The SEC’s five toughest venues this season

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There’s no doubt fans in the Southeastern Conference love their college football, but there’s a particular set of top-ranked venues that take pride in giving hell to the opposition.

Here’s this season’s best in the SEC heading into Game Week …

5. Sanford Stadium (Georgia): The Bulldogs were one of three SEC East teams to finish 7-0 at home last season and if they do so this fall, Georgia has a legitimate shot at the BCS Championship Game. There’s a pair of Top 10 teams — LSU and South Carolina — coming to Athens, matchups that could raise Sanford Stadium a little higher in the rankings. Georgia’s 4-6 under Mark Richt in such Top 10 contests, but the Bulldogs seem to play with more fight in front of 90,000-plus red and black-clad fans at home. Of Aaron Murray’s 95 career touchdown passes, 53 have come at home.

Sanford Stadium edges Florida’s Ben-Hill Griffin Stadium out of these rankings because the Bulldogs are the Eastern Division front-runner this season with a longer home win streak. The Gators are certainly capable of another perfect record in ‘The Swamp’ however with the only real threat being Florida State in the rivalry finale.

Related: SEC home records the past five years

4. Kyle Field (Texas A&M): Home of the 12th Man and in a couple of years after a gargantuan expansion, the 13th, 14th and 15th. By most accounts, it appears the dust has settled and Johnny Manziel will be full-go this season for the Aggies. Somewhere, six SEC West defensive coordinators and hundreds of thousands of fans from those programs are shaking their heads. College football’s most electrifying player from inside or outside the pocket is prepared for his encore, obliterating front sevens and secondaries along the way. Imagine the energy from the home faithful on a Saturday afternoon after the Aggies take the opening drive 75 yards in four plays for a touchdown. How do you respond after the near-instantaneous rattling?

It gets better. Just wait until 2015.

That’s when A&M’s $450 million stadium renovation will be completed making Kyle Field the SEC’s largest stadium at 102,500 seats – 45 more than Neyland Stadium in Knoxville. The Aggies are still SEC infants, but they care about college football and it shows from their rapid fans, alumni base and big-money boosters. A two-loss home slate this fall would be unacceptable for Kevin Sumlin and his staff. It’s time for the Aggies — backed with SEC bragging rights — to make Kyle Field one of the nation’s, not just conference’s, toughest places to play.

3. Tiger Stadium (LSU): Few venues in sports are as loud as this place on Saturday nights. If we had intimidation rankings, LSU’s Tiger Stadium is No. 1. The stadium’s ever-popular “where opponents’ dreams come to die” moniker held water last season when the Tigers handed unbeaten South Carolina its first loss with a fourth-quarter noise level that likely registered on the Richter. Having been on field level for a game, it’s difficult to fathom how opposing teams operate in the huddle before a crucial third down or decisive drive. Led by A.J. McCarron, Alabama’s heroics last October was a possession for the ages under the lights in what usually ranks as the SEC’s most hostile environment.

Texas A&M’s toughest game this season may not be its widely-anticipated home battle with top-ranked Alabama. A Nov. 23 trip down to the Bayou should be one of the most electric atmospheres in all of college football this fall with ESPN’s Gameday likely outside the gates and a BCS invite to the victor. LSU has seven home dates and could hit 11 wins during the regular season (after splitting trips to Alabama and Georgia) should Les Miles and the Tigers take care of business.

2. Williams-Brice Stadium (South Carolina): Call me a homer, but the statistics don’t lie: the Gamecocks may have won a national title last season had the LSU and Florida games been played in Columbia. Since the 2010 season, South Carolina has the second-most home wins (19) in the SEC. Steve Spurrier’s group rides a 11-game home winning streak heading into Thursday’s game against UNC — that’s one game behind Georgia (12) for the league’s longest without a blemish. The introduction of the ‘Beast Board’ in 2012 semi-closed the open air of the north end zone and trapped sounds from the student section — notably Sandstorm which is on the verge of taking the top spot on the pregame hype meter from 2001 — right behind the ears of the opposition.

And it’s a different animal at night.

When Ace Sanders crossed the 50 during his second quarter 69-yard punt return score during last season’s win over Georgia, I can’t remember the volume ever being as loud during the Spurrier era. The seats, in all locations, were shaking. That includes the 2010 victory over unbeaten and then-No.1 Alabama. The single-game attendance record of 85,199 (2012, UGA) could be threatened in November when highly-ranked Florida and Clemson take the familiar police escort down Bluff Road.

