Aug. 27—Who are the best and brightest in college football for the 2023 season? Over three weekends in August, News-Gazette columnist, Heisman Trophy voter and AP Top 25 panelist Bob Asmussen presents his lists, with insight from fellow beat writers across the country. This week's topic: The 50 best stadiums:
1. Ohio Stadium (Ohio State)
An easy choice for No. 1. Every other year, it hosts college football's best rivalry against Michigan. Monstrous structure has hosted so many great games and teams through the years. "The 'Shoe" seats 102,780 with a rabid fan base that expects the home team to win every time. The place turns 101 this year. They don't build them like they used to.
2. Tiger Stadium (LSU)
Ask any college football expert the craziest place to see a game and they will almost always start with the massive building in Baton Rouge, La. Some version of "you haven't lived until you see a game in "Death Valley." Especially a night game at the iconic venue. Now seating 102,321, Tiger Stadium turns 99 in late November. Just a guess the folks in Louisiana will throw a big party for No. 100. Our favorite feature: every 5 yards on the field are marked with a numeral. Cool.
3. Memorial Stadium (Clemson)
Death Valley II features one of the best traditions in college football: Clemson players touching Howard's Rock on the way to the field. The building holds 81,500 seats and every one of them is filled by someone in orange and purple. Another Clemson tradition is the IPTAY fund-raising effort for Tiger athletics. That stands for I Pay Ten A Year. The organization has raised roughly a gazillion dollars to pay for scholarships.
4. Sanford Stadium (Georgia)
Call this recency bias, what with the Bulldogs winning the past two national titles. But playing "between the hedges" was a big deal long before Kirby Smart turned the program into THE national power. About to turn 94, the stadium has undergone a string of expansions to 92,000 seats. All without damaging the beauty of the facility with seats that feel like they are on top of the field. Except for the giant bushes in the way. Bonus: UGA on the sidelines.
5. Rose Bowl (UCLA)
When the Jan. 1 game is being played, there isn't a prettier setting in college football. The 92,542 seats are divided equally between the two teams. The combination of the San Gabriel Mountains in the distance and the early sunset creates an idyllic look that you can only find in Pasadena, Calif. The game itself is often a doozy, even as conference realignment creates some uncertainty around what the future might hold for the game itself. Still hard to believe it was constructed for less than $300,000, though that was 101 years ago.
6. Michigan Stadium (Michigan)
College football's largest capacity building seats 107,671. When the school wants to raise attendance, it makes the seats more narrow. Smart. Illinois has played a few classic games in the "Big House," including its 1999 win against Tom Brady and a heartbreaking loss to the Big Ten champions last season. Want to get your steps in? Walk around the stadium, preferably not on a game day.
7. Kyle Field (Texas A&M)
Home of the 12th Man is the largest stadium in the SEC (barely) after expanding to 102,733 seats ahead of the 2015 season and biggest in Texas. Established as the home field for the Aggies in 1904, it didn't actually open until 1927. The building is named in honor of the school's first athletic director.
"A nation-best 37,000 students who stand for the entire game along with Texas A&M's Corps of Cadets and Yell Leaders make it a unique pageantry that's a must for any college football fan. The crowd generates enough noise that opposing players can't hear when standing next to each other, but it doesn't boo or throw things during the game and shows visiting fans so much Texas hospitality they can proudly wear their school colors." — Robert Cessna, Bryan-College Station (Texas) Eagle
8. Neyland Stadium (Tennessee)
Opened in 1921 and named for longtime Volunteers coach Robert Neyland, the stadium has shrunk by a few seats to 101,915. One of the megastructures in the SEC with a festive game day that includes the "Vol Navy," a flotilla that reaches the stadium on the Tennessee River.
9. Bryant-Denny Stadium (Alabama)
With a capactity of 100,077, it is the fourth largest in the SEC and eighth largest in the country. You know the Bryant part is in honor of coaching legend Bear. But who is this Denny? That would be George Denny, the school's long-ago president. Have to believe Nick Saban's name will be added after/if he retires.
10. Memorial Stadium (Illinois)
You can call this local bias. But the preference is to consider all the greats who have played on the field (Red Grange, Dick Butkus, David Williams, Moe Gardner, Simeon Rice, Kevin Hardy, etc.) Or consider the beauty of the building and the fact that there isn't a a bad seat in the house. Named in honor of war veterans, the colonnades on the east side list the names of those lost in the war. Take a look. It is touching.
