Published August 7, 2012 - 5:20pm
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Remember when Florida’s Ben Hill Griffin Stadium was one of the scariest venues in the Southeastern Conference, a burial ground for ranked teams during the Steve Spurrier and Tim Tebow eras? How can we forget the six-digit fan totals at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville during the Philip Fulmer wonder years where checkerboard end zones mesmerized the opposition?
It’s going to take awhile for those concrete and brick monstrosities to summon their storied past. Heading into this season, the usual suspects head the list of SDS’ toughest SEC venues this fall with one program in the Top 5 that could play BCS buster in January with an unbeaten home slate.
5. Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium, Fayetteville: Between Reynolds and War Memorial, it’s tough to beat Arkansas away from home no matter what venue. Equipped with one of the country’s best quarterbacks in Tyler Wilson an arguably the SEC’s top 1-2 punch of Knile Davis and Ronnie Wingo in the backfield, the Razorbacks are going to be dominant on offense this season. As many as 80,000 can be heard screaming Woo Pig Sooie on gamedays. The LED “PigScreen” above the end zone is pretty neat and was the largest scoreboard at any stadium in the country when it was built in 2000.
4. Sanford Stadium, Athens: Between the hedges inside Georgia’s 92,700-seat, 82-year old mecca. A preseason East favorite on most accounts, Aaron Murray and Co. should have plenty to bark about at home this fall. They’ll be favored in all seven games behind scarlet and gray-clad fans hungry for an SEC title. The Georgia Dome on championship weekend could be another home game for the Bulldogs if they find success on separate road trips to Columbia, Mo. and Columbia, S.C.
3. Williams-Brice Stadium, Columbia, S.C.: A new gargantuan scoreboard. Sandstorm and 2001 blasting out the speakers. A renovated Farmer’s Market and fairgrounds. As far as looks are concerned, the Gamecocks are everything an 11-2 program should be. South Carolina has talent comparable to any team in the country at the necessary skill positions with a Hall of Fame coach on the home sideline. Outside of a road trip to Baton Rouge, all of the Gamecocks’ “swing” games this season are at home, setting up South Carolina nicely for a trip to Atlanta.
2. Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa: The second largest stadium in the SEC will be all amped up after another national championship. Not that the Crimson Tide faithful needed another reason to be any louder. Alabama will likely go 7-0 at Bryant-Denny with a reasonably soft league schedule by SEC standards. What happens away from Tuscaloosa — notably at Arkansas and at LSU — will determine Alabama’s fate.
1. Tiger Stadium, Baton Rouge: Eight home games with at least five guaranteed under the lights. That’s a scary proposition for opponents heading down to the Bayou this season. The preseason conference favorites are tough to beat at home and nearly untouchable at night behind the strength of 92,500 fans. South Carolina’s trip to the Honey Badger’s Lair on Oct. 13 could derail the Gamecocks’ national championship hopes. The same goes for the Crimson Tide on Nov. 3. That first Saturday in November likely decides the BCS champion front-runner.