1. Bryant-Denny Stadium (Alabama): They’re calling for a fourth-down measurement: the Crimson Tide’s home digs win this one by inches over South Carolina. Since capturing national championship No. 13 during the 2009 season, Alabama holds an SEC-best .892 winning percentage (25-3) in Tuscaloosa. The Tide has had tons of All-Americans, college football’s best coaching staff and a Heisman winner over that span. All three losses (No. 2 Auburn, No. 1 LSU and No. 15 Texas A&M) were decided in the fourth quarter or overtime.

The SEC’s second-largest stadium has become a college football cathedral during the Nick Saban era, screaming dominance and tradition. Alabama has won consecutive BCS titles and is an overwhelming favorite to capture its third in four seasons (the SEC’s eighth straight overall). Judging this year’s seven-game home slate, the Crimson Tide will be favored by two touchdowns or more in every contest except Nov. 9 against LSU. The matchup of league titans could decide the West and ultimately derail or continue Alabama’s dynasty in the final year of the BCS.

Photo Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

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COMMENTS

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  • Apparently, you’ve never been to The Swamp…

  • And you’ve never been to Death Valley… Williams-Brice doesn’t even come close to Tiger Stadium. LSU and Bama are the top 2. South Carolina doesn’t even belong in the top 5…

  • “…the Gamecocks may have won a national title last season had the LSU and Florida games been played in Columbia.”
    Lol what? The Gators beat them by 33 points. You may have a case for the LSU game, but stadiums don’t cover 33 point spreads.

    Florida and LSU also beat A&M at Kyle Field. How can you put them at #4 when they haven’t beaten anyone of current SEC relevance in that stadium? In addition, Kyle field isn’t even close to as loud as Sanford and the Swamp. In fact, the only time it gets loud is during their “yells” which rarely take place during pre-snap, meaning it doesn’t effect the opponent.

    Stop homing and start being objective.

    • LOL You must have been drunk watching that game. We spotted you a number of points off poor special teams and you brag. Heck, Spurrier barely even played Lattimore. UF fans are terribly short sighted. Then they went out and lost to UGA….LMAO We blatantly beat UGA and didn’t need help like you did vs us. Be prepared to loss this year.

      • 44-11. Y’all got destroyed no matter which way you slice it. You can transitive property with the Georgia games all you want, but head to head we spanked y’all and it didn’t matter what stadium it was in. Terribly short-sighted? I guess you’ve forgotten SC has 0 conference championships and 1 division title to our 8 and 12.

        • So exactly what do conference championships and division titles have to do with how tough a place will be to play this year? We’ll find out on November 16th I reckon…

      • This is talking about toughest venues to play at….Florida / Georgia always play in Jacksonville! I was absolutely drunk watching every game and if you want to call it spotting us a number of points off poor special teams play then you’re ignorant! Short sighted??? Since 1999 were 5 – 2 at your house…..your 2 wins are by a combined 13
        points and our 5 are by a combined 86!!

        • Great observations and I am impressed that you went and looked up old scores. And exactly how will that translate into wins and losses THIS YEAR by stadium?

      • You must’ve been drunk when you posted this. UF beat the living tar out of you guys any way you look at it and you have the gall to try to talk smack? That’d be like me trying to somehow spin USCe blowing UGA out last year and then make some irrelevant comparison to how we beat the crap out of Vandy, which USCe barely beat last year.

  • Been to all 14 SEC stadiums… It’s The Swamp, Death Valley & then everyone else…

  • The fool who wrote this must be a Carolina fan…

  • South Carolina is surprising at 30-5 the last five years. That’s a great record.

    • Ok? If you’re going by record then title it “The top 5 SEC Stadiums by Record During Past 5 seasons”, not top 5 for this season.

      And if record is so determinative, why is A&M on here? They went an amazing 4-2 at home last year.

      • Relax. How is that not impressive?
        Here are the totals for the past 5 seasons.
        http://www.saturdaydownsouth.com/2013/sec-football-home-records-2013/

        • There are many “impressive” stadiums in the SouthEastern Conference. I’ve seen your article and think it’s much more objective and informative than this opinion piece.

        • No one is saying it isn’t impressive. But this article wasn’t really is based on anything other the writer’s opinion. In fact, he used the fact that TAMU’s stadium is going to be bigger in the future as one of the reasons it will be a difficult place to play now. How does that make sense at all? Is it supposed to scare an opponent knowing that TAMU’s stadium will grow in two years? And if quantity of people is so important why no Neyland? They have a better home record over the past five years than TAMU anyways, and in fact went 4-3 while TAMU went 4-2 last season at home. And if not for 2010, TAMU’s home win percentage would be just .555, putting them at fourth worst in the SEC, only above Vandy, Ole Miss and Kentucky. Moreover, it wasn’t based on outscoring opponents more as UGA outscored opponents by +200 point in Sanford (average 46.2 PPG and 17.7 PPG for opponents), and South Carolina outscored opponents by +173 in Williams-Brice (38.2 PPG and 13.5 PPG for opponents). And it isn’t based on most recent preform by record either, using Georgia as an example again, Georgia is 12-1 in the past 2 years and South Carolina is 13-1 (benefiting from an extra home game).
          So, how exactly was Kyle or Williams-Brice chosen? For what reason was Brice chosen beside the author really loves South Carolina and TAMU was able to beat ‘Bama at Bryant-Denny (which shouldn’t even matter in terms of a home game article)?

