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Athlon Sports has polled 12 experts to rank the SEC stadiums for 2014.
Ranking anything in sports is subjective. We may all agree on certain things — like Michael Jordan is better than Kobe Bryant or that Lambeau Field is better than SunLife Stadium — but for the most part, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Ranking college football stadiums is not only subjective but also extremely intricate. General atmosphere, fan support, home-field advantage, amenities, tailgating, the surrounding campus and the college town should all be considered when trying to rank college football stadiums.
Basically, there is no right or wrong answer. Athlon Sports polled 12 SEC experts and asked them to rank their favorite SEC stadiums based on all of the above factors. Here is how things shook out:
Steven Godfrey, SBNation (@38Godfrey)
Billy Liucci, TexAgs.com (@BillyLiucci)
Josh Ward, MrSEC.com/The Sports Animal (@Josh_Ward)
Jon Cooper, SaturdayDownSouth (@JonSDS)
Seth Emerson, Macon Telegraph (@SethEmerson)
Barrett Sallee, BleacherReport (@BarrettSallee)
Reed Carringer, FootballTimeInTennessee (@FootballTimeMag)
Mitch Light, Athlon Sports (@AthlonMitch)
David Fox, Athlon Sports (@DavidFox615)
Braden Gall, Athlon Sports/SiriusXM (@BradenGall)
|2. Texas A&M||2||5||5||3||6||3||3||8||2||2||3||2|
|8. South Carolina||5||7||14||8||9||7||8||6||7||9||7||8|
|9t. Ole Miss||7||10||3||11||10||11||11||7||8||10||9||10|
|12. Miss. State||12||12||9||10||12||12||12||11||12||11||13||12|
1. Tiger Stadium, LSU
Opened: 1924 Capacity: 100,000
Be it the vast and unique tailgating menu or Richter Scale-registering fans, few places in the nation can send chills down your spine like Tiger Stadium. As one of the loudest and most rabid atmospheres in the nation, LSU boasts one of the most daunting home-field advantages in college football — especially at night. A $70 million renovation is underway to push Tiger Stadium’s capacity to 100,000, only furthering a hallowed reputation as one of the nation’s top venues. There is a reason Tiger Stadium got eight first-place votes in our poll.
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2. Kyle Field, Texas A&M
Opened: 1904 Capacity: 102,500*
If things progress the way Texas A&M faithful believe, Kyle Field is poised to become arguably the best football stadium in the SEC. Once the $450 million renovation is completed prior to the 2015 season, the Aggies' home stadium will be the largest in the SEC (102,500). That said, the home of the 12th Man is no joke today as it stands. Three towering decks of screaming fans urge their team on through choreographed cheering and rich traditions. Despite having hosted only a dozen SEC games, Kyle Field is currently the oldest venue in the conference.
3. Sanford Stadium, Georgia
Opened: 1929 Capacity: 92,746
It may not be the SEC’s biggest or loudest stadium, but it is the most beautiful. The Bulldogs' home stadium is located in the heart of the plush greenery of the gorgeous Athens campus. The famed privet hedges line the field and separate the Georgia fans from the action on the field with style that matches the dolled-up student section. Mark Richt is 68-14 “Between the Hedges” and has his team poised for another perfect home slate in 2014.
4. Neyland Stadium, Tennessee
Opened: 1921 Capacity: 102,455
Named for former head coach General Robert Reese Neyland, the biggest venue in the SEC has, at one time or another, been the biggest college football stadium in the nation. Recent renovations have transformed the once dilapidated exterior into a brick Big Orange cathedral. Towering over the winding Tennessee River and attendant Vol Navy, Neyland’s double-deck, totally enclosed seating makes it one of the loudest places to watch a game in the nation.
5. Bryant-Denny Stadium, Alabama
Opened: 1929 Capacity: 101,821
Legendary head coach Bear Bryant and former university president George Denny lent their names to one of college football’s most intimidating home venues. Alabama is 231-52-3 since opening the building in 1929, and Nick Saban is 36-6 at home during his tenure. In front of the most dedicated fans in the nation, the Crimson Tide routinely bring opponents to their knees with ear-shattering support (just as long as the opponent is a good one).
6. Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Florida
Opened: 1930 Capacity: 88,548
Dubbed "The Swamp" by Steve Spurrier in the early 1990s, no stadium in the nation has a better nickname. And when the Gators are rolling, few places in the nation are as intimidating as a hot and humid Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Unique sightlines and design subtleties give BHGS plenty of character and gives the team a huge home-field advantage. From 1990 to 2009, the Gators had the best home field record in the nation at 113-13. When it comes to noise and success, The Swamp is among the game’s preeminent locations to watch a game.
