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Newcomers Oklahoma, Texas lag behind legacy league members after conference expansion


Newcomers Oklahoma, Texas lag behind legacy league members after conference expansion

EA Sports turned heads when it released its assessment of college football’s toughest places to play ahead of the upcoming “College Football 25” video game release. Game developers pegged Texas A&M as the sport’s top home-field environment and listed nine SEC venues among the top 15.

While plenty of respect was shown to the SEC and its rabid fan bases with a strong representation near the top, EA’s ordering of the SEC environments was a lightning rod for controversy. Did Kyle Field really deserve the top spot ahead of LSU’s Tiger Stadium, which is notoriously perilous for visitors during night games?

What about Georgia coming in at No. 5 on the list? The Bulldogs have been dominant at home under coach Kirby Smart. But is that mostly the byproduct of a talent advantage and a favorable SEC East schedule?

College football realignment 2024 links: Big Ten stadium rankings | Big Ten rivalry rankings | SEC stadium rankings

While some factors are quantifiable, selecting the best stadium environment in the SEC requires nuance. As Texas and Oklahoma join the SEC for the 2024 season, we set out to take a deeper and more detailed look at the hierarchy of SEC home environments.

1. LSU

LSU is 11-0 in home night games through two seasons under coach Brian Kelly. Its only home loss of the Kelly era came in an 11 a.m. local time start against Tennessee in 2022, lending credence to the belief there is just something different about Tiger Stadium at night. The venue is appropriately nicknamed Death Valley as it’s a place where dreams go to die, especially when the lights are on and the fans have spent all day fueling up.

2. Alabama

Alabama owned a 21-game home winning streak before a loss to Texas at Bryant-Denny Stadium last season. The Crimson Tide were so dominant at home under Nick Saban that the legendary coach occasionally had to prod Bama students to remain engaged through what seemed like a never-ending series of blowout wins. But when a quality foe comes to town, this place is deafening and often demoralizing for opponents.

3. Florida

The Gators have dropped two home games in each of the past two seasons while searching for their footing under coach Billy Napier. However, it will take more than a couple of years to change Ben Hill Griffin Stadium’s reputation as a nightmare venue for opponents. The Gators went 32-2 inside “The Swamp” from 2005-09 during Urban Meyer’s heyday as coach.

4. Tennessee

Neyland Stadium ranked only seventh among SEC venues in EA Sports’ list of toughest places to play. Underestimate the orange insanity at your own peril. Former Oklahoma star quarterback Baker Mayfield once called Neyland Stadium “a different type of loud” and said it “was probably the best game experience I’ve had.”

5. Auburn

Auburn is just 12-10 at Jordan-Hare Stadium over the past three seasons after a series of close losses against top-15 foes Georgia, Alabama and Ole Miss last season. But Auburn is unmatched in its potential for miracles. Just consider that the “Prayer at Jordan-Hare” and the “Kick-Six” to beat Georgia and Alabama occurred in consecutive games during November of 2013.

While the Tigers have struggled to find footing over the past few years, Jordan-Hare stadium remains among college football’s best venues.
Auburn Undercover

6. Georgia

Georgia is 41-1 at home over the last seven seasons and owns the nation’s longest home winning streak at 32 games. While the Bulldogs faithful deserve plenty of credit for the team’s success at Sanford Stadium, much of that dominance should probably be attributed to the talent advantage amassed by UGA under coach Kirby Smart.

7. South Carolina

South Carolina’s stadium packs a punch, especially for a program not regarded as a historic power. Williams-Brice Stadium shakes when “Sandstorm” comes on, and the Gamecocks have notched some big home wins under Shane Beamer. Beating Florida and Auburn was crucial to getting the Gamecocks bowl-eligible in 2021, and an upset of No. 5 Tennessee altered the playoff picture in 2022.

8. Texas A&M

Texas A&M’s “12th Man” and “Aggie Yell” are among the most distinctive college football traditions and give Kyle Field a unique feel among its SEC peers. But EA Sports put too much stock in those factors when ranking A&M as the nation’s toughest place to play. Appalachian State sure seemed undaunted in 2022 when it left with a 17-14 victory.

Texas A&M’s Kyle Field has a stadium capacity of 102,733.
Icon Sportswire

9. Oklahoma 

If this was 2023 and we were ranking the best Big 12 stadiums, “The Palace on the Prarie” would likely sit at No. 1. But the Sooner faithful will have to prove that OU’s home-field advantage is better than that of the SEC’s legacy programs. Visits from Tennessee and Alabama in 2024 will give the Sooners a chance to set the record straight.

10. Texas

Texas went 6-0 at home in 2023, but the marquee visitors were Kansas and Kansas State. The Longhorns were a middling 9-4 at Darrell K Royal Memorial Stadium over the 2021 and 2022 seasons. A visit from Georgia on Oct. 19 this season will give Bevo and “The Eyes of Texas” an opportunity to flex on the SEC and show that DKR belongs in the conversation as a premier SEC environment.

11. Mississippi State

The noise generated by tens of thousands of ringing cowbells gives Davis Wade Stadium a loudness factor you wouldn’t typically expect from a venue with a capacity of *only* 61,337. Drop the Bulldogs into another league and their home-field advantage would be considered among the best.

12. Arkansas

When Arkansas is rocking and the hogs are called, it’s a beast that can cap out above some of the others on this list. But the Razorbacks are a pedestrian 15-11 at home under coach Sam Pittman after stumbling to a 3-4 home record last season. A couple of those losses were of the non-competitive variety, and the wins were against Western Carolina, Kent State and FIU.

13. Ole Miss

If we were ranking the best pregame scenes, Ole Miss would land significantly higher on the list because of The Grove’s deserved reputation as a must-see tailgating destination. A 19-2 home mark over the last three seasons is impressive, but the vibe inside Vaught-Hemingway Stadium is more genteel than daunting when compared to its SEC competitors. 

Ole Miss is regarded as a premier tailgating destination, but does that translate to the stadium?
Icon Sportswire

14. Missouri

Since joining the SEC in 2012, Missouri has made strides to get Memorial Stadium/Faurot Field on par with other SEC venues. If the Tigers had pulled off the upset against No. 1 Georgia in 2022, perhaps the venue would rank higher on the list. Alas, they fell 26-22 and narrowly missed out on a monumental home victory.

15. Kentucky

Any program that sells the naming rights of its football stadium to a grocery store chain is punting on this competition. Kentucky’s 9-6 home mark over the past two seasons is nothing special, and UK is just 2-6 against SEC visitors over the past two seasons.

16. Vanderbilt 

There’s an ongoing stadium renovation to modernize FirstBank Stadium. Unfortunately for the Commodores, those improvements will simply make the venue even more appealing for opposing fans looking to enjoy a weekend in Nashville. 

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