- Ted Miller, ESPN Staff Writer
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We're ranking the top five Pac-12 student sections. Before doing so, a couple of caveats.
I have never sat in a Pac-12 student section. Further, the quality of a student section varies, often due to a recent pattern of winning or losing set by its team.
And some of our first-hand knowledge is dated. For example, the last time I covered a game at Colorado, it was Gary Barnett vs. Rick Neuheisel.
If it were 2003, Washington State would have made this list. Same could be said for USC if it were 2008. Or California in 2006. If I were going to note a most underrated student section -- including perhaps here -- it would be Oregon State. Our most improved student section would be UCLA.
But really, our methodology here is unquestionably sound and scientific.
1. Arizona: The ZonaZoo is 10,000 strong and committed. I actually give it an uptick for prematurely rushing the field during a 2009 game against Oregon -- I was trapped in the unfortunate onslaught, in fact -- one that the Wildcats eventually lost. Further, a number of players, including former USC quarterback Mark Sanchez, have said Arizona is the toughest place to play in the Pac-12 other than Oregon's Autzen Stadium.
2. Utah: The MUSS -- "Mighty Utah Student Section" -- numbers just 6,000, but it's well-coordinated and really, really cares. It shows up and bellows even when things aren't going well. Just ask BYU fans how great the MUSS is.
3. Oregon: Many folks outside the Pac-12 probably immediately thought the Ducks would rule here, and Autzen is the toughest venue in terms of crowd noise in the Pac-12 at present without question. But Oregon students know exactly the problem here: The student section is capped at less than 5,500 for home games. Why? Students don't pay as much for tickets, and Oregon tickets have become hot commodities as the program has surged in the national rankings. Yet while smaller in numbers, the Ducks do get after you.
4. Washington: Husky Stadium used to be the toughest place to play in the Pac-12, and if the program continues its upward trajectory under Chris Petersen, I suspect it will again challenge for that designation. I know things were old-school loud at the two games I attended in 2013: Boise State and Oregon.
5. Arizona State: The Sun Devils' student section numbers about 9,000, and it easily could be bigger. The recent uptick of the program under Todd Graham also has fueled this often colorful group. You might have heard that ASU is a pretty big party school. The student section at Sun Devil Stadium does nothing to dispel that notion.