7. Jordan-Hare Stadium, Auburn
Opened: 1939 Capacity: 87,451
The Tigers' football stadium is named after Shug Jordan, the winningest coach in school history, and Cliff Hare, a member of Auburn’s first-ever football team and former president of the Southern Conference. Beautiful and historic murals on the east-side exterior as well as freshly planted “War Eagle” flowers in the end zone give this venue plenty of character. And when “Nova” (War Eagle VII), the team’s live golden eagle mascot, flies into the friendly confines, the Auburn faithful explode into a pre-game frenzy.
8. Williams-Brice Stadium, South Carolina
Opened: 1934 Capacity: 80,250
Recent upgrades to the tailgating areas and stadium itself have elevated Williams-Brice into the upper echelon of SEC venues. “The Cock Pit” has signature lighting high above the upper deck on either side of the field and each home game begins with the playing of the theme from "2001: A Space Odyssey," giving South Carolina one of the best pre-game reputations in the nation. Steve Spurrier has built WBS into one of the impossible places for visitors to win, posting a 32-3 mark at home over the last four seasons.
9t. Donald W. Reynolds Razorbacks Stadium, Arkansas
Opened: 1938 Capacity: 72,000
One of the most underrated home atmospheres lies just a few miles north of the Ozarks in Northwest Arkansas. After massive renovations in 2001, “DWRRS” grew to accommodate some of the most dedicated fans in the nation. The nation’s second-largest video board (167 feet wide) was added just last year to the North end zone, and additional planned renovations will push this stadium to 80,000 seats in the very near future. Arkansas’ all-time record at their home stadium is a solid but uninspiring 166-81-2. The trademark “Woo Pig Sooie” chant can be heard echoing across campus during each home game in the fall.
9t. Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, Ole Miss
Opened: 1915 Capacity: 60,580
Can Ole Miss figure out a way to move The Grove inside Vaught-Hemingway? The world’s greatest pre-game tailgate takes place just a few yards away from the comparably small, but no less enjoyable, stadium. So while the third-oldest venue in the SEC hasn’t been all that daunting to opposing teams over the years, it does house what may be the most beautiful fan base in the nation. Everyone should attend at least one tailgate in Oxford, Miss.
11. Faurot Field at Memorial Stadium, Missouri
Opened: 1927 Capacity: 77,000
Missouri is doing everything it can to make its atmosphere and gameday experience match its big-time SEC rivals. In 2013, Mizzou faithful were greeted with a brand new luxury suite tower to the West and tweaks to the historic north hill beyond the end zone. The famous rock “M” emblazoned hill was moved closer to the field to get fans closer to the action and create more concourse space. In 2014, fans will be met with a completed upper bowl on the East side of the stadium adding nearly 6,000 new seats.
12. Davis Wade Stadium, Mississippi State
Opened: 1914 Capacity: 61,337*
The Bulldogs averaged more than 100-percent attendance the last two years and this is one of the reasons why Mississippi State has planned yet another expansion to Davis Wade Stadium. The $75 million work has taken two years and will be completed before the 2014 season and should add roughly 6,000 new seats*. The North end zone will be sealed off and a high-definition video board will be installed. Opposing fans and teams have grown to despise playing in front of the piercing collection of cowbells.
13. Commonwealth Stadium, Kentucky
Opened: 1973 Capacity: 67,692
When this team is good, Big Blue Nation is as loud and passionate as any stadium with less than 70,000 seats in the nation. Despite winning just two games last year, this team drew 59,472 fans per game. This venue has witnessed some historic moments — i.e., the Bluegrass Miracle — and Mark Stoops hopes he can build on his first season. It also has one of the cooler names of any stadium in the nation.
14. Vanderbilt Stadium, Vanderbilt
Opened: 1922 Capacity: 40,350
The new brick façade and back-to-back-to-back winning seasons have helped build up the Dores' home atmosphere. However, the tiny alumni base and single-tiered stadium lacks the pageantry and passion of every other SEC venue. Vandy will always have a tough time selling out and competing in attendance numbers compared to the SEC's bluebloods. However, being located on beautiful West End with plenty to do within walking distance, there is still plenty to enjoy on gameday in Nashville.