTU fans brought tortillas to the subsequent game against Texas A&M and tossed them at kickoff. There’s another possible origin story from 1989, but it’s less fun. There’s also the Masked Raider, who leads the team out onto the field in one of the more underrated entrances in the sport.
A great college football atmosphere comes when fans want a combination of a good time and to blindly support their team, and that’s what you get in Lubbock.
24: South Carolina (Williams-Brice Stadium)
2022 Filled Stadium Capacity: 97.71%
5-Year Filled Stadium Capacity: 80.59%
South Carolina has one of the best entrances in college football. “2001: A Space Odyssey” induces goosebumps during mundane activities on a weekday – imagine what it does when the anticipation of more than 75,000 strong is palpable. Sprinkle some Sandstorm on top, and you’ve got yourself something special.
South Carolina isn’t a historical heavy-hitter, but college football is a big deal in the state of South Carolina. You’re either a Gamecock or a Tiger, and that’s part of you. There’s a lot of pride associated with South Carolina football, and it’s apparent with a fan base that generally shows up even when the team isn’t nationally relevant.
Columbia also has an interesting tailgating scene, with 22 cabooses known as “Cockabooses” located on “Cockaboose Railroad” right outside of the stadium. Every gameday, you can know there will be lots of people drinking, eating, and preparing for their Gamecocks to kick off inside those trains. Play your cards right, and you could be one of them.
23: Washington (Husky Stadium)
2022 Filled Stadium Capacity: 89.73%
5-Year Filled Stadium Capacity: 74.87%
The first and most notable thing about Husky Stadium is its scenery. Nestled right along Union Bay and Montlake Cut, Washington’s football home also offers fans amazing views of the Seattle skyline, Mt. Rainier, and the Olympic Mountain Range. It is really something to behold.
I’m blanking on other places where you can sail-gate on a breathtaking body of water, then go attend a major college football game shortly after in the same vicinity. That alone makes Washington a special atmosphere for college football, but the Huskies also have their air raid siren to remind their opponents every single time the home team scores.
In 1992, ESPN recorded a roar of 133.6 decibels at Husky Stadium during UW’s contest against Nebraska, which ranks among the loudest college football crowds ever. This was a long time ago, but it remains a testament to how loud this place can get – Husky Stadium is still liable to pop off. It helps when you have overhangs above most of your stands, trapping the noise and pushing it back down towards the field.
22: Arkansas (Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium)
2022 Filled Stadium Capacity: 101.60%
5-Year Filled Stadium Capacity: 74.21%
You’re liable to hear a hoard of hog calls around these parts. Arkansas fans love to participate in the three-part chant that is admittedly difficult to not chuckle at but simultaneously becomes pretty cool when thousands of people do it in unison. One thing is for sure – these people love their Razorbacks.
One of the many daunting homes in the SEC, the people of northwest Arkansas and other surrounding areas love to pack Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium, especially when their Hogs are good. When an opponent that Razorbacks fans do not particularly appreciate comes to Fayetteville, it can get seriously loud in that stadium.
Even when Arkansas hasn’t been great, which has been the case for much of the last decade, its fans bring passion; the team went 7-6 and finished fifth in the SEC West last season, and Razorback Stadium still had a filled capacity above 100 percent.
21: Kansas State (Bill Snyder Family Football Stadium)
2022 Filled Stadium Capacity: 102.33%
5-Year Filled Stadium Capacity: 82.80%
Before Bill Snyder, Kansas State was about as bad as it gets in college football. Since the coach took over in Manhattan, the program reversed its fortunes, and the fans have certainly followed.
Kansas State presents one of the most difficult places to play in the Big 12. Bill Snyder Family Football Stadium isn’t that big compared to many on this list with a capacity of just 50,000, but Wildcats fans make every single one of those seats count. K-State is a very proud school, and that’s immensely obvious on Saturdays in the fall.
Outside of beating Kansas in anything, I’m not sure Kansas State students enjoy anything more than an excuse to move and jump in harmony to a song. Maybe that’s Sandstorm, maybe that’s Wabash Cannonball, but they’ll find a way. And when they do, it’s pretty awesome.
