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Thursday, July 16, 2009
Ranking my favorite Big Ten stadiums

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Many of you saw colleague Tim Griffin's rankings of his favorite Big 12 stadiums and asked me to do the same with the Big Ten. Ask nicely, and usually you'll get what you want. 

This is only one person's opinion, and I've been to some stadiums more than others. TCF Bank Stadium doesn't appear on the rundown because I haven't watched a game there yet, but from everything I've seen and read, Minnesota's new venue will be among my favorites. The list is subject to change after this season, but here's how I see things right now.

Keep in mind these are my favorite places to watch a game, not necessarily the toughest places to play. 

1. Camp Randall Stadium -- I've always had a thing for Camp Randall, ever since I covered my first game there in 2000. I'm a sucker for stadiums that are nestled into metropolitan areas, with limited parking sprawl and a real scene around the perimeter. From the frat parties on Breese Terrace to Regent Street nearby, the atmosphere is truly unique. Things really get rocking inside the facility, which blends traditional touches with modern amenities. 

2. Ohio Stadium -- Along with Beaver Stadium, this is easily the Big Ten's most impressive structure. It's hard to keep your eyes on Route 315 North as you drive past The Shoe. It's awesome. There's a ton of tradition here -- you can't beat Script O-H-I-O -- and the rotunda at the north end is a must-see stop for every Big Ten fan. The renovation has only made the place more intimidating, and I always think of an inferno when scarlet-clad Ohio State fans pack the place. 

3. Beaver Stadium -- Night games at Beaver Stadium are incredible, and the place isn't too shabby during daylight hours, either. I must admit it's been a while since I covered a game in Happy Valley, but I can't wait to get out there this fall (hopefully multiple times). The stadium structure itself is more massive than memorable, but it's the atmosphere created by Penn State fans in the stands and the tailgaters surrounding the stadium that makes the place a great destination. 

4. Kinnick Stadium -- I loved my trip to Kinnick last November for the Penn State game, and the stadium is quickly becoming one of my favorites. No Big Ten venue has better sightlines for fans, who are right on top of the field. Unlike the larger venues in the league, there really aren't many lousy seats at Kinnick. Iowa fans always sell out the place, and the recent renovation brought some good upgrades.

5. Michigan Stadium -- I'll never turn down a chance to cover a game at Michigan Stadium. The tradition there is virtually unmatched in college football, and it's always fun to contemplate how 111,000 people can fit into one building. I also love stadiums with limited sideline space, and the Big House certainly qualifies. It loses a few points because of the shallow bowl and a lack of ear-splitting noise, but it will always be a quality place to watch games. 

6. Spartan Stadium -- This is a solid venue for football, and the recent renovation really spruced things up. I can't think of many negative qualities, though the facility lacks a wow factor compared to others in the Big Ten. The location in the center of campus is ideal, especially for tailgaters, and you get a nice scenic view from the upper reaches. It's also nice to see the Spartan statue inside the main atrium.  

7. Memorial Stadium (Illinois) -- Before the recent renovation, Memorial Stadium would be a few notches lower. I'm all for classic stadiums, but this place was cramped and pretty decrepit. There's a different feeling now, from the larger press box to the north end zone to the preservation of the original structure. I loved my visit last November and look forward to going back.

8. Ryan Field -- It gets knocked for its small capacity and smaller attendance, but Ryan Field is a decent place to see a game. Those in the press box get a great view of Lake Michigan and, on clear days, the Chicago skyline. There aren't many bad seats, and it's a great spot to see games at night. But generally, the atmosphere doesn't measure up to that of most Big Ten stadiums.   

9. Ross-Ade Stadium -- I've seen a lot of games at Ross-Ade and never come away overly impressed. I do like the recent renovations, which spruced up the press box and suite pavilion. Purdue's got some nice traditions, such as the world's largest drum and the "I am an American" speech. The stadium's location is pretty solid, and there aren't many bad seats. 

10. Memorial Stadium (Indiana) -- A losing legacy and a lack of fan support doesn't help, but Memorial Stadium looks more like a Big East or ACC venue than one befitting the Big Ten. I do love the rock that former coach Terry Hoeppner had installed in the north end zone, and the new renovation should make this place more appealing. But there's not a ton of character here.