House parties: SEC's craziest environments in 2016
Which SEC stadium will be the most challenging to go in and secure a victory in 2016? Let’s stir things up a bit and rank next season’s craziest SEC environments based on each program’s returning impact players, momentum, national relevance and home schedule in terms of difficulty.
And before anyone objects about a stadium being left out, let’s say this about Texas A&M’s Kyle Field: While the Aggies’ football shrine is one of the nation’s loudest and structurally beautiful venues, Kevin Sumlin has yet to make that place intimidating. Since Sumlin took over Texas A&M in 2012, the Aggies are just 8-9 against SEC opponents at home.
5. Vaught-Hemingway Stadium
Ole Miss’ stomping grounds have become one of the SEC West’s toughest locales. Two seasons ago, Bo Wallace and the Rebels upset Alabama in Oxford, where Ole Miss has gone 12-2 over the past two seasons.
After a season-opening neutral-site game against Florida State in Orlando this year, the Rebels face the following four teams at home over consecutive weeks: Wofford, Alabama, Georgia and Memphis. Who knows? Maybe returning QB Chad Kelly can do his best Wallace imitation and lead Ole Miss to a third consecutive upset of Bama.
It should be a pretty crazy time for the 60,580 fans who attend Vaught-Hemingway each week over that four-game stretch.
4. Sanford Stadium
Georgia lost a lot of its SEC swagger between the hedges last fall when Alabama came into Athens and humiliated the Bulldogs 38-10.
That was Georgia’s only loss at home in 2015 and this year’s schedule appears even more favorable.
These home games all appear winnable: Nicholls State, Vanderbilt, Auburn, Louisiana-Lafayette and Georgia Tech.
The biggest home date is against Tennessee on Oct. 1. But there’s already excitement in Athens with prized QB recruit Jacob Eason and new coach Kirby Smart looking to kick off their Georgia careers.
3. Neyland Stadium
This brick monstrosity along the water would be higher on this list had the Volunteers taken better care of business at home last season.
In both of the their defeats in Knoxville, a 31-24 double-overtime setback against Oklahoma and a 24-20 loss to Arkansas last season, the Vols surrendered at least a 14-point lead.
Butch Jones’ squad needs to reestablish Neyland as a place where touted teams don’t get out alive. It gets an excellent chance to do just that when Alabama visits Oct. 15.
2. Bryant-Denny Stadium
Since 2009, Alabama is the SEC’s only team that has lost one or fewer home games every year, compiling a league-best 45-4 mark inside its home digs over that span.
Believe it or not, during last season’s national championship run, the Crimson Tide faced only two ranked teams in Tuscaloosa, where Bama suffered its only loss of the year against Ole Miss on Sept. 19.
With Alabama favored to repeat as college football’s national champion, there’s no reason Bryant-Denny won’t once again be treacherous for visiting teams.
1. Tiger Stadium
Heisman candidate Leonard Fournette being coached by a man who was nearly fired last season in Les Miles? That’s a must-see combination heading into next season in Baton Rouge at Tiger Stadium, which seats 102,321.
Admittedly, Death Valley lost some of its mystique last November when LSU fell flat — at night — against Arkansas.
The bounce-back game came against Texas A&M, in the home finale that helped save Miles’ job.
In 2016, the hardest home matchup appears to be a visit by Alabama on Nov. 5.
Ole Miss comes to Baton Rouge on Oct. 22, but if LSU wins that game, it should go at least 6-1 at home. If might be not be enough to save Miles’ job, but it should create a tense and captivating atmosphere for the Bayou Bengals and their fans.
Just missed the cut for 2016: Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium (Arkansas); Davis Wade Stadium (Mississippi State); Jordan-Hare Stadium (Auburn).