20: Iowa (Kinnick Stadium)
2022 Filled Stadium Capacity: 100.00%
5-Year Filled Stadium Capacity: 78.29%
There is so much to like about Kinnick Stadium and the atmosphere Iowa football has fostered. The Wave, which began in 2017, is widely regarded as one of the most heartwarming regularities in the sport – at the end of the first quarter, fans face the Stead Family Children’s Hospital that’s across the street from the stadium and wave to the children and their families in the windows of the building. It’s quite a powerful thing.
Iowa has plenty of less-wholesome aspects to its atmosphere as well, which is why it finds itself on this list. For example, the pink locker room for visiting teams is an excellent touch and gives you an idea of how welcoming the Hawkeyes are to their opponents.
Kinnick Stadium can get seriously loud. Iowa City can be incredibly intimidating, especially when color coordination comes into play with the team’s black and yellow being used to decorate entire sections of fans. Many highly-ranked teams have traveled to Kinnick to have their hearts ripped out, and the atmosphere has undoubtedly played a role. Ideally, your team doesn’t have to handle Kinnick after dark.
19: Florida State (Doak Campbell Stadium)
2022 Filled Stadium Capacity: 84.53%
5-Year Filled Stadium Capacity: 66.45%
Times had been tough in Tallahassee in the five seasons before 2022, and the attendance numbers definitely reflect that. But with a much better campaign last time out, we’re beginning to see a return to the Doak Campbell that is nationally renowned as one of the most hostile environments you can enter.
Right before every home kickoff, Chief Osceola rides out onto the field on his trusty steed, Renegade, and stakes his flaming spear into the earth at midfield. It makes for an outstanding spectacle and gets the home crowd ready to throw down for its team.
During the game, Florida State fans often collectively execute the “war chant,” chopping towards the field in what must be a surreal experience for opposing players and coaches. As common as the “War chant” is, it’s even more common to see two students painted in a sparkling garnet-and-gold pairing losing their very-inebriated minds in the stands. Well, maybe that’s not as common as the “war chant,” but seeing students do that in general is.
18: Oregon (Autzen Stadium)
2022 Filled Stadium Capacity: 101.76%
5-Year Filled Stadium Capacity: 78.16%
Notoriously one of the most difficult places to play on the West Coast, Autzen Stadium ranges from a party to painfully loud or somewhere in between depending on the time, score, and situation. Dating back to 2017, the Ducks are 33-3 in Eugene, including 7-0 home records in 2019 and 2021. It’s a seriously tall task to take Oregon out at home.
The atmosphere has a lot to do with it. Before the game even starts, The Oregon Duck rides onto the field on a motorcycle. It’s quite the mood setter. In the break between the third and fourth quarters, “Shout” is played over the stadium’s loudspeakers, and fans and players alike get into it. Then the fans do as they’re told and get loud. Very, very loud.
That is essentially the reputation of Autzen Stadium: it is very, very loud. It has roughly half the capacity of the biggest stadiums in the sport, but fan-for-fan, it’s tough to find a venue that sees Autzen for sound. Its numbers hold it back some – you can scream as much as you want, but 60,000 people cannot make the same amount of noise as 110,000 people doing the same thing – but you should never underestimate the college football atmosphere in Eugene.
17: Oklahoma (Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium)
2022 Filled Stadium Capacity: 104.63%
5-Year Filled Stadium Capacity: 88.44%
If you like hearing the same song played at amounts so alarming that it begins to fade into the background, then boy do I have a stadium for you!
Oklahoma Memorial Stadium is home to one of the most prestigious college football programs in the land, so it only makes sense that its atmosphere would be among the best, too. To the Sooner faithful, the sound of “Boomer Sooner” ringing out time and time again is a wonderful experience – to everyone else, it’s grating, frustrating, and part and parcel to dealing with Norman, which is precisely what every home team wants.
But Oklahoma has a lot more to its fan culture and atmosphere than one tune. The Sooner Schooner is so amazingly college football and perfectly illustrates the grandeur of the game in otherwise-unsung pockets of the United States. Pulled by two horses naturally named Boomer and Sooner, the replica of a Conestoga wagon catapults around the field after every Oklahoma score much to the pleasure of the cheerful partisans.
