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This Top 25 involves more than success on field
Breaking down the best college football game-day experiences
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What does a lime green car running on vegetable oil have to do with the “Top 25 Ultimate College Football Game-Day Experiences?” It just so happens the smell of french fries propelled me across the fruited plain the past few years as I enjoyed the college pigskin at more than 60 of the game’s premiere venues.
What schools comprise the top college game-day experiences in my book? Strength in numbers for sure. But there's much more than that. There's the goose bumps factors such as the unbridled passion of the populace, plus the unique setting, and storied history, traditions and pageantry of each — from the spirited tailgating to the one-of-a kind, pre-game introductions to the bands, riveting fan atmosphere and more. Curious to see who made my “Top 25 Ultimate Game-Day Experiences”?
Before some of you scoot ahead to sneak a peak, here’s a baker's dozen that didn’t make the cut, yet are deserving of votes — plus, hints on who’s in my Top 25. North Carolina State (ACC) fell short, as did East Carolina (Conference USA). Big East teams Rutgers (birthplace of college football) and West Virginia (home to tons of great college football parties) get props for their pumped-up student sections. Kudos also to unheralded BYU and Utah, both of the Mountain West, who each play to 100 percent capacity crowds and spectacular mountain-backdrop settings.
Thumbs up as well to the magic blue carpet ride of Boise State of the WAC, and the Pac-10’s Oregon State, which can be an unwelcome place for guests (just ask USC). Arkansas and Kentucky of the SEC are well-known basketball powers, but each is among the most unsung college football game-day experiences in the country. And you can't go wrong visiting Iowa of the Big 10 and Missouri and Texas Tech of the Big 12.
As for my Top 25, SEC schools dominate with eight entrants, with four in the Top 10 and two in the Top 5. The South has 11 schools on the docket, with three of the ACC’s best also making the grade. The Big 10 has five schools in the Top 25 while the Big 12 and the Pac-10, have four and three, respectively. So without further adieu, a long-distance dedication to the recently retired Casey Kasem, let’s count ‘em down.
No. 25: Spartan Stadium, Michigan State (Big 10)
Among the most underrated college football fans in the country. The Spartans haven’t won an outright Big 10 title since 1987, but that hasn’t stopped the masses from coming out in droves. With a rabid student fan base and loyal alumni support, Michigan State continues to play to a full house annually — and this place can be wicked loud.
No. 24: William-Brice Stadium, South Carolina (SEC)
You’ve got to admire ‘Cocks fans for the noise they deliver and sheer loyalty, averaging 80,000 to see a mostly average product year in and year out. Your ears will be ringing for days after hearing the Mighty Sound of the Southeast along with the rooster crow.
No. 23: Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, Mississippi (SEC)
One of the oldest and most historic stadiums in the Deep South, opening in 1915. Ole Miss also has one of the biggest, best and longest tailgate parties in college football on “The Grove.”
No. 22: Doak Campbell Stadium, Florida State (ACC)
From Chief Osceola’s famously throwing his flame-burning spear into the ground at midfield before kickoff to the FSU Warchant (since ridiculously copied by other sports teams), this is one of most intimate and underrated venues, and a beautiful campus for tailgating.
No. 21: Husky Stadium, Washington (Pac-10)
A scenic and truly special waterfront location with floating tailgate fiestas, and one of the loudest atmospheres in college football. Husky Stadium is also home to some incredibly loyal fans, especially considering they averaged nearly 64,000 in 2008 during an abysmal 0-12 season.
No. 20: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, USC (Pac-10)
Check out our slideshow of the best college football has to offer!
On the National Register of Historic Places for its great history and home to one the most storied programs in the game, it’s located in one of worst sections in the City of Angels. Still, when the cauldron is lit in the fourth quarter, you feel you’re in a special place.
No. 19: Memorial Stadium, Clemson (ACC)
There are few more impressive introductions in college football than when the Tigers rub Howard’s Rock and burst down the hill and onto the field to a deafening roar and an endless sea of orange-clad faithful.
No. 18: Autzen Stadium, Oregon (Pac-10)
It can be eight zillion times louder here than when toga-wearing Delta members sang and swayed together in Animal House, which was filmed in Eugene. You never know what color combination the Ducks will play in and when you need to relieve yourself, a “Welcome to the Wetlands” sign greets you at the door.
No. 17: Lane Stadium, Virginia Tech (ACC)
You might think after the Marching Virginians and cheerleaders play and dance to the “Hokie Pokie” you’d have major buzz kill, but not in Blacksburg, one of the most intimate environments around, yet also one of the most intimidating for opponents.
No. 16: Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, Oklahoma (Big 12)
The Sooners fans are among the most respectful, knowledgeable, devoted and fiery in college football.