Ranking The Toughest Venues In The SEC

Southerners love football.

Fall Saturdays, and some Thursdays, can bring families together or split them apart for three hours on game day. The SEC has led college football in attendance for 13 consecutive years and should continue that trend this season, coming off the conference’s fifth consecutive national title.

Here’s a look at the SEC’s toughest places to play heading into the 2011 season according to Saturday Down South’s MrPalmetto:

5. South Carolina – Williams-Brice Stadium
Home record since 2005 – 29-13 (0.69)
The Seating – 80,250
The Skinny – The new “2010 SEC East Champions” banner certainly makes this place more intimidating. Throw in wild, towel-waving sections during “Sandstorm” and a goosebumps-inducing “2001” entrance prior to kickoff and Williams-Brice easily shakes the nearby Bojangles on Bluff Road. The monumental upset victory over Alabama in 2010 vaults South Carolina’s home digs past Georgia’s Sanford Stadium into the Top 5 of this list.
Did you know? – South Carolina has beaten six ranked teams at home since 2005, but just one away has come away from Columbia (at Florida, 2010).

4. Auburn – Jordan-Hare Stadium
Home record since 2005 – 36-10 (0.78)
The Seating – 87,451
The Skinny – Not as loud as some SEC stadiums, but the atmosphere at night on game day is what makes Jordan-Hare pretty special. From the War Eagle swooping toward the field before kickoff to T-Pain and D.J. Khaled’s “All I Do Is Win” blasting through the speakers when the Tigers run out of the tunnel, it’s a neat experience. Since 2000, the Tigers are 22-4 at home in SEC home games at night. Cam Newton-less Auburn opens the season at home against Utah State on Sept. 3.
Did you know? – The Tigers are 4-3 at home against ranked opponents since 2008 with three of those victories coming last season.

3. Alabama – Bryant-Denny Stadium
Home record since 2005 – 36-6 (0.86)
The Seating – 101,821
The Skinny – Nick Saban’s brought the Crimson Tide and Bryant-Denny Stadium back to the forefront of the SEC’s toughest venues. The 100k fans seem as if they’re bearing down on the opposition and the bells that ring in third-down situations can really mess with a quarterback’s psyche. Throw in four and five-star players at nearly every position on defense and you can forget moving down the field as you please in Tuscaloosa.
Did you know? – Auburn’s come-from-behind win at Alabama last season snapped the Crimson Tide’s 20-game home winning streak.

2. Florida – Ben Hill Griffin Stadium
Home record since 2005 – 41-6 (0.87)
The Seating – 88,548
The Skinny – “The Swamp” isn’t as intimidating as it once was with John Brantley under center, but the Gator Chomp among the sea of blue and orange is still an annoyance for visitors on Saturdays in the Sunshine State. It’s only a matter of time before the Gators get back to being unbeatable at home. Give new coach Will Muschamp a few seasons to bring in the players he wants and Florida Field in Gainesville soars to No. 1 on this list.
Did you know? – Three of Florida’s six home losses since 2005 came last season (LSU, Miss. St., South Carolina)

1. LSU – Tiger Stadium
Home record since 2005 – 38-7 (0.84 winning percentage)
The Seating – 92,542
The Skinny – The loudest, nastiest, and craziest home faithful to anyone traveling to the Bayou for an SEC road trip rests in Baton Rouge. Don’t get caught looking at one of the thousands of co-eds or the Bengals’ play-action may have just beat you deep. The Tigers, no matter the score, find themselves always in the game late in the fourth quarter with the Mad Hatter, Les Miles, on the sideline. LSU has played more overtime games than any team in the SEC since 2005 (eight). A popular site for ESPN’s College Gameday, Tiger Stadium is a unique venue even if you go home the loser. And who doesn’t like a field marked in 5-yard increments?
Did you know? – The Georgia Bulldogs have handed the Tigers two of their seven home losses over the last six seasons (2005, 2008)

Just missed the cut …

Georgia – Sanford Stadium
The Skinny – Sanford Stadium has lost its aura in recent years but it’s still tough to win between the hedges, especially when the Bulldogs always seem loaded with speed and talent. One of the louder crowds in the SEC, UGA fans are close to LSU’s faithful as the meanest.

Tennessee – Neyland Stadium
The Skinny – Orange, orange and even more orange. As a follower of the Gamecocks, need I say more?

Best of the rest …

Vanderbilt Stadium, Kentucky’s Commonwealth Stadium, Mississippi State’s Davis Wade Stadium, Ole Miss’ Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, Arkansas’ Donald Reynolds Razorbacks Stadium. Other neutral sites: War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock, Ark.; EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Fla.; Legion Field in Birmingham, Ala.