The Sooners are traditionally one of the premier teams in college football, and their stadium atmosphere reflects that. Norman is far from an easy place to play.
16: Auburn (Jordan-Hare Stadium)
2022 Filled Stadium Capacity: 97.43%
5-Year Filled Stadium Capacity: 82.12%
The state of Alabama lives, breathes, and dies college football. In the Yellowhammer State, you either scream “roll damn tide” or “war damn eagle.” As you might imagine, this leads to some raucous atmospheres at the state’s two preeminent universities.
Jordan-Hare Stadium has seen some unbelievable moments, and the more than 87,000 fans who generally make their way into the venue have played pivotal roles in pushing the Tigers over the top. Auburn has one of the coolest pre-game rituals in the sport: a golden eagle flies around the stadium prior to kickoff, announcing the coming “war” in which the Tigers will fight.
These are the same fans that greased the railroad leading into town in 1896 so that the traveling Georgia Tech team wouldn’t have a smooth ride to the home of the Tigers. The prank forced Georgia Tech to schlepp its equipment on foot for miles. Auburn naturally took advantage of its opponent’s newfound exhaustion and won the contest with ease.
That was a long, long time ago, but that sort of behavior sets the stage for the kind of atmosphere apparent at Jordan-Hare. It gets especially wild when the Tigers are good, and even more especially wild when Alabama, Georgia, LSU, Ole Miss, or one of the other many schools that Auburn doesn’t like visit the unfriendly confines. Any group of people that celebrates through collective vandalism is not one to be taken lightly.
15: Texas (Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium)
2022 Filled Stadium Capacity: 100.12%
5-Year Filled Stadium Capacity: 80.57%
Austin is home to one of the largest stadiums in the world, let alone college football, in one of the most rabid football epicenters in America. The Longhorns have a long, storied tradition in the sport, and their fans are very happy to tell anyone who cares (or doesn’t care) about it.
Nearing 100 years old, Memorial Stadium has undergone quite a few changes since its inception, growing immensely from its original capacity of 27,000. But in a state like Texas, it was always inevitable for that number to grow by orders of magnitude.
Texas has plenty of traditions that add to the gameday atmosphere. Songs like “Texas Fight!” and “The Eyes of Texas” are common. The rallying cry of “hook ‘em Horns,” accompanied with the adjoining hand gesture, is ubiquitous. And who could forget Big Bertha, a 500-pound bass drum that band members wheel out before games and after scores to alert all in earshot of the Longhorns’ heroics. After 100 years, the original Big Bertha was retired in 2022, and the responsibility now falls on the shoulders of Big Bertha II. She’s still big – the biggest drum of her kind in the world, according to the university – and she’s still quintessentially Texas.
Football may as well be a religion in the state of Texas, and the Longhorns are one the state’s biggest shows. This can only lead to one of the best atmospheres in college football.
14: Georgia (Sanford Stadium)
2022 Filled Stadium Capacity: 100.00%
5-Year Filled Stadium Capacity: 84.44%
Georgia has climbed to the top of the college football pile in recent years, and like it would for any program, that has helped turn its stadium ever rowdier. But Sanford Stadium has been one of the toughest places in the country for visitors for much longer than Kirby Smart has manned its sidelines.
There are a limited number of fan bases in college football – and all of sports, really – that bark at opposing teams and fans. Dawgs fans have fully embraced their team’s nickname and do their best to mimic the canine at every possible opportunity. This can be a rather unpleasant experience for the recipient of said barks, but isn’t that the point of a home crowd?
Sanford also offers a unique setting. The green hedges that surround the field have brought about the nickname “Between the Hedges” for the stadium, adding to its allure. Then there’s Uga, the live bulldog mascot that is almost as fearsome as it is adorable. There have been many different Ugas at this point, but maybe the best representative of Georgia was Uga V, who did his best to bite Auburn wide receiver Robert Baker during the 1996 edition of the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry. Let that serve as a lesson to all who dare enter Athens in anything but red and black.
