I thought it would be fun to compile a few lists covering the most scenic venues, the best atmospheres, the best uniforms/helmets and the toughest venues for the opposition. Remember, the lists are based on my opinion from over 25 years of covering, watching and traveling to college football games as a fan, observer and analyst.
1. Army, Michie Stadium
There is nothing like being at Michie Stadium on the banks of the Hudson River with the leaves changing during the third weekend in October. The scenery is incredible. And how about the inspiration drawn from being at such an historic landmark? You see the statues of MacArthur, Patton and Eisenhower. Then on game-day morning, you have the pleasure of witnessing the Cadet Parade. And how about when the cadets sing, "On brave old Army team"? That's an unbelievable moment.
2. Notre Dame, Notre Dame Stadium
|Notre Dame is no longer the special place it once was.|
With so many awesome sights, this is a true scene-setter for what college life is all about. From the Basilica of the Sacred Heart to Touchdown Jesus to the Golden Dome to the band playing the "Victory March." And on Friday night, regardless of the opponent, they have the traditional pep rally. In my opinion, a college football season isn't truly complete unless you plan at least one visit to South Bend. And it doesn't matter whether it's game day. A stroll through the warm, homey campus with "The Grotto" and all the historic landmarks is as relaxing and entertaining as you could ever imagine.
3. North Carolina, Kenan Stadium
With all the pine trees surrounding Kenan Stadium, this is a picture postcard setting any time of the year. And check this out: Since Kenan Stadium was built in 1927, there has been an unwritten rule that the stadium can never be higher than the pine trees.
4. Tennessee, Neyland Stadium
Not only is this a huge, intimidating stadium that is always filled to the rafters with a capacity of 104,079, but the views of the Tennessee River and surrounding area are worth making a trip to Knoxville alone. College football in Knoxville is a huge event. The air of excitement and anticipation is phenomenal.
5. Washington, Husky Stadium
The views of the water are breathtaking. The stadium packs almost 73,000 strong, with the boats coming in off Lake Washington. You can see the Cascade and Olympic mountain ranges from Husky Stadium.
6. Texas, Memorial Stadium
Such a wide-open, impressive campus, with the Texas Tower being front and center. It's a 307-foot structure that was built in 1937. The Texas Tower is clearly one of the country's most distinguishing college landmarks.
7. Air Force, Falcon Stadium
The stadium is set into the side of the Rampart Range of the Rocky Mountains. Sight lines are incredible, as is gameday when you witness the flyovers, the cadet march-on, the performing Falcon mascot, the parachuters, and Falcon Fan Fest.
8. Michigan State, Spartan Stadium
One of the more underrated campuses in college football. With such beautiful grasslands, you have an intimate feeling even with 40,000 students, over 18,000 of which live on campus. Of particular note are the green pastures, the walk ways, the Beaumont Tower, and the Spartan Statue. Dedicated in June of 1945, the statue itself weighs three tons. Incidentally, Spartan Stadium this year has grass for the first time since 1969.
9. Boston College, Alumni Stadium
Chestnut Hill is not only a picturesque area of the country, but on the Boston College campus, they have done an outstanding job of matching the brick so that the new structures blend in perfectly with the old.
10. UCLA, Rose Bowl
Whether it's a Bruins home game or the majestic sight for the granddaddy of them all, the Rose Bowl itself provides quite a setting for college football.
1. Army vs. Navy
Truly one of the highlights of the college football season, regardless of where it's played. Throw out the records; they don't matter. It's Army-Navy, and the entire country has a rooting interest. And after the game, it's an incredible scene when the two squads stand at attention, facing the student body of the losing team first (either the Brigade of Midshipmen of Navy or Corps of Cadets at Army), and sing their alma mater. Then, they turn and face the student body of the winning team and sing their alma mater.
2. Ohio State, Ohio Stadium
As Beano Cook says, "There is nothing that beats when the Ohio State Marching Band and the sousaphone player dots the 'i' for Script Ohio." College football and Columbus are basically one and the same.
3. LSU, Tiger Stadium
Only at night. As Beano Cook says, "Dracula and LSU football are only at their best after the sun goes down." The Bayou Bengals can then claw away at the opposition, when Baton Rouge -- and particularly Tiger Stadium -- really does become "Death Valley."
4. Florida, Ben Hill Griffin Stadium at Florida Field
"The Swamp," as it was nicknamed by Steve Spurrier, can prove to be a rough place for the opposition. It is super loud, and the intensity of the fans remains the same from start to finish.
