Maybe nowhere else in sports does home field advantage matter more than in college football. An iconic stadium and fervent home crowd can help a team immeasurably.
While pretty much every team in the country gets some kind of a boost playing at home, only a select few have home venues that are truly intimidating for opponents.
So without further ado, here are the hardest places to play in college football this upcoming season.
10. Memorial Stadium, Nebraska
Big home games in 2018: Colorado, Michigan State, Purdue
Nebraska might boast the most loyal fans in the nation. Even during down years, the Huskers sell out and Memorial Stadium looks like a familiar sea of red. With the hiring of new head coach Scott Frost, fan excitement is sky-high. The school apparently sold out its spring game in one day. The only two things keeping Nebraska from being higher on this list are uncertainty over how good the Huskers will be this year and a weak home slate besides Colorado, Michigan State and maybe Purdue. Nebraska plays Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio State and Iowa on the road.
9. Camp Randall Stadium, Wisconsin
Big home games in 2018: Nebraska, Minnesota
Wisconsin has beaten many a top foe at Camp Randall. The team’s physical style and loud, boisterous fan base pair well together. Of course, “Jump Around” is a tradition unlike any other. It is too bad that Wisconsin has a relatively weak home slate in 2018, with Michigan, Northwestern and Penn State all on the road.
8. Michigan Stadium, Michigan
Big home games in 2018: Nebraska, Wisconsin, Penn State
The Wolverines boast the largest stadium in college football, appropriately known as the “Big House.” When the Maize and Blue are playing well, we pity any team that has to go in and play them. Ohio State and Michigan State have had recent success in Ann Arbor, which is a sore spot for Michigan fans. The Wolverines play at their two biggest rivals in 2018 (they’re on the road against Notre Dame too) but have a trio of really nice home matchups in Nebraska, Wisconsin and Penn State.
7. Doak Campbell Stadium, Florida State
Big home games in 2018: Virginia Tech, Clemson, Florida
“The Doak” took a step back in 2017 as the Seminoles faltered to a 6-6 regular season record. With Willie Taggart taking over the reins and plenty of talent still in the fold, the buzz is back in Tallahassee. Florida State won’t be a preseason top 5 team this year, but the ‘Noles could still contend for the ACC title. That Labor Day opener against Virginia Tech will turn Doak Campbell Stadium into a madhouse, and late-season tussles with Clemson and Florida will also be must-see TV.
6. Tiger Stadium, LSU
Big home games in 2018: Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi State
LSU is a mainstay on any list of the best environments in college football. The tailgating scene is superb, the fans loyal and rowdy and the Tigers are the ticket in the area. There’s a reason why they call this place “Death Valley.” LSU always has plenty of talent, and they will need all of it plus the crowd to beat SEC favorites Alabama and Georgia at home.
5. Beaver Stadium, Penn State
Big home games in 2018: Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin
There might not be a better fan tradition in college football than Penn State’s annual “White Out” game. That’s a special occasion, but even during routine home games, Beaver Stadium is electric. Penn State is the main attraction in the area and fans come from far and wide to see the Nittany Lions. When the crowd gets into it, opponents often wish they were anywhere but State College.
4. Sanford Stadium, Georgia
Big home games in 2018: Auburn, Georgia Tech, Tennessee
Going “Between the Hedges” isn’t a pleasant experience for any college football team. Georgia fans are incredibly loyal and turn out in droves. The Bulldogs came painfully close to winning it all last year and bring back many of the same players in 2018. That’s a recipe for disaster for any visitor.
3. Bryant-Denny Stadium, Alabama
Big home games in 2018: Auburn, Mississippi State, Tennessee
Look, it is really hard to play Alabama anywhere in the Nick Saban Era. The Crimson Tide are loaded with talent and very well-coached. They become even more formidable in front of their home crowd. Since 2011, Alabama has lost just three times at home in seven seasons.
2. Memorial Stadium, Clemson
Big home games in 2018: Louisville, NC State, South Carolina
The other “Death Valley” on our list, Memorial Stadium is raucous whenever the Tigers are at home. In the last five years, only Florida State (2013) and Pitt (2016) have beaten Clemson on the road. The Tigers might have the best defense in college football next season. Good luck to whoever has to play them at Clemson.
1. Ohio Stadium, Ohio State
Big home games in 2018: Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska
Ohio State’s home slate in 2018 is admittedly a little weak. The Buckeyes travel to Michigan State and Penn State, don’t face Wisconsin and play Oregon State instead of Oklahoma in a non-conference game. Still, this place features over 100,000 fans on game day, ready to go insane. Not to mention, Ohio State is loaded from a talent perspective. There’s no tougher place to play in college football.