13: Wisconsin (Camp Randall Stadium)
2022 Filled Stadium Capacity: 97.81%
5-Year Filled Stadium Capacity: 79.46%
Camp Randall is one of the most feared stadiums in the Big Ten, especially at night. Four AP No. 1 teams have gone down in Madison all-time, which ranks it among one of the deadliest locations for a top-ranked outfit to visit.
The best-known Wisconsin football tradition is “Jump Around” – the 1992 anthem by House of Pain is pumped through the stadium’s loud speakers in between the third and fourth quarters, prompting the entirety of the Badger faithful to come to their feet and do as the song’s chorus demands. This has created such mayhem that seismic-level activity has been recorded as a result. It’s one of the best scenes in the sport, point blank.
For good reason, “Jump Around” steals the headlines, but there’s lots more to like about Wisconsin’s football atmosphere. There is a particular chant in which sections P and O chant back and forth, wishing for the other to eat excrement and to dispose of themselves, though not stated with such decorum. After home games, Wisconsin’s band plays for 45 minutes as part of the Fifth Quarter, as it’s known in Madison, and tens of thousands of Badgers fans stick around to hear them out.
It’s angry, it’s lighthearted, it’s drunk, and it’s pure Wisconsin. Camp Randall is one of college football’s great cathedrals.
12: Virginia Tech (Lane Stadium)
2022 Filled Stadium Capacity: 98.06%
5-Year Filled Stadium Capacity: 73.65%
If you’re not acutely attuned to college football, this one might surprise you, but those who have spent more autumn Saturdays than they should plopped on the couch know what’s up. Lane Stadium is far from the biggest in college football, but Virginia Tech’s fans do a tremendous amount to make the 66,000 strong sound like a lot more.
You can’t discuss the Virginia Tech football atmosphere without pointing to “Enter Sandman.” Perhaps the greatest introduction in all of sports, the Hokies come onto the field to Metallica’s hit while their tens of thousands of friends in the stands go absolutely insane. The song isn’t only reserved for the team’s entrance, too – sometimes, VT will pipe “Enter Sandman” through the loudspeakers at times when it wants the fans to make noise, and it works extremely well.
Let’s be real: Blacksburg is in the middle of nowhere. There isn’t a whole lot going around in the surrounding areas. Virginia Tech football is the show in town, and it shows at home games. Even though the Hokies haven’t been quite as good lately as in the 1990s and 2000s when Frank Beamer was at the helm, they still generate one of the premier atmospheres in college football to this day. Even when Virginia Tech is struggling for bowl games, you should not take the environment at Lane Stadium lightly, especially on a Thursday night.
11: Notre Dame (Notre Dame Stadium)
2022 Filled Stadium Capacity: 94.30%
5-Year Filled Stadium Capacity: 77.40%
Notre Dame was the first true national college football program, and it shows when the Irish play a home game in South Bend. Fans from across the Midwest and further flock to the Indiana town to witness their beloved Irish fight on the gridiron, and Notre Dame Stadium can become impenetrable when the fans and team click together.
There is something about Notre Dame that cannot be replicated elsewhere. It isn’t the only Catholic university with a major college football program, but it is certainly the only one to have captured the hearts of Catholics across the world. It has also maintained its independence forever, initially against its own will but later as a personal choice, even as other independents relented over the decades. Bagpipes, Touchdown Jesus, the Leprechaun – these special identifiers and unique culture help cultivate a truly one-of-a-kind college football experience in South Bend.
The Green Out game in particular is a sight to behold, but with so many historic rivalries on the docket every season, there are always several home contests that bring the college football world’s attention to South Bend. Non-Notre Dame fans often have some very choice words for the Fighting Irish and their followers, but the things that turn people off about ND are the same things that make Notre Dame Stadium one of the hardest places to play for travelers.
10: Florida (Ben Hill Griffin Stadium)
2022 Filled Stadium Capacity: 98.46%
5-Year Filled Stadium Capacity: 80.01%
The Swamp, as Ben Hill Griffin Stadium is more colloquially known, is aptly named. Florida is swelteringly hot, horrifically humid, and the Gators have been drained for years.
