Fall Saturdays are special.