Monday, October 1, 2007
Death Valley tops list of scary venues for opposing teams
By Bruce Feldman ESPN The Magazine
After surveying coaches from around the country, the scariest places to play is this week's list topic.
Tiger Stadium isn't a friendly place for opposing quarterbacks and teams.
1. LSU, Tiger Stadium
Three SEC coaches I spoke with who have worked in other leagues say that Tiger Stadium is, by far, the loudest stadium in the country. "It's night, half the place is loaded, the fans have been partying for like 20 hours straight, this is the last place you want to bring a young QB into," says one coach. Just ask Virginia Tech, which got blown out of the Bayou a few weeks back. Last season, the Tigers jumped on everyone early at home; they outscored their opponents 108-7 in the first quarter at Death Valley. This year, they've outscored their opposition 31-7 in the opening quarter. The margin's 68-7 if you just look at the first half.
2. Virginia Tech, Lane Stadium
The two loudest places I've ever seen a game are Lane Stadium and the Orange Bowl, but the Hokies' home crowd is a lot more consistent. The whole place rocks when they crank up "Enter Sandman." Two years ago I remember watching a decent BC team go there on a Thursday night and completely melt down.
3. Florida, Ben Hill Griffin Stadium
OK, so this one probably doesn't quite have as much bite given how the Auburn Tigers walked right into The Swamp and took down the Gators, but this is still a nasty spot for opponents. The guys at EA Sports actually rated Ben Hill Griffin Stadium as the toughest place in the country.
4. USC, Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
The L.A. Coliseum isn't one of those raucous places, but the Trojans seem so much sharper at home, even more so than the home-field difference you see from other teams. You rarely see Pete Carroll's guys come out sluggish as they often do when they head on the road to Pac-10 sites. USC hasn't lost at home since 2001, an impressive feat given they don't have any tough rivalry games at neutral sites.
5. Penn State, Beaver Stadium
In talking to some coaches who have played at all four of the mega-stadiums (Tennessee, Penn State, Ohio State and Michigan), the House that JoePa built got the highest marks for noise and atmosphere. PSU is 16-1 at home the past three seasons. In 2005, the Nittany Lions knocked off three ranked opponents (Ohio State, Minnesota and Wisconsin) at home.
6. Clemson, Memorial Stadium
Loaded with tradition, anyone watching the opener against FSU witnessed some of the reasons why the Tigers aren't fun to play at home. Clemson, despite not consistently having a top 15 program, has actually beaten six of the last seven ranked teams its faced at home.
7. Miami, The Orange Bowl
No place can get louder or nastier at a big moment. The Old Horseshoe in Little Havana has seen more huge plays than any other building in college football. It's humid. The place almost feels like it's haunted. The downside: too many games with 37,000 fans.
8. Oklahoma, Memorial Stadium
Since 2001, the Sooners have only lost once at home. There is one caveat to OU's home-field greatness, however: Since their annual big game against Texas is in Dallas, the team's home record is a bit skewed because every year the toughest game isn't factored in.
9. Ohio State, Ohio Stadium
Like Michigan, it wasn't mentioned as one of the loudest places despite its size. But in my trips there, it definitely is louder than the Big House and is packed with plenty of atmosphere and goose-bump raising tradition.
10. Cal, Memorial Stadium
Autzen Stadium is probably noisier than Cal's Memorial Stadium, but there is a little magic to this quirky place. Since 2003, the Bears have faced five ranked teams at home and knocked off four, including an upset of USC in 2003 by a then-unranked Cal squad. Of course, Jeff Tedford deserves plenty of credit for that, too.
Bruce Feldman is a senior writer with ESPN The Magazine. His new book, "Meat Market: Inside the Smash-Mouth World of College Football Recruiting," is on sale now.