I joke, but Gainesville is home to one of the most intimidating venues in college football. Gator chomping all the way, Florida fans regularly make the trip hell for visiting teams. It is notoriously among the loudest stadiums in college football, with an atmosphere only possible when many thousands of jorts-ladened enthusiasts line The Swamp’s rows.
In the last few years, Florida has started a new tradition where fans belt out Gainesville-native Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” before the fourth quarter after The Swamp sings “We Are the Boys.” This new ritual combines with other unique crowd chants, like Mr. Two Bits, to elevate an already-wild environment into pandemonium.
The SEC’s slogan declares to the rest of the country that it simply matters more in the Southeast. The Swamp is one of several spots to point at to prove the truth in that statement.
9: Clemson (Memorial Stadium)
2022 Filled Stadium Capacity: 99.01%
5-Year Filled Stadium Capacity: 83.48%
One of the premier programs in the country over the last decade, Clemson Memorial Stadium is the scariest in the ACC and hosts one of the most difficult atmospheres to play in college football. For a roughly six-year span, nobody beat the Tigers at their stadium – from 2016 to 2022, Clemson won 40 home games in a row, setting an ACC record and proving just how hard it is to waltz into Death Valley and leave happy.
There are some pretty special traditions surrounding Clemson football that help elevate the environment. About 10 minutes before every home kick off, Tigers players hop on two buses that wheel them around to the east side of the stadium. From there, they go to the top of The Hill behind the east end zone, then chaos ensues as cannons blast, the band plays, and the fans cheer their amped-up Tigers onto the field. Before the players run down The Hill, they give a rub to Howard’s Rock, a long-time symbol of strength and motivation for Clemson. The fans also rush the field after every home game, win or lose, a custom that consistently confuses outsiders but breaks down a barrier between fans and teams that exists widely elsewhere across the sport.
Another super unique Clemson football tradition includes the $2 bill. Tigers fans brought paw-stamped $2 bills with them to Atlanta in 1977 to prove to Georgia Tech how much their visiting fans had on the local economy after the Yellow Jackets wanted to end their series. This is something that older Clemson fans still do and an even wider portion of the fan bases participates with huge contests away from home come about, like marquee bowl games.
If fans are so rabid about their tribe that they’re sourcing rare bills just to prove how much they’re spending, then those people are insane. But that’s a good thing in this context – sane people don’t make quality college football atmospheres.
8: Nebraska (Memorial Stadium)
2022 Filled Stadium Capacity: 99.48%
5-Year Filled Stadium Capacity: 80.65%
Nebraska football has been ghastly by its standards for a long time now, and it’s been horrendous by any standards for nearly a decade – the Cornhuskers haven’t had a winning season since 2016! Most fan bases in college football would have dwindled during such a down period, with attendance numbers plummeting and general interest waning. But not Nebraska.
No matter what the program puts its fans through, they keep showing up. The university is known to inflate its scanned ticket numbers by a bit, but that anyone is still coming to watch this once-dominant program limp to three wins against teams it has limited history with is a testament to how important Nebraska football is to the people in the area.
There’s a lot to like about the Nebraska football atmosphere. The Tunnel Walk is one of the coolest entrances in the sport, the red balloons are a sight to behold (though a helium shortage has discontinued it, at least for now), and the “Husker Power” chant echoes into your soul. But for as intensely as Cornhuskers fans love their team, they’re also shockingly inviting to visitors. It’s unusual in college football, especially at programs the size of Nebraska, and it would normally be a sign of an unengaged, apathetic fan base, but not in this instance. The niceness of Nebraska fans adds to the atmosphere and is part of what makes Lincoln a college football staple.
7: Alabama (Bryant-Denny Stadium)
2022 Filled Stadium Capacity: 97.21%
5-Year Filled Stadium Capacity: 81.88%
The pace-setter in college football for the past 15 years, Alabama’s Bryant-Denny Stadium offers one of the greatest atmospheres in the sport. The state of Alabama is obsessed with college football, and it shows itself in spades when the Crimson Tide have a home game.
