Can't Wait For Saturday | When it comes to crowds, Big Ten newcomers bring added value

May 10—***

On Thursday, I wrote in this space about the sold-out 2024 season for UCF. It got me thinking about other potential attendance topics.

We all know that the Big Ten has three of the largest buildings in the nation. Michigan, Penn State and Ohio State ranked one, two and three in average crowds in 2023. Good news for the Big Ten.

The SEC in 2024 had the next eight average crowds: Tennessee, newcomer Texas, LSU, Alabama, Texas A&M, Georgia, Florida and Auburn. Then back to the Big Ten for No. 12 Nebraska. That makes the 12 biggest draws in college football are part of the Big Ten and SEC. Make that 13 with newcomer Oklahoma. No wonder the big two are getting all the TV money. The first team to break the streak is No. 14 Clemson.

Three more Big Ten schools rank in the Top 20 for attendance, No. 18 Wisconsin, No. 19 Michigan State and No. 20 Iowa.

What about the new schools joining the Big Ten? They've got crowds too.

Washington ranked No. 21 and Southern California checked in at No. 22.

Oregon was No. 32 in attendance and UCLA was last among the newcomers at No. 48.

What about Illinois? It was No. 43.

Last in the Big Ten: Northwestern, which averaged 23,257 to finish 87th in the nation. That number is likely to drop in '24 as the Wildcats split their games between two or three venues while Ryan Field is being rebuilt.