11. Beaver Stadium (Penn State)
The erector set is wedged between Michigan and Ohio stadiums in terms of capacity. The school has been mindful of the unkempt look and moved toward a more attractive exterior. Game day when the Nittany Lions are good rivals any facility in the country.
12. Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum (Southern California)
Big Ten fans are going to get more frequent looks at the home of both the 1932 and 1984 Summer Olympics. Illinois Hall of Famer Jeff George had a great time there in 1989, throwing two late TD passes in a comeback win. Illinois hasn't been back since.
13. Memorial Stadium (Nebraska)
Despite a losing team the past half dozen years, Cornhusker fans continue to fill the building. The sellout streak goes back to 1962. Why? "There is nothing else to do?" is the wrong answer. The prideful people enjoy their reputation for loyalty and friendliness. That's why they show up. And five national titles help, too.
14. Memorial Stadium (Oklahoma)
Spoiled by the greatness of teams coached by Bud Wilkinson, Barry Switzer and Bob Stoops, the home of the Sooners is too special for one name. It also answers to Gaylord Family, Owen Field and Palace on the Prairie. Seven Heisman Trophy winners played there, the latest being Kyler Murray (now the quarterback of the NFL's Arizona Cardinals).
"Newcomers on or near the field at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium often get a jolt when the shotgun blasts go off for the first time before a game there. While stadium upgrades in recent years have made it a much better environment, it's the traditions that make going to a Sooners' game a unique experience.
"Those traditions start with the Ruf/Neks, the all-male spirit squad dressed in crimson button-down shirts and white jeans. They blast the ceremonial shotguns, wave their paddles and, along with their female counterparts Lil' Sis, pilot the iconic Sooner Schooner wagon onto the field following OU touchdowns. They're the biggest reason why a game in Norman is a unique experience." — Ryan Aber, The Oklahoman
15. Notre Dame Stadium (Notre Dame)
Speaking of Heisman winners, the home of Touchdown Jesus has seen seven of them too. Tied for the most with Oklahoma, Ohio State and Southern California. Game day at South Bend is a must for college football fans.
16. Camp Randall Stadium (Wisconsin)
Bret Bielema ended a generation of agony for Illinois in Madtown with a win there in 2022. The highlight for most first-time visitors is the playing of "Jump Around" between the third and fourth quarter when the building shakes from top to bottom. Scary, but fun.
"Camp Randall's unique because of its placement in the city of Madison. It's flanked on the north and east sides by campus buildings, while the west and south are older neighborhoods. Blocks in all directions essentially stop on Saturdays to allow for tailgates and pregame/postgame parties.
"Wisconsin has done some renovations, including a new premium seating area in the south end zone to update the stadium, and there are some more changes to come regarding the in-game presentation with the new coaching staff. Camp Randall's age shows in a few spots, but it's that history that makes it one of those landmarks a college football fan needs to experience." — Colten Bartholomew, Madison.com
17. Husky Stadium (Washington)
Welcome to the Big Ten. Folks in the ground-bound conference will enjoy the scenery in Seattle. The Olympic Mountains and Lake Washington are in view. Stunning.
18. Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium (Texas)
The building turns 99 late in the final season for the Longhorns in the Big 12. Next year, Texas moves to the SEC. All the great memories: Earl Campbell, Ricky Williams, Vince Young, Mack Brown, Bevo and a hatred for Texas A&M that will get a fresh start in a new league.
"The stadium we affectionately call the DKR is remarkable for its rich history dating back to 1924 and its grandeur. While it may lack the charm of some other stadiums — I still remember the stench from bats in the nooks and crannies — it's always projected strength and power and been home for some of the greatest games in college football history befitting one of the top five all-time winningest programs." — Kirk Bohls, Austin American-Statesman
19. Autzen Stadium (Oregon)
The sunken field and proximity of the fans makes for an especially hostile environment for visitors. It helps that the Ducks have been loaded with talent during the past three decades. The building is especially intimidating at night. The Big Ten schools have been warned. Eugene, by the way, is a wonderful city.
20. Kinnick Stadium (Iowa)
Like Michigan Stadium, the bulk of the seats are below ground level. You walk in and go down to your seats, giving opponents the illusion that the fans are on top of them. Iowa the state has a reputation for being full of nice people. That must be left at the door as fans enter Kinnick, where you will hear R-rated language.