Alabama fans have more chants and songs than most. “Roll Tide” is at the top and among the most recognizable in all of American sports, let alone college football, but Bama also has “Rammer Jammer” and righteously regales “Dixieland Delight,” “Sweet Home Alabama,” and “Yea Alabama” with regularity. You’ll notice that they often mention opposing teams by name, sprinkled with wishes of misfortunate. If you’re in Tuscaloosa when one of those teams is in town, then expect an especially raucous atmosphere.
College football runs deep in the South, and Bryant-Denny and T-Town are about as Southern as it gets. If you want the ultimate Southern experience, check out an Alabama football game. Everything from the dress down to the drinks will prove that. Enjoy the Walk of Champions, watch The Elephant Stomp on the steps of Gorgas Library, and melt in the humidity that will soak your skin in a swimming pool of sweat. It’s all in a day’s work as an Alabama fan.
6: Michigan (Michigan Stadium)
2022 Filled Stadium Capacity: 102.46%
5-Year Filled Stadium Capacity: 82.08%
“The Big House” is accurately nicknamed. Michigan Stadium is the biggest stadium in the United States and the third-largest stadium in the world – sorry Penn State and Ohio State. The Wolverines are one of the most storied teams in college football, and their stadium is a statement of their long history. Michigan Stadium combines enough modern updates with an obviously-aged aura to offer one of the most outstanding venues you could ask for.
Michigan has plenty of notable traditions. The players hitting the “Go Blue” banner as they enter the field during pre-game, “The Victors,” and the winged helmet are all immediate signs that you’re in Ann Arbor. Fans from around the state of Michigan flock to The Big House covered in maize and blue on Saturdays in the fall, and in 2022, they did so in numbers greater than 107,000 with a filled stadium capacity of 102.46 percent.
The stadium is a bowl, and the field is dug into the ground. This means that a portion of the fan seating is technically underground, and with how the bowl is shaped, noise gets trapped down below at field level and has a tough time escaping. This feature enhances the volume at Michigan Stadium and is one of many reasons why Ann Arbor has one of the best college football atmospheres around, particularly when Ohio State, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Penn State, or any one of Michigan’s other archrival agitators arrive in town.
5: Ohio State (Ohio Stadium)
2022 Filled Stadium Capacity: 101.83%
5-Year Filled Stadium Capacity: 79.36%
I have Ohio Stadium ranked slightly ahead of Michigan Stadium for one reason: what Michigan fans possess in arrogance, Ohio State fans have in ignorance. Columbus on a gameday becomes a sea of drunken scarlet ready to lose its collective voice in support of the Buckeyes. A version of this exists at basically all schools across the country, but Ohio State takes it to levels most others don’t.
You don’t have a stadium that seats six figures-worth of people if you can’t fill them. Ohio State doesn’t generally have any attendance issues – the school’s football team is one of the most popular sporting outfits in the entire state and was recently named the most popular program in all of college football. The giant alumni base probably has something to do with that, but the reason why doesn’t matter so much for this list, just that those people show up to the ‘Shoe and wreak havoc, which they do.
Few schools are as band-obsessed as Ohio State. The school’s marching band is integral to most of the biggest gameday traditions, like Script Ohio, the dotting of the I, and leading the fans into the stadium before every game. Badmouth Ohio State’s football team in Columbus, and you’re liable to welcome a punch to the face. Insult The Best Damn Band in the Land, and pray that you may leave with your life.
4: Texas A&M (Kyle Field)
2022 Filled Stadium Capacity: 94.63%
5-Year Filled Stadium Capacity: 82.21%
Texas A&M is different. Not necessarily better or worse, but undeniably different. Very, very different.
Outsiders don’t understand it, insiders understand nothing else. Opposing fans sometimes chide A&M for being a cult, which Aggies respond to with the proper retaliatory yell as taught to them by their yell leaders before dumping buckets of ice-cold water on their naked torsos tattooed with anti-Texas imagery, as is tradition.
Exaggeration intended, but Texas A&M does have something abnormal going on, and it makes for quite a good college football atmosphere. The 12th Man, as the fans at Kyle Field are called, have earned the moniker, impacting contests with their voices for years.
A&M really does have a long list of traditions that add a lot to gameday in College Station, with the Midnight Yell serving as one of the most notable. For decades, tens of thousands of Aggies have congregated at Kyle Field the night before home games to whip themselves up for the coming contest. They do this for away games, too, somewhere around where it will be held.
