Ranking the Top 25 fan bases in college football
If there’s ever a lack of argument, you can always count on asking which schools have the best fans. Part of the problem is anecdotal — name a fan base, and most SEC backers can immediately think of a particularly obnoxious specimen or three. Part of the problem is comparison — Michigan vs. Tennessee, Ohio State vs. LSU, these are culture questions, not a matter of ticket sales, or crowd noise.
And part is that everybody has an opinion.
So here’s ours — fire away. The Top 25 fan bases in college football, right now today are:
25. North Dakota State
What, you don’t think FCS counts? Those fans are winning titles for their team in playoff games!
24. Mississippi State
Admittedly, it’s not a glamorous tradition. But if you’ve never been deafened by the cowbells, well, you don’t know how annoying they can be. They support their team, often with not much reason to do so.
23. West Virginia
Obligatory joke about there being nothing else to do in West Virginia. But seriously, they are a fun group of fans who enjoy a rowdy Saturday night. They will love Neal Brown.
There. No West Coast bias on this list. (You won’t find USC or UCLA and their empty stadiums in here.)
21. Michigan State
Maybe not as intense as the top schools in the B1G. But just a solid fan base that avoids the ugly underbellies of some of these groups.
20. Ole Miss
You can get caught up in that whole “never lost a party” business. But seriously, go to the Grove. They are right.
A little more respect for the West coast. It will be interesting to see how this holds up as the team seems to have a lot less regard for winning football games.
18. South Carolina
You want some “it just means more” proof? Take USC. No national tradition, no big SEC titles … but 80,000 lunatics making a ton of noise at Williams-Brice for a program that is barely above .500 for its lifetime. Can you imagine Purdue or North Carolina having fan support like this? I can’t either.
It’s cold, but they love to party and win football games. Not unlike Starkville dumped into the B1G, but you have to respect it anyway.
16. Texas A&M
Waves and waves of noise from the 12th man. One of the biggest stadiums, one of the most intense cheering sections. It’d be the best fan base in most conferences.
15. Florida State
Revisit “Mississippi State” comments and insert a reference to “Tomahawk Chop” rather than cowbells. By the way, how is that still a thing?
It won’t be the same without “Mr. Two Bits,” but there’s jorts, sun, and a near-rabid student section.
13. Penn State
The scandal that nearly wrecked a program does drop PSU a few spots down in the pecking order. It’s hard to get on board with their old time soul with some of the ugly ghosts hanging around. It’s still a first-rate stadium, and the extension of the PSU fan base throughout the Appalachian Mountains makes it feel a little like an SEC program.
Massive stadium, Volunteer Navy, more people wearing hunter orange than you’ll meet in your life anywhere else. The first two almost cancel out the third.
How’d they handle going 4-8 last year? Well, 104.2% of seating capacity sold for home games. That absolutely demands respect.
One of the most demanding fan bases in all of football, and they haven’t had much to be excited about since Vince Young. Also McConaughey. It’s SEC level stuff.
Where would we be without rivals? Well, Auburn would be a lot lower on this list. Jordan-Hare is beautiful, their crowds are great, but it’s that white-hot hate of the UA/AU rivalry that makes it go.
8. Notre Dame
Touchdown Jesus, Rudy, simple uniforms (at home, anyway), bundled-up Midwesterners. It’s not the SEC, but it’s probably the next best thing.
There’s something special about what goes down between the hedges. Whether it’s Uga nipping at an opposing player or Chick-fil-A in the concessions, they get it.
Where a proud tradition meets a feisty defensiveness about where they lie in modern college football, Sooner fans are there. All of them, apparently: 103.9% of seating capacity sold in 2018.
It ain’t Death Valley for nothing. They’re the champs, they’re rowdy, they have a song that could rival “Rocky Top” in general annoyance level.
The largest stadium, and the 3rd-best percentage of capacity ticket sales in 2018 … when they ended up actually having a disappointing season. Maize and blue and 45 degrees feels like Saturday.
From the Bear Bryant Museum to the world’s largest sampling of houndstooth to an almost visceral need to own the league and the game, Alabama brings it. Now, if they can stop making Nick Saban chew them out every couple years for leaving early or getting quiet …
2. Ohio State
Brutus Buckeye, the Horseshoe, and a collection of fans bitter about the Bengals and Browns? Must be tOSU. Dotting the I, singing “Hang on Sloopy?” Yeah, they’ve got tradition, they’ve got intensity, they’re legit.
You go down to Baton Rouge on Saturday night, you feel lucky to escape with your soul, much less a healthy (or even less victorious) football team. Atmosphere, tradition, and absolutely deafening noise combine here. Shoot, typing it just gave me goosebumps.