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Best college football stadiums: Ranking the NCAA gridiron’s premier venues

Best college football stadiums: Ranking the NCAA gridiron's premier venues
Oct 21, 2017; University Park, PA, USA; General view Beaver Stadium prior to the game between the Michigan Wolverines and the Penn State Nittany Lions. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

When it comes to ranking the best college football stadiums, a variety of factors are in play, and it depends on the individual’s preference as far as which venues are among the NCAA’s true elite.

For us, the atmosphere, stadium capacity, surrounding backdrop and scenery all play huge roles, as does how prominent the team that plays there is in the modern game.

With those qualifiers plainly stated, here’s our ranking of the 20 best college football stadiums.

20. LaVell Edwards Stadium, BYU Cougars

Best college football stadiums: LaVell Edwards Stadium, BYU Cougars
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

To kick things off, we have a shocker: the BYU Cougars’ LaVell Edwards Stadium gets the nod for the 20th spot. This site edged out Army’s legendary Michie Stadium and Georgia’s Sanford Stadium and all its “between the hedges” glory. Much of that has to do with the Provo, Utah, venue directly bordering Y Mountain to provide a stunning view, as you can see above. It’s too bad the home crowds didn’t get to cheer on Zach Wilson at full tilt during his huge 2020 campaign.

19. Camp Randall Stadium, Wisconsin Badgers

The legendary “Jump Around” tradition that Wisconsin Badgers fans engage in literally makes it feel like this 80,000-plus capacity site is quaking when opponents come to Madison. Camp Randall Stadium has expanded and been added on to over the last several years, which makes it an all the more intimidating environment for Big Ten rivals to travel to.

18. Memorial Stadium, Nebraska Cornhuskers

Best college football stadiums: Memorial Stadium, Nebraska Cornhuskers
Matt Ryerson-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been a struggle in recent years for the Nebraska Cornhuskers, but the indefatigable spirit of their fans in Lincoln still makes Memorial Stadium a phenomenal atmosphere for college football. The program is the state’s athletic pride and joy, and regardless of how Nebraska’s season is going, fans routinely turn out to fill the 86,047-seat venue. In fact, Memorial Stadium has housed a record 375 consecutive sellouts.

17. Albertsons Stadium, Boise State Broncos

Best college football stadiums: Albertsons Stadium, Boise State Broncos
Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports

Now, some may regard this as one of the absolute worst venues in all of sports, but this author loves the Boise State Broncos’ one-of-a-kind turf. Albertsons Stadium sports an all-blue field, which definitely throws viewers for a loop and looks even crazier in person. It’s not for everyone, but those who embrace the Boise blue can’t get enough of it. The smaller 36,387-seat setting creates an intimidate environment to enjoy a premier mid-major powerhouse.

16. Kyle Field, Texas A&M Aggies

Best college football stadiums: Kyle Field, Texas A&M Aggies
John Glaser-USA TODAY Sports

Maybe the 100,000-plus capacity Kyle Field deserves to be a little higher on this list, but without as much history as some of the other stadiums, it’s more highly regarded for its incredible, $485 million rebuild that began in November 2013. You might quite literally say it’s the house that Johnny Manziel built after his historic run with the Aggies in College Station, where he became the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy.

15. Folsom Field, Colorado Buffaloes

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Now, Colorado has not fared well on the gridiron for the past decade and a half or so, but you can’t deny that Folsom Field is absolutely among the best college football stadiums. When you look at some of the images of the Buffaloes’ home, you can’t help but be taken with the scenic sunsets over mountainous terrain and the unique atmosphere of game days make Folsom Field a seminal stadium experience.

14. Jordan–Hare Stadium, Auburn Tigers

Best college football stadiums: Jordan–Hare Stadium, Auburn Tigers
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Hardly any fan base in the country is as passionate as that of the Auburn Tigers. Their rivalry with Alabama in the annual Iron Bowl and SEC status make the Tigers a must-watch every year, and no matter how Auburn is faring in a given season, Jordan-Hare Stadium is always a road trip adversaries dread. You can never count the Tigers out when their 87,451-seat house is rocking.

13. Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, USC Trojans

Best college football stadiums: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, USC Trojans
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Lots of iconic sporting events have taken place in Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, which now seats 77,500. But even disregarding those, the USC Trojans have one of the biggest brands in college football. Their historic stable of running backs, and the dynastic Pete Carroll era are just a couple of highlights in USC’s storied history, and fans have gotten to witness the Trojans achieve glory under the bright Coliseum lights for many years.

12. Bryant-Denny Stadium, Alabama Crimson Tide

No one has a more successful program than the Alabama Crimson Tide since Nick Saban took over in Tuscaloosa, and Bryant-Denny Stadium has proven to be as difficult a place for opponents to win as any in the country as a result. Named in part for the legendary coach Paul “Bear” Bryant, the Tide have expanded capacity into six figures, and is going to remain a fixture as one of the nation’s premier venues.

