Everything is bigger, better, and more brilliant in college football. It’s science, an indisputable fact. From the pageantry of Saturdays to the traditions and on-field excitement, college football is the most exciting sport in the world. Such a magnificent sport demands equal brilliance from the arenas that host it, and CFB doesn’t disappoint. But which are home to the best college football stadiums?
Top Five Stadiums in College Football
Looking for a statistical example of how the professional game pales into insignificance compared to CFB? Look no further than the sheer magnitude of Saturday stadiums vs. their Sunday counterparts. MetLife Stadium, home of the New York Jets and Giants, is the highest capacity stadium in the NFL at 82,500. That would rank as just the 14th largest arena in college football.
Now, as the popular saying goes, size isn’t everything. Big isn’t always beautiful when it comes to establishing CFB’s top five best stadiums. Some of the most spectacular stadiums in the country don’t sit anywhere near the top of the list in terms of capacity. However, if you can regularly fill a 100,000-plus seater stadium with fans, the cacophony of chaos that you can create can certainly help add to the atmosphere and game day experience.
5) Rose Bowl, UCLA
Not just one of the best CFB stadiums, the Rose Bowl is an iconic sporting venue. It’s played host to Super Bowls, the 1994 World Cup final, the 1932 Olympics, and even the 1983 Army vs. Navy game. The annual Rose Bowl game is a cornerstone of college football, with the iconic sunset over the San Gabriel mountains providing the postcard event of the CFB season every year. Housing 90,000+ seats within the elliptical bowl, the Rose Bowl is the epitome of history and tradition in CFB, the cornerstones of the nation’s greatest sport.
4) Michigan Stadium, Michigan
Although biggest might not necessarily mean the best, the “Big House” boasts the highest capacity of any stadium in CFB. Holding 107,601 rabid Wolverines fans, the stadium provides an intimidating atmosphere. This is particularly apparent during “Maize out” games, where Michigan fans are encouraged to adorn themselves in the Wolverines’ particular shade of yellow. The stadium itself is just a small part of an immersive college town experience where Ann Arbor is brought to a standstill by CFB fans and families alike.
3) Beaver Stadium, Penn State
While the SEC might claim “it just means more,” some of the best CFB stadiums belong to the Big Ten. Sandwiched between conference rivals, Penn State’s Beaver Stadium certainly has a bit to be considered the best. The “White Out” is one of the best traditions in college football, and it could be argued that there’s no more intimidating atmosphere than when the home fans get the stands visibly rocking. With a capacity of just over 106,500, Beaver Stadium is the second-largest college football stadium in the nation.
2) Ohio Stadium, Ohio State
As you stand at the 50-yard line and stare into the gargantuan scoreboard at one end of Ohio Stadium, the intimidation of a pair of evil eyes staring back at you is palpable. These eyes, of course, are just windows. The imagery is just imagination. However, it’s one feature of “The Horseshoe” that makes it a hostile environment for opposing fans. Chanting loops of “O-H-I-O” that reverberate around the 102,000-capacity arena and the legendary “Script Ohio” marching band tradition make for one of the nation’s best CFB experiences.
1) Tiger Stadium, LSU
“Playing in Death Valley and Tiger Stadium, there’s nothing else like it. It’s an experience that can change your perspective on College Football.” — Cole Tracy.
Back in 2019, I had the opportunity to speak to legendary LSU kicker Tracy about the experience of playing in Tiger Stadium. His answer sums up everything that makes “Death Valley” the CFB stadium that sits atop the wish list of every fan that hasn’t made the trip to Baton Rouge. Even in the warm summer Louisiana sun, it’s a stadium that exudes hostility for road fans and a fever pitch of noise from Tigers fans that pack the 102,000 seats.
Then you turn on the lights, and it becomes something else. There is surely no greater sight and sound than Tiger Stadium at night. The noise echoes around, amplified somehow by the night air. Legendary Alabama head coach Bear Bryant likened it to “being inside a drum.” The lights, the fireworks, and the cacophony of noise create an atmosphere like nothing else in CFB. All. Of. The. Chills.
Honorable mentions for CFB’s best stadiums
Honestly, trying to establish the best stadiums in CFB and limiting it to a top five is akin to trying to establish which is your favorite child. It’s an impossible task with no real correct answer. While those five stadiums listed above could be considered the best in CFB, there’s equal argument to be heard for several more. Each of the FBS stadiums has its own unique charm. That’s before we even take into consideration the plethora of FCS venues.
Let’s start the honorable mentions with one such stadium. The Yale Bowl, home of the Ivy League’s Yale Bulldogs, doesn’t receive much recognition. However, the 62,000-capacity oval was the inspiration for many of the best CFB stadiums. Its elliptical design inspired the Rose Bowl, LA Memorial Coliseum, and Michigan Stadium. When packed to the rafters for “The Game” — the rivalry matchup with Harvard –, the bowl provides a visual treat and an even more impressive environment.
The west coast provides a spectacular backdrop for some of CFB’s best stadiums. Husky Stadium, home of the Washington Huskies, may “only” hold 70,000 fans, but the spectacular scenery, ear-piercing noise levels, and irregular “sailgating” make for a must-visit extravaganza. Meanwhile, Pac-12 rival Oregon’s Autzen Stadium rivals any arena in the nation for noise despite its 54,000 capacity. The home of the Ducks boasts a distinctive shape and an impressive LED scoreboard that Buddy Garrity would be proud of.
Some of the best stadiums in CFB aren’t the biggest. What makes a beautiful arena might not even be the bricks and mortar or the fans that fill it. Take a trip to Colorado or Utah, and you’ll be treated to mountainous scenery from your stadium seat that will take your breath away. Rice-Eccles Stadium (Utah), Folsom Field (Colorado), and LaVell Edwards Stadium (BYU) are all spectacular. With its mountainous backdrop and “Smurf Turf,” Boise State’s Albertsons Stadium also deserves some love as one of CFBs most beautiful arenas.