Of course, The Wave at the end of the first quarter, when fans pay tribute to the nearby children's hospital, is a tear-jerker.
"Named for its 1939 Heisman Trophy winner, Kinnick Stadium is known for rowdy fans practically being on top of the action, with only a few paces of buffer between team benches and the first row of bleachers.
"A North End zone renovation completed in 2019 has increased Kinnick's volume, to the point that during a top-five showdown vs. Penn State (won by Iowa, 23-20) the visitors were forced into eight false starts — including three in a row during a crucial second-half sequence.
"Night games at Kinnick have been notoriously tough on top-five visitors, including a stunning 14-13 November upset of then-No. 2 Michigan in 2016 when Iowa was a 211/2-point underdog. The Hawkeyes also ruined Ohio State's 2017 season with a 55-24 shellacking at Kinnick." — Chad Leistikow, Des Moines (Iowa) Register
21. Jordan-Hare Stadium (Auburn)
During the Tigers' 2010 national title season under Gene Chizik, it beat ranked South Carolina, Arkansas and LSU at home,
"What makes Jordan-Hare Stadium so special is, as cliché as this sounds, the fan support. Of course, the fact that it's 87,000-plus people stacked on top of each other at capacity does a lot for it, but the best example I can give of said support was last season's game against Texas A&M. It was two 3-6 teams playing for little more than to keep their bowl eligibility alive, but I've never heard an environment so raucous.
"I've often heard the phrase 'Jordan-Hare Magic' since I got to Auburn a little more than a year ago, and it proved to still exist at times last fall, in a down year for a historically impressive program." — Adam Cole, Opelika-Auburn (Ala,) News
22. Doak Campbell Stadium (Florida State)
The late, great Bobby Bowden, who has his name on the building, turned Florida State into a football school. Jimbo Fisher continued the run and now it is Mike Norvell's turn. The college home of Deion Sanders and Charlie Ward is a diffficult place to win. Beware of the horse — Renegade — during the pregame.
23. Kenan Stadium (North Carolina)
Watch on TV and you'd swear the place was built in a forest. Visit in person and you realize the care that was taken to keep the area as natural as possible. Oh, and the basketball building is nice, too.
24. Ben Hill Griffin Stadium (Florida)
"The Swamp" is the former home of Ron Zook, Tim Tebow, Emmitt Smith and, of course, the great Steve Spurrier. Super fan base that wanted to win yesterday have been going through an inconsistent patch. No reason for this place to ever struggle considering all the assets.
25. Boone Pickens Stadium (Oklahoma State)
Speaking of places with plenty of cash, the late benefactor and stadium namesake made sure the program has everything needed to win. The Cowboys have always been solid, but Mike Gundy and a 2009 renovation have taken the place to another level.
26. LaVell Edwards Stadium (BYU)
The best coach in school history built the program into a national champion. It is a picturesque building in Provo that turns 60 in 2024. Formerly Cougar Stadium.
27. Razorback Stadium (Arkansas)
Sam Pittman's team plays its opener this season, against Western Carolina, at its home-away-from-home: Little Rock's War Memorial Stadium. The rest of the home games are at the big building in Fayetteville.
"Razorback Stadium, the only place in the world where you can hear 76,000 people calling the Hogs." — Tom Murphy, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
28. Albertsons Stadium (Boise State)
It is one of the two football homes named after a grocery store chain. We have company founder Joe Albertson to thank for that. Another highlight that you may have heard about: the field in blue. Or Smurf Turf if you will.
29. California Memorial Stadium (Cal)
Famously built on a fault line at the nation's best public university. Rebuilt and renovated in 2010, the facility is now seismically sound. If only Cal could say the same for its conference. Great view of the San Francisco Bay area, too.
30. Michie Stadium (Army)
The 99-year-old home of the Black Knights is located in a scenic spot near the Hudson River in West Point, N.Y. With capacity at 38,000, there isn't a bad seat in the place.
31. Lane Stadium (Virginia Tech)
Appropriately, the 58-year-old facility is located at 285 Beamer Way, honoring coaching legend Frank Beamer. Michael Vick starred in the building. So did Bruce Smith and Antonio Freeman.
32. Spartan Stadium (Michigan State)
If you like green, this is the place for you. The athletic department needs some of it to pay off the monster contract for Mel Tucker. The century-old building seats 75,005. Close and comforably.