11. Memorial Stadium, Clemson Tigers

Best college football stadiums: Memorial Stadium, Clemson Tigers
Nov 2, 2019; Clemson, SC, USA; Clemson Tigers defensive end Xavier Thomas (3) runs down the Hill prior to the game against the Wofford Terriers at Clemson Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports

Speaking of amazing runs in recent years, head coach Dabo Swinney has led the Clemson Tigers to a phenomenal, historic rate of winning, and Memorial Stadium, also known as “Death Valley” makes it even harder for ACC foes to defeat the conference’s juggernaut. Clemson’s famous Running Down the Hill and Howard’s Rock are touchstones that give Memorial Stadium an electrifying pregame flair.

10. Notre Dame Stadium, Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Best college football stadiums: Notre Dame Stadium, Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

South Bend, Indiana, is home to one of the most recognizable football programs of all-time. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish don’t even need to get creative with their stadium name. They’re just a big deal, and so is their hosting venue. Thanks to a national TV contract and a phenomenal, rich tradition, Notre Dame Stadium is always packed and full of excitement whenever the Irish take the field in front of their friendly fans.

9. Darrell K Royal Texas Memorial Stadium, Texas Longhorns

Best college football stadiums: Darrell K Royal Texas Memorial Stadium, Texas Longhorns
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Austin is an especially colloquial capital city of Texas, but the cliche that everything is bigger in the Lone Star State certainly applies to the Longhorns’ football home of Darrell K Royal Texas Memorial Stadium. Seating just over 100,000, this setting makes for plenty of excitement and a goosebumps-inducing way to watch some of the best theatre Big 12 football has to offer.

8. Neyland Stadium, Tennessee Volunteers

Best college football stadiums: Neyland Stadium, Tennessee Volunteers
Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

An aesthetically pleasing color palette and an impassioned Rocky Top faithful give the Tennessee Volunteers’ home Neyland Stadium an infusion of life on college football Saturdays. Finding the right coach to lead the program has proven challenging of late, but it shouldn’t be long until Tennessee is back among the SEC’s elite. Until then, this venue of over 102,000 in Knoxville will still prove to be a hostile environment.

7. Autzen Stadium, Oregon Ducks

Best college football stadiums: Autzen Stadium, Oregon Ducks
Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

The Oregon Ducks and their rabid fans have made Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Oregon, one of college football’s primary attractions. Thanks to an ingenious lowered seating design, opponents have to deal with Oregon’s enthusiastic crowds in a far more intimate and up-close way than almost any other place in the country. That also makes for piercingly loud distractions, which gives the Ducks a massive home-field advantage.

6. Rose Bowl, UCLA Bruins

Best college football stadiums: Rose Bowl, UCLA Bruins
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

It’s impossible to separate the rich tradition of the Rose Bowl Game itself from the venue, because it’s served as the site for multiple Super Bowls in addition to being the home of the UCLA Bruins since the 1980s. The Pasadena, California, stadium has a certain mystique to it that’s difficult to articulate, and if the Bruins were a bigger factor in the Pac-12, maybe they’d help vault their historic home higher on this list.

5. Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Florida Gators

“The Swamp” as it’s affectionately called is not a place any team wants to travel to, because the Florida Gators are tough to beat in Gainesville. Florida has always had a stellar program, but newly minted Jacksonville Jaguars Urban Meyer and Tim Tebow really helped lift the Gators to another level when they were there. Dan Mullen is now overseeing an exciting new era of Florida football.

4. Michigan Stadium, Michigan Wolverines

Best college football stadiums: Michigan Stadium, Michigan Wolverines
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve put some weight on the quality of team on this list of best college football stadiums, and while some may view that criteria as misguided, let’s face it: The better a team is, the more games at their historic stadiums mean. The Michigan Wolverines have underachieved during the Jim Harbaugh era, yet the Big House keeps filling up as the highest-capacity North American stadium of over 107,000.

3. Tiger Stadium, LSU Tigers

Best college football stadiums: Tiger Stadium, LSU Tigers
Scott Clause/The Advertiser via USA TODAY Sports

The LSU Tigers routinely have one of the strongest teams in the nation, and they just won a national championship with a loaded group in 2019, thanks largely to the play of quarterback Joe Burrow. No matter who’s on the field for LSU, Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge is always going to be a brutal road trip for anyone in the SEC — and especially an out-of-conference opponent who isn’t ready for that type of intensity.

2. Beaver Stadium, Penn State Nittany Lions

Best college football stadiums: Beaver Stadium, Penn State Nittany Lions
Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

A strong argument can be made that Beaver Stadium is the best venue of them all, but let’s just say Penn State football isn’t what it once was. There is a ray of hope after an impressive finish to the 2020 campaign that James Franklin has the Nittany Lions moving in the right direction. If that’s the case, great, because Beaver Stadium is an even better place when Penn State is a top-25 team.

1. Ohio Stadium, Ohio State Buckeyes

Best college football stadiums: Ohio Stadium, Ohio State Buckeyes
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Horseshoe in Columbus is an absolutely unmistakable piece of architecture, and the Ohio State Buckeyes rarely disappoint the fans who pack Ohio Stadium to the brim, beyond its listed capacity of 104,944. With such relentless fans, constant buzz and a consistently great program to back it all up, we’re ranking the Buckeyes’ Ohio Stadium at the top of this list.