    • But do you remember the mini earthquake in 2006 after the blocked field goal leading to the national championship for the Gators? When has SCAR ever have a mini earthquake? How could A&M and SCAR be on the list when Florida isnt? A&M had two home losses last year, and the Gators had no home losses.

      • Understand your comments about A&M, biut SCar? Have you been to any of those big games in Columbia in the past few years? That place is absolutely deafening with the stadium swaying for god’s sake.

    • Was there last year for our loss. You beat us, but the atmosphere wasn’t amazing. Loud? Yes, but almost every stadium in the SEC is loud. There was more of a sense of electricity outside the stadium in pre-game events than what went on during the game. Btw, get some better visitor seats. You rival Tennessee for horrible seating!

  • Hilarious…homers calling the writer a homer.

  • You mean the blocked PAT and FG by Jarvis Moss who just happened to be SUSPENDED the very next week vs Western Carolina after failing a drug test for smoking weed? Yeah, Urban Meyer just happened to find out about that the week AFTER the USCe game?

  • The guy wrote it as “toughest venues THIS SEASON”. Obviously USC hasn’t had the big home field adv or great teams in the past (no sh*t). Recently they’ve been great at home. Seems reasonable. (They looked awesome at home vs UGA and looked awful in UF, yes)

  • “the Gamecocks may have won a national title last season had the LSU and Florida games been played in Columbia”. what a silly load of crap. Even in your dream world where S.C. gets to the SEC championship because they played every game at home, they’d still have to beat Alabama in Atlanta.

    (This is the point where you wake up and realize how stupid that dream where you’re a credible writer was.)

    Then there’s A&M, who’s beaten what teams at home since joining the league? The worst Arkansas team in a decade and a 5-7 Missouri team. Shouldn’t they have to at least beat a SEC team with a winning record at home to make the list?

    You can hand in your media credentials now, you clearly don’t deserve them.

  • Hahahaha……that’s all you can do at this article. I’ll agree with 4 of these teams he has listed, but how can you put A&M over Florida? They beat who at home last year besides Arkansas, Mizzou, and a few high school teams. The swamp was definitely the reason Florida managed to beat LSU and the reason Florida dominated South Carolina. I’ve yet to see why Kyle Field is so intimidating….

    • Toughest Venues THIS season. Does Florida have Johnny Manziel? No, the Gators have Jeff Driskell. I think the joke’s on you.

      • That’s really funny. You do realize a venue is a place, right? Players make venues tough? No, fans and architectural design make venues tough. Players make teams tough. This entire article screams of “Let’s look for a way to rate USCe highly at something!”

  • I like Turtles…

    Regardless what stadium each of us believe belong in the top 5, we all know that when the game is a heated match up between rivals or top 25 teams, the atmosphere is electric at just about EVERY SEC stadium.

  • Brad,
    Good article but I don’t think you can outright say there is a #1, #2, #3, etc… because statistics don’t always tell the whole story.

    Top 3 in no order: Bama, LSU, UF
    Next 3 in no order: UGA, USC, Auburn

    I don’t think we can group aTm or Mizzou into any categories since they have only played 1 year in the SEC.

  • Maybe Kyle Field is in there because the Aggies have a 71% winning percentage there since 1905.
    Maybe because of 93% in the 90’s (55-4-1) and 35 straight 90-95
    A venue does not “become intimidating” based upon one season of play, or even 4 or 5.
    What other student body stands during the entire game?

  • you obviously are a homer! south Carolina may have won the a national championship if those 2 games were played in south Carolina???? YOU ARE DELUSIONAL!!!! Arkansas has owned SC in Fayetteville AND in Columbia and according to you Williams-Brice Stadium is the 2nd toughest place to play in the SEC?? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!! You really did let the “homer” in you take over here, didn’t you??!!

    • Agree on him being a homer and his comments being farfetched on the nat’l championship, but try a little reading comprehension Corn-hole. It says toughest to play for this year. 30-5 at home over the last 5 years. What was Arky’s record last year? Thought so. Now go for a bike ride with your coach…

  • Your stats on Bama having the best home record are wrong. From ’09-’12, LSU was 26-2 at home for a winning percentage of 92.85%. Great Research!

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