I think even Texas A&M fans would agree that theirs is one of the stranger fan bases in college football, but that doesn’t mean passive, and it definitely doesn’t mean passive when they’re losing their minds in the stands of Kyle Field while opposing quarterbacks are trying to get the snap off.
3: Tennessee (Neyland Stadium)
2022 Filled Stadium Capacity: 98.67%
5-Year Filled Stadium Capacity: 76.60%
The Volunteers have spent most of the last 15 years struggling to get above the surface, but with more than 100,000 seats available and Tennessee having one of the most passionate fan bases in the country, Neyland Stadium could still crank up the noise. In 2022, Tennessee experienced its first 11-win season since 2001, and any loss of atmosphere from the past decade-plus instantly reappeared.
Visitors to Neyland can expect to hear Rocky Top played more than they ever thought possible and for the color orange to be seared into their retinas for a minimum of two weeks. Attendees also get to see the players enter the field by running through the T, a tradition that dates back to the 1960s and gets the crowd loud every time. Tennessee fans border on being too insane for public life, which might unsettle others but means Neyland Stadium is among the wildest atmospheres in college football.
The environment at last season’s Alabama game is enough to prove that Tennessee deserves its spot this high on the list. This is what Neyland Stadium is capable of when the Vols give their fans something to truly celebrate. Tennessee has been a dormant giant for a while, but if it’s really returning back to the limelight, then Knoxville will be even more routinely ridiculous.
2: Penn State (Beaver Stadium)
2022 Filled Stadium Capacity: 100.76%
5-Year Filled Stadium Capacity: 79.99%
Ranking in the top five of the world’s largest stadiums, Penn State’s home is a terrifying prospect for visitors, especially at night, and even more especially if the game has been anointed as the school’s annual “White Out.”
There might be no sight more intimidating in college football than roughly 110,000 thousand people blended together with white shirts, pom-poms, and paint for the most fanatical, each and every one of them making as much noise as they possibly can to assure you that they’re behind the other guys, not you. Beaver Stadium packs a massive punch, and it has knocked out plenty of opponents over the years.
You won’t get the same atmosphere at a Penn State game that isn’t “White Out” night, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. The Nittany Lions still drew an average of more than 105,000 fans to their games in 2022, and if you know anything about Penn State fans, you know they’re anything but quiet.
There’s more going on in Happy Valley than just one game per year. Nittanyville, a make-shift tent city that students populate in the week before home games to get an edge on the competition for the best seats in the student section, proves how passionate these people are about Penn State football. Add in “Zombie Nation,” the “We Are Penn State” chant, Lion surfing, and more, and you’ve got one of the best atmospheres college football could ask for.
1: LSU (Tiger Stadium)
2022 Filled Stadium Capacity: 98.31%
5-Year Filled Stadium Capacity: 81.87%
Tiger Stadium’s reputation precedes it. There is nowhere anyone in the country wants to play less, particularly after the sun sets. LSU fans are feral bayou creatures who exist strictly for three purposes: to drink alcohol, acquire the smell of corn dogs, and do whatever necessary to help the Tigers beat whomever dared come to Baton Rouge that Saturday. This creates an unpleasant atmosphere for teams attempting to leave Death Valley unblemished.
There’s fandom, and then there’s LSU fans, who seem to embody something barely resembling humans come gameday. But that’s not inherently a negative thing – it means copious vats of jambalaya at pregame tailgates that the home fans are happy to share. Even if you can’t understand the garbled sounds the Tigers bellow that you were previously promised would be English but now aren’t too sure, at least you’ll be well fed.
An actual tiger lives on campus, and fans often say hello to Mike VII, the current cat who has been around since 2017, before games and whenever they feel like otherwise seeing a tiger. Fans are advised “not to bring pets or stuffed animals” to the habitat.
Louisiana is one of the most distinct states in America, and that bleeds over into LSU football culture. Unique food, unique people, and a unique atmosphere make Tiger Stadium the best college football has to offer. If you are to attend one college football game in your life, go to LSU.
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