5. Nebraska, Memorial Stadium
A sea of red greets the opposition. Folks in Lincoln eat, sleep, and drink Cornhusker football. Their passion and love of the Huskers and a college football Saturday are examples of why the sport is so great.
6. Florida vs Georgia in Jacksonville
Known as "The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party" since 1958, this setting makes for quite a spectacle for one of college football's underrated rivalries.
7. Florida State, Doak Campbell Stadium
The war chant starts early and never eases up. You have the sight of Renegade and Osceola throwing down the spear at midfield. The only time Osceola gets off the horse is when the Seminoles play Florida. By the way, this tradition was started by none other than Bobby Bowden in 1976.
8. Texas A&M, Kyle Field
Aggie football is steeped in tradition. From the 12th Man to Friday night's Yell Practice, which sets the tone for game day when the chants and overall celebration of another Saturday of A&M football take over College Station.
9. Michigan, Michigan Stadium
While Michigan Stadium doesn't always produce the noise you may expect, considering the Wolverine fans come 110,000 strong (official capacity is 107,501), it's still "The Big House," where history and tradition grab you the second you get close to the structure. Then, once it's game time and you hear the Michigan band playing "Hail to the Victors," it sends chills through your body.
10. Penn State, Beaver Stadium
It's known as Happy Valley for a reason. The players rave about the close-nit community that is State College. When the Nittany Lion faithful chant "We are Penn State," the building rocks.
|Michigan QB John Navarre was able to pick out his receivers last season and complete 53.8 percent of his passes.|
The helmets, originally designed so that the Wolverines QB could have an easier time distinguishing the Michigan wideouts from the opposition, have always been at the top of my list. The design is original, and the color scheme is perfect.
2. Ohio State
It starts out the year free of any logo. Then come the Buckeyes on the side of the helmet after the players earn them on the field. Legendary head coach Woody Hayes and trainer Ernie Biggs began the Buckeye leaves design on the helmet in 1968. And how about this -- The Buckeyes went on to win the national championship that same year.
3. Notre Dame
The Golden Dome helmets and the history that they represent are what college football is all about. I just wish they would eliminate the gold striping under the arm.
The uniform design has been altered this season to reflect how the Trojans dressed in the glory days of the John McKay era of the 1960s. Since the colors are the same and the helmet remains unchanged, the Trojans will have a juiced-up look without a dramatic style shift.
The burnt orange is striking, and the logo, while simplistic, provides the necessary punch.
6. Florida State
I like the garnet-and-gold color scheme as well as the arrow/spear design on the side of the helmet.
The Crimson Tide uniform is ideally simplistic, with the player's number represented on the helmet.
When former head coach Hayden Fry took over in 1979, he wanted to instill a winning attitude, so he patterned the new Hawkeye logo, color scheme, and design after the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The tiger paw logo along with the vibrant color scheme make for a striking combination.
10. Penn State
Like Alabama, the helmet and uniform speak volumes about why history and tradition is so important in college football. The players' numbers appeared on the helmet until 1975. From that point on, only the blue stripe down the middle remained.
VENUES THAT ARE TOUGHEST FOR THE OPPOSITION
"The Swamp" is incredibly loud and combines with the Gators' superior talent on the field to overwhelm the majority of visitors.
As mentioned, the Bayou Bengals are intimidating only at night in Baton Rouge. That's when they maximize their home-field advantage.
Neyland Stadium is huge and awe-inspiring. Such a structure can get into the minds of the opposition long before kickoff. The pre-game build-up in Knoxville is off the charts.
The octaves are high at Autzen Stadium, where the city of Eugene throws all of its support behind the Ducks.
The Carrier Dome gets so loud that you can't even talk to yourself, let alone communicate on the field of play.
6. Washington State
A trip to Pullman when the Cougars are winning can be a nightmare for the opposition.
Husky Stadium is both scenic and also tough to deal with for the opposition.
Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City is one of the more underrated venues when it comes to providing a true home-field advantage for the Hawkeyes.
All you see is red; it's everywhere. Combined with Nebraska's speed-and-option attack, I thought that Memorial Stadium was more overwhelming to the opposition when it was artificial turf.
10. Miami (Fla.)
Not only are the Hurricanes a national power, but they have a huge advantage with all their quality depth because of the draining heat that tends to sap the energy out of the opposition.