Bob's Best: Top stadiums in college football
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Home-field advantage. What's it worth? Some say a touchdown. Or a field goal. Or nothing.
The fans don't get on the field. Well, they're not supposed to. And they don't call plays.
But a good home crowd can make a difference. They can disrupt an opposing offense with noise. They can propel their own team with support. The louder the fans, the better you'll play. Or, at least, the harder you'll try.
There's no science to it. More a feeling. Some buildings are more intimidating than others. The fans hype their own team and scare the opponent ... and the officials.
I've covered college football for more than 25 years and have been to 40-plus stadiums. Here are the best I've seen, atmosphere-wise:
Rose Bowl, Pasadena, Calif.
Illinois fans did themselves proud in the 2008 game, showing up in droves and making enough noise to drown out, at times, the Southern Cal fans. Of course, maybe the Trojans were so used to being in Pasadena that they weren't all that into the game.
It looks great on television and even better in person. Getting there isn't easy, but the trip is worth the effort. I'd put "See the Rose Bowl live" on your to-do list. You don't have to wait for Illinois to go back.
Ohio Stadium, Columbus, Ohio
The harder the rain got last Saturday, the louder the fans got. They seemed to be cheering for more buckets of water.
Win or win, the folks in Columbus stick with their team. They appreciate effort and creativity. They don't appreciate John Cooper or Earle Bruce, who got chased out town.
The building itself is perfect, a stage worthy of the best college football players and games. Jim Tressel, despite some complaints, has done his job.
Beaver Stadium, State College, Pa.
Having the legend on the sideline helps. So does the incessant "lion" roar from the scoreboard.
My first trip to Beaver, it wasn't that impressive. But they've fixed up the erector set, got the students involved and turned the place into one of the best buildings in the Big Ten. Except against Iowa.
Kinnick Stadium, Iowa City
Start with the fans, who are about as mean as they get in the Big Ten. And right on top of you. The players have been amazed by the "knowledge" the fans have on them, and their willingness to share it out loud.
The proximity of the seats to the field (thisclose), adds to the on-field excitement. It doesn't hurt that Iowa has been mostly competitive the past couple of decades and has plenty of big wins at home.
Autzen Stadium, Eugene, Ore.
Most of the buildings in the Pac-10 are what you'd expect, laid back and fun. The game is only part of the deal. The fans are there to catch some rays and chill before the next big surfing tournament.
Not at Oregon, which isn't on the beach. The real home of "Animal House" has to have the best fans in the conference. They show up early, stay late and don't mind a little rain. And they take the game seriously.
Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, Ind.
Here's a suggestion for Illinois: Home-home-neutral series with the Irish, first game at Notre Dame, then Memorial Stadium. Then, Soldier Field.
The fans arrive early and are into it long before the opening kickoff. Probably not a good place to be rooting for the other team.
Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, Neb.
The fans don't need to be told to wear the school color. The building is a sea of red every week. And full every week, with the school just recording its 300th consecutive sellout. That goes back into the 1960s.
Camp Randall Stadium, Madison, Wis.
You've heard about the "Jump Around" tradition between the third and fourth quarters, but you have to live it. The building feels like it is going to fall to the ground. The students have been known to shout a swear word or 20 between sections in the past. It makes the administration cringe and forces the parents to yell "ear muffs" at the kids. But it's inventive. Sort of.
Bob Asmussen covers college football for The News-Gazette. He can be reached at 217-351-5233 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.