33. Folsom Field (Colorado)
Former Illini Rick George's sleepy program got a wakeup call with the hiring of Sanders. "Prime Time" overhauled the roster and now there is buzz in Boulder. Expect sellouts as Sanders attempts to return the program to its glory days.
34. Williams-Brice Stadium (South Carolina)
With Shane Beamer in charge, the Gamecocks are a hot ticket. The team finished 16th in the FBS in attendance with an average of 75,000 in Columbia, S.C.
35. Huntington Bank Stadium (Minnesota)
After all those years in the gross Metrodome, Minnesota built a 50,805-seat on-camous structure that can grow to 80,000 if Minnesota turns into Ohio State. It could happen.
36. Vaught-Hemingway Stadium (Mississippi)
This is among the hidden gems in college football. It seats 64,038, the largest stadium in the state. Located in Oxford, the stadium opened in 1915.
37. Kroger Field (Kentucky)
Most think of Kentucky as a basketball school and it is. But the Wildcats have supported football forever, even in lean times. The place seats 61,000, with good crowds watching Mark Stoops' team.
38. Sun Bowl Stadium (UTEP)
This is all about the view because the Miners have struggled. Just two winning seasons in the last 17. CBS has made the annual Tony the Tiger Bowl in the building a holiday staple.
39. Jack Trice Stadium (Iowa State)
The third-largest stadium in the conference seats 61,000. Formerly known as Cyclone Stadium, the building was renamed in honor of the school's first Black athlete. He died tragically from injuries suffered in his first game. Students made a longtime push for the name change, which came in 1997.
40. Falcon Stadium (Air Force)
Make sure to buy a seat near the top of the Falcons' home stadium to get the majestic vantage point. Pine trees surround the hills near the stadium in Colorado Springs, Colo., which is an underrated travel destination.
41. McLane Stadium (Baylor)
Named for rich guy and lead gift giver Drayton McLane, the building is one the newest in colege football. It opened in Waco in 2014, with the stadium near the Brazos River. Like those at Tennessee and Washington, fans can arrive by boat to watch the Bears play.
42. Faurot Field (Missouri)
Originally built in 1926, the stadium was renamed Faurot Field in 1972 to honor longtime coach Don Faurot. One signature of the stadium is the giant rock "M" above the north end zone.
43. Ross-Ade Stadium (Purdue)
So may quarterbacks have risen to stardom at the home of the Boilermakers, which turns 99 this season. Defensive-minded Ryan Walters is now the head coach.
44. Bill Snyder Family Stadium (Kansas State)
When Snyder took over in 1989, the program was the worst in Power Five history. He changed the culture, winning at least nine games in 10 of 11 seasons with the Wildcats. Amazing. He deserved to have the building named in his honor. If not the state.
45. Amon G. Carter Stadium (TCU)
The home of the Horned Frogs is the place to be after Sonny Dykes tied a school record with 13 wins and played for the national title. The building has ties to newspapers. Carter was the publisher of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
46. Jones AT&T Stadium (Texas Tech)
The home of the Red Raiders is named after former Tech president Clifford Jones, who donated $100,000 in 1947 to help with construction costs.
"The entrance of the Masked Rider aboard a galloping black horse has been giving Texas Tech fans thrills since the mid-1950s. And since the early 1990s, tortillas sailing out of the student section — especially at opening kickoff — have been unique to the Texas Tech stadium culture." — Don Williams, Lubbock (Texas) Avalanche-Journal
47. L&N Federal Credit Union Stadium (Louisville)
That's a mouthful that should be changed to Loan Stadium. Better than the earlier name that represented a popular pizza chain. New coach Jeff Brohm will have the place hopping with a pass-happy offense.
48. War Memorial Stadium (Wyoming)
If you dig open spaces and don't care about seeing many people, this is your place. Laramie is a city of 31,000 in the least-populated state in the country. You have to see it to believe it.
49. Peden Stadium (Ohio)
The quaint campus and smallish stadium (24,000 capacity) now honors Ohio U's greatest coach, Frank Solich. Get there early and check out Athens, Ohio's downtown. Perfect.
50. Wallace Wade Stadium (Duke)
This is no Cameron Indoor. But it is the right size (40,000) for a program trying to build under Mike Elko. He won nine games in his first year to earn ACC honors. Maybe even Coach K will stop by.