Stadiums can be an acquired taste. A Mississippi State cowbell, for instance, can be the soundtrack of your dreams or the clanging nightmare that haunts you.
It all depends on which side of the field you place your fandom. That is what makes ranking SEC stadiums the perennial subject of debate.
In short: our house is better than yours.
So who is correct when it comes to the best places in the SEC to be on a Saturday during the fall? To figure that out, we examined the conference rankings of 10 different outlets, ranging from USA Today’s For The Win to Scout.com.
What we found wasn’t just a nearly consensus No. 1 and No. 14 stadiums, but also that the SEC failed to crack LawnStarter.com’s list of the 16 best college football stadium landscapes.
Think of this as our composite SEC stadium rankings.
1. LSU’S TIGER STADIUM
Among the few absolute truths in our discussion is this: LSU’s Tiger Stadium, especially at night, is college football gold. Mike the Tiger’s Saturday home ranked No. 1 on nine of the 10 rankings we surveyed, with Alabama garnering the other top spot. The valley shook in 1988 against Auburn, and with good reason…about 80,000 screaming reasons, actually. The school has since upped its capacity to more than 102,000 and remains one of the quintessential college football venues in the nation.
2. TEXAS A&M’S KYLE FIELD
Kyle Field is arguably the loudest college football stadium in the country. The Aggies fans earned the distinction as being the original 12th Man, in homage to their rabid faithful. At 102,512 capacity, Kyle Field is the largest in the SEC. And to think, Texas A&M Chancellor John Sharp experienced plenty of consternation over his decision to add to the 92,000 seats the stadium already housed.
“When this thing started it was the most nervous time in my life,” said Sharp via SI.com. “Folks didn’t think we could fill up a 102,000-seat stadium. We sold all 102,000 tickets in 18 minutes.”
— Efrain Garcia III (@Boss_EG3) October 4, 2015
3. ALABAMA’S BRYANT-DENNY STADIUM
You simply just don’t waltz into Bryant-Denny Stadium and expect to emerge victorious. Opposing teams have just four wins in Tuscaloosa since the 2008 season. That’s courtesy of an intimidating atmosphere of 102,000-strong yelling “Roll Tide”, and then some, in unison. While Birmingham’s Legion Field deserves its share of credit for molding Alabama history, Bryant-Denny is arguably the most-daunting place to earn a win in all of college football.
4. GEORGIA’S SANFORD STADIUM
If Georgia officials in the late 1920s had their way, Sanford Stadium’s iconic hedges would be adorned with roses. Turns out, the conditions aren’t quite conducive for roses to grow in Athens. Instead, the school went with privet Ligustrum. The rest is history as Georgia’s football home became one of the most iconic venues in the sport. Nearly a century later, the Bulldogs are still sculpting Sanford Stadium. The latest project is a $1 million project to construct a new home locker room in the west end.
5. TENNESSEE’S NEYLAND STADIUM
No one does checkerboard designs better than Tennessee’s Neyland Stadium, whose orange-and-white pattern spills out of the end zones and onto the shirts of the 102,000 fans in the Vols’ home. Throw in the howl of Smokey X and Rocky Top becomes one of the most intimidating venues in all of the SEC.
— Tennessee Football (@Vol_Football) June 3, 2016
6. FLORIDA’S BEN HILL GRIFFIN STADIUM
Florida might boast the SEC stadium with the longest name in Steve Spurrier-Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Most fans, however, simplify it to “The Swamp.” The home of the Gators is also long on tradition as one of the toughest places for SEC foes to visit. Nothing quite fires up a crowd like the iconic team introduction of late Florida public address announcer Jim Finch’s “Heeeere come the Gators!”
7. SOUTH CAROLINA’S WILLIAMS-BRICE STADIUM
Anyone who’s ever punched a ticket into Williams-Brice Stadium knows that South Carolina plays the song Sandstorm on what feels like a continuous 20-minute loop prior to opening kick-off. By the time Sir Big Spur bleats his war cry, the Gamecocks faithful are in a full-on frenzy. Williams-Brice has been known to sway at max capacity and max fervor, giving birth to the familiar Columbia term “If it ain’t swayin…we ain’t playin.”
8. AUBURN’S JORDAN-HARE STADIUM
Jordan-Hare Stadium fell just shy of tying South Carolina’s Williams-Brice Stadium for No. 7 overall on this composite list. Like the Gamecocks’ stadium, Auburn’s stomping grounds are home to one of the most recognizable live bird mascots in college football — and quite possible one of the best intros when Nova, the golden eagle, encircles the field prior to kick-off.
9. OLE MISS’ VAUGHT-HEMINGWAY STADIUM
Ole Miss fans might be in for a pleasant surprise when they arrive in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium for the Rebels’ home-opener in Week 2 against Wofford. The school has wrapped up its $43.5 million renovation this summer. Among the latest features are new lights, a video board and a new grass field for the first time since the 2002 season. The biggest addition is the expansion of the stands to form a bowl with the enclosure of the north end zone. The new capacity of 64,038 is also a tribute to former Ole Miss star Chucky Mullins.
10. ARKANSAS’ DONALD W. REYNOLDS RAZORBACK STADIUM
Great news, Razorbacks fans. You’ll now be able to walk between the east and west concourses of Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium, a previously unattainable feat prior to the venue’s most-recent expansion. That’s just one of the new features — including more than 4,800 new seats and a revamped Hog Walk path — of the project that is expected to be completed by 2018.
11. MISSISSIPPI STATE’S DAVIS WADE STADIUM
Mississippi State could make a fortune by selling ear plugs at Davis Wade Stadium — home of the cowbells, aka the vuvuzela of the college football world. Opposing teams alone would be first in line to purchase them. The Bulldogs’ incessant cowbells are unique to Starkville and create an atmosphere like non-other in the SEC and beyond. At 55,082 capacity, Davis Wade creates one of the more rabidly, intimate environments in the conference.
12. MISSOURI’S FAUROT FIELD
Faurot Field’s diamond end zones and giant rock “M” make it the unmistakable home of Missouri Tigers football. Attendance has lagged some at Mizzou, which joined the conference in 2012. But the Tigers and their stadium are beginning to catch up with the rest of the SEC. They can expedite that process by discovering a way to pump the smell of barbeque through the stadium the same way the Baltimore Orioles oxygenate their fans with the smell of popcorn,
13. KENTUCKY’S COMMONWEALTH STADIUM
Kentucky’s shares a unique distinction with Georgia’s Sanford Stadium, in that they’re the only two fields in the SEC that run east-west, rather than north-south — not that it has created an advantage for the Wildcats. The venue has become unofficially referred to as the “new Commonwealth Stadium” thanks to a recent $110 million renovation. The project isn’t complete yet, with an improved fan experience amenities arriving in the near future.
14. VANDERBILT’S VANDERBILT STADIUM
Here’s a fun fact in the age of corporate naming rights and hyphenated-stadium monikers. Vanderbilt is one of just five schools in the nation to name its stadium after the school itself — see also Arizona, Michigan, Notre Dame and Stanford stadiums. The home of the Commodores, unfortunately, is the polar-opposite of LSU’S Tiger Stadium, in that, it’s last on just about everybody’s list of SEC football venues. Remember, just because you’re last on the list, doesn’t mean your stadium is bad. After all, the Vanderbilt Stadium fog horn is mighty impressive.