There are a few things that make college football the best sport in country, but there's one thing that is the loudest: the fans. College football fans are some of the most passionate, rowdy supporters in all of sports. While other sports have great fans, there is a special sense of community when it comes to these face paint-bearing, tailgate-having bunch.
All college football teams have great fans who love their squads, but there a few who stand above the rest with their sheer numbers, great pregame festivities or iconic chants. Here the 25 best fan bases in college football.
There’s a certain loyalty that comes with rooting for a team that is clearly not the most popular in the state. Michigan State has lived in Michigan’s shadow, but it has only made the school's fans more rowdy and loud whenever the Spartans take the field. It also doesn’t hurt that East Lansing lifts its open container laws for games, making tailgates a community affair.
South Carolina may not have the best team in the SEC in any given year, but it doesn’t stop nearly 77,000 fans from filling Williams-Brice Stadium. The Gamecocks also have some of the best tailgate spots in the country with Gamecock Park, the fairgrounds and inactive railroad cars used for “railgating.” Talk about a unique experience.
Iowa may not be the first team that comes to mind as far as Big Ten powerhouses go, but when it comes to fan bases, it’s hard to find a more loyal bunch. Kinnick Stadium is always rocking when the Hawkeyes are in town, ranking in the top 20 in game attendance in the country. The Hawkeyes also have a cute fairly new tradition after the first quarter when the entire crowd turns toward the children’s hospital next to the venue and waves to the kids watching the game. If that’s not cool, nothing is.
Morgantown, West Virginia, is considered one of the best college towns in the country. The capacity at Mountaineer Field may be dwarfed by Michigan and other larger venues, but the fans make up for it with their wild behavior and incredible tailgating. You know when a fan base is known for burning couches, it is a special kind of loyal (read: crazy).
Ever hear 58,000 cowbells ringing in your ear? SEC opponents entering Starkville have. Not only do teams contend with fans, but they have to focus while fans are shaking cowbells throughout the game in one of the most unique traditions in college football. While Bulldog fans may not have the numbers other teams on this list enjoy, they don’t lack passion.
There may be no more intimidating chant-gesture combo than the Seminole war chant-tomahawk chop. In 2016, about 76,000 fans air-chopped their way through Florida State games as the team made it to the Orange Bowl, and last year the numbers were similar as the 'Noles went to the Independence Bowl. Florida State recently re-entered national prominence, but their fans never left.
Despite the recent struggles of the team, Arkansas fans have not stopped showing up to games. The Razorbacks have gone 33-42 the last six years, but supporters have packed Razorback Stadium. Over 69,000 fans per game last year treated opponents with the "Woo Pig Sooie" chant — both one of the most unique chants and one of the most annoying to other teams.
Being the only show in town has its benefits. In the cool air of the Pacific Northwest, the Oregon Ducks are king, and they reap the benefits every week they play. Ducks fans sell out Autzen Stadium regularly, wearing every color Nike-sponsored Oregon wears. For 18 years and 117 games, from 1999-2017, the Oregon Ducks played in front of capacity crowds. That kind of dedication deserves respect.
Like every other team in the SEC, Auburn has been overshadowed by Alabama. But that doesn’t stop the fans from coming out to one of the best tailgates in the country. Starting on Friday, the Loveliest Village on the Plains hosts thousands of Tigers fans partying until kickoff a full day away. Nearly 87,000 fans flood into Jordan-Hare Stadium, which ranks 12th in the country in average attendance.
There are tailgates, and there are USC tailgates. The Trojans have picked up a lot of celebrity fans in their storied history. You may find Will Ferrell eating a hot dog or Snoop Dogg walking around campus. Throw that in with the season-long perfect weather Los Angeles offers, and you are part of one of the best fan experiences in the entire country.
It hasn’t been easy being a Tennessee fan lately, but it isn’t hard to see why people stay around. The Volunteers have a traditional, blue-blood program that fans have stuck by, and it doesn’t hurt that the environment is second to none. Neyland Stadium is one of the loudest places to play in the SEC. The venue is also next to the Tennessee River, where one of the most unique tailgates in the country happens on docks and boats.
Not only do the Georgia Bulldogs have one of the loudest stadiums in the SEC, but they have one of the cutest mascots as well. UGA X, aka Que, is a 3.5-year-old bulldog who is the official mascot of Georgia that patrols the sidelines at Sanford Stadium. His cuteness is proportional to UGA’s nastiness on the field, where over 92,000 fans have cheered their team to six consecutive winning seasons in the SEC.
The original “Death Valley” has been bumping in recent years, but fans have been around even when the team wasn’t a national title contender. Not only does Clemson have one of the best tailgating experiences and one of the most intimidating stadiums in the ACC, but there is a laundry list of traditions for fans to help them feel like they are part of the team.
There are a lot of iconic gestures in college football, and there may not be one more famous than the Gator Chomp. Nearly 88,000 fans pack “The Swamp” in Gainesville, Florida, clapping their hands vertically after every big play. Not only do opponents have to endure the boiling weather conditions, but they have to deal with the loud crowd at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium as well.
There’s nothing like hearing the Boomer Sooner chant at Memorial Stadium. Oklahoma fans have enjoyed a lot of Baker Mayfield lately, but they’ve been showing up to games regularly as one of the most loyal supporters in the Big 12. With their history of winning, it’s tough to find a more boisterous group of fans than the ones in Norman, Oklahoma.
Many teams can say they play in a party atmosphere, but not a lot can back it up. Before the start of the fourth quarter, about 80,000 Wisconsin fans shake Camp Randall Stadium by following the instructions in House of Pain’s classic party anthem “Jump Around.” There aren’t many more intimidating places to play than Madison. You can thank the fans for that.
When your team has a stadium sellout streak dating back to 1962, that’s loyalty. For over 350 consecutive games (and counting), “The Red Sea” has filled Memorial Stadium to capacity. Over 90,000 screaming fans greet opponents with appropriate hostility. A lot of fan bases can say they are loyal — the Cornhuskers have numbers to back up that statement.
No matter what’s going on at Happy Valley, Penn State fans will stand by their team. Even when the program was hit with sanctions, Nittany Lions supporters still came out, 100,000-plus strong, to games, and they were just as spirited and just as loud as they had always been. It doesn’t matter if the Nittany Lions the bottom of the barrel or a national championship contender; this fan base will show up.
In the state of Texas, football is religion. One of the most prominent figures of that religion is the University of Texas-Austin. The Longhorns have had some down years recently, but the fans still show up ready to support their team and, more importantly, tailgate. The hype surrounding central Texas barbecue is warranted, and you can find it everywhere in Austin on game day. The team might not be winning national championships, but at least fans will be well-fed and content.
Good fan bases pack stadiums for home games. Great fan bases pack stadiums for away games. The Ohio State Buckeyes always make Ohio Stadium one of the most intimidating places to play, but they are also one of the best traveling fan bases, following their team wherever it goes with nearly unparalleled devotion. Whenever an opponent is hosting Ohio State, it better prepare like it’s a neutral-site game.
When your fan base is the original “12th Man,” those fans deserve some recognition. Texas A&M fans have been yelling and chanting their way to being one of the most organized fan bases in the country. Their songs have become intimidating war cries that strike fear in the opposition’s heart.
It is one thing to have a big house, but it’s another thing to fill it. Michigan Stadium is normally filled with 100,000-plus rabid fans. Opponents are seemingly swimming in a sea of maize and blue as the sound of thousands of Michigan supporters rains down on them. The Wolverines led the country in attendance in 2017 — that’s commitment.
The state of Alabama has many things, but professional sports aren’t among them. That’s why fans rep their college teams so hard, and it's tough to find a school with more die-hards than the Alabama Crimson Tide. Alabama already had rabid fans after the days of Bear Bryant, but with the recent success of Nick Saban, a new generation of Crimson Tide fans has taken hold in Tuscaloosa — fans who are just as loud and supportive as the last generation.
There’s a reason Tiger Stadium is more popularly known as “Death Valley,” and it isn’t because of the sweltering Louisiana heat. LSU has some the most ruckus fans in the entire nation, bearing down on opposing teams with deafening roars for the entire game. Legendary Alabama head coach Bear Bryant called Death Valley “the worst place in the world for a visiting team.” If Tiger fans can shake the great Bear Bryant, you know that fan base is something to fear.
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish have been struggling in recent years, but it hasn’t stopped their loyal fan base from packing Notre Dame Stadium under the watchful eye of Touchdown Jesus. The Fighting Irish have built their fan base over generations of national powerhouse eras. Their success has paid off by securing some of the most loyal fans in college football.
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