Published August 20, 2013 - 11:45amNEW: Follow on facebook -
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If you don’t love Saturdays Down South in an SEC Stadium, you’re doing it all wrong.
Tailgating, corn hole, bands, cheerleaders and thousands of rabid fans make going to games in the south much different than anywhere in the country.
So, let’s rank those top stadiums, shall we? And there are hundreds of different ways to rank stadiums. You can base it on noise, record or on anything else you feel justifies the ranking. SDS tried to account for everything.
Let’s get on it…
1. LSU’s Tiger Stadium
There’s nothing like Saturday night in Tiger Stadium. The nickname is Death Valley, where teams go to die, basically. It once measured on the Richter Scale in 1988 against Auburn, and the game is played in front of some of college football’s craziest fans. So, get your gumbo ready to roll, because LSU is expanding the beast to 100,000 seats. LSU is 50-7 under Les Miles at Tiger Stadium, and they have won 34 consecutive non-conference games dating back to 2002.
2. Alabama’s Bryant-Denny Stadium
The SEC’s second largest stadium is full of rabid Crimson Tide fans. Alabama owns a nasty 225-52-3 (.809) all-time home record. Dating back to the 1988 renovation, more than 14.2 million Alabama fans have witnessed a game in the venue. The atmosphere is electric, and Nick Saban’s 29-6 home record is just downright nasty. Urban Meyer said he knew he was officially in the SEC when he played at Bama and heard the voice of Bear Bryant.
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3. Florida’s Ben Hill Griffin Stadium
Florida has the stadium with three names – Ben Hill Griffin, Florida Field and The Swamp. You ask any player in the SEC what’s the toughest venue to play in, and the majority who have played at The Swamp will tell you Florida. The stadium goes up, not out, and the completely enclosed playing area lets fans be a major part of the game. The field of play was originally built in a shallow sinkhole, and the surface is below ground level. The crowd noise has been measured at 115 decibels. Florida fans have been known to be some of the toughest fans to play in front of.
4. Texas A&M’s Kyle Field
Kyle Field has an approved plan in place to become the SEC’s largest stadium with 102,500 people. But the pageantry of the 12th man fits right into the traditions of the SEC, and the Aggies always bring their A-game. Just last year, the Aggies hosted two of its largest crowds against LSU and Missouri, where 87,000-plus packed into the stadium. I mean, where else does the press box sway during pre-game? Kyle Field is the SEC’s oldest venue, having opening in 1904.
5. Georgia’s Sanford Stadium
‘Between the Hedges’ is really a sight to behold in the SEC. It’s not the biggest or the loudest, but it may be the sexiest stadium. Is that possible? The finely manicured hedges in the middle of a unreal campus. It’s like a scene right out of The Masters, with a crowd ready to cheer their Dawgs. The girls wear dresses, and the guys look like John Parker Wilson. Outside of Gary Pinkel, Mark Richt is the longest tenured SEC coach, and he’s registered a 63-13 career home record. If we’re talking college towns, Athens tops the list.
Related: Meet the SEC East coaches’ wives
6. Tennessee’s Neyland Stadium
Neyland Stadium at No. 6? This has to improve, and it will when winning returns to Knoxville. The Vols currently have the largest SEC stadium that holds 102,455 fans, but it hasn’t been full in a few years, thanks to several mediocre seasons. But few are better when the Vols host a top 10 matchup at night, and the checkerboard end zones are really something to behold. The Tennessee River and Vol Navy are a big part of the game day lore, and Neyland gets loud. The Power T is still one of the best pregame sights in the SEC.
7. Auburn’s Jordan-Hare Stadium
If you don’t get goose bumps when the eagle flies in the pregame air, you need to check your pulse. From the Tiger Walk to the pregame festivities, Auburn is definitely one to check out. The atmosphere lights up on game day, and Auburn really has some of the most passionate fans in the country. The stadium itself might not be that new, but the atmosphere can get out of control. Hopefully Gus Malzahn gives fans something to cheer about in 2013.
8. Arkansas’ Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium
An underrated stadium overall, Razorback Stadium is home to some of the country’s most rabid fans. Would it get its due if the Hogs played all their home games at Razorback Stadium? With no pro team in the state, Arkansas really comes out to support ‘the’ team in the state, and it shows on game day. Just bring your earplugs, because the “Woo Pig Sooie” will rattle your tooth fillings. Planned renovations will push the capacity to around 80,000, and the facilities are top notch.
9. South Carolina’s Williams-Brice Stadium
The electricity of the ‘Cockpit’ is riveting, and one of the loudest noises in the south is the ‘loud cock’. Over the last few years, Williams-Brice has been one of the toughest venues to play day or night, and that won’t change in 2013. This stadium is on the upswing, as Carolina keeps putting out 11-win seasons. Just make sure you get there early in time for one of college football’s best team entrances.
10. Missouri’s Memorial Stadium
One thing you’ll learn about Missouri’s fan base is they’re very loyal. So, they’ll be at Faurot Field rooting on their Tigers come rain or shine. Upsets have occurred in the past – think Oklahoma 2011. And the stadium is getting SEC-ready by adding a new luxury sweet tower and a facelift to the north end zone hill. Missouri fans fit right into the SEC, but winning will further that home turf.
11. Ole Miss’ Vaught-Hemmingway Stadium
It’s hard not to mention anything about Ole Miss without The Grove. Yes, it’s football’s finest tailgating time, but it’s not part of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. If Ole Miss officials can figure out how to make the stadium as attractive as the Rebel ladies, then we’re talking about moving into the top three. Until that happens, the SEC’s third oldest stadium will still be a great place to catch a football game.
12. Mississippi State’s Davis Wade Stadium
MSU fans are very passionate, and if you were impressed with the way they showed up in Omaha, you’ll be impressed with Davis Wade. Their cowbells are loud, and Starkville is an underrated sports town. The stadium isn’t exactly deafening, but it definitely can get loud and stay loud. Season tickets are sold out again in 2013, and that’s a massive reason why there’s a $75 million upgrade going on to add more seats.
13. Kentucky’s Commonwealth Stadium
Mark Stoops nearly filled every seat in the Cats’ spring game. More than 50,300 fans showed up to watch the spring fling, and they’re hoping this carries over into the fall. The low attendance numbers had to do with the dreadful play of 2012’s squad. This fan base is passionate, loud and ready to have something to cheer about. If Kentucky starts off 2-0 before hosting Louisville, look out!
Related: SEC spring football attendance
14. Vanderbilt’s Vanderbilt Stadium
The Commodores’ stadium may not have the passion, tradition or pageantry of your favorite stadium, and it doesn’t scare many opposing teams, fans or coaches, but it’s not like it used to be. James Franklin is changing the tradition, but it’s still tough to get fans to show up at home games. And if you haven’t noticed, Vanderbilt fans are coming alive with their recent success, and there’s plenty room for moving up this packed list. Ole Miss coming to town week one will help this year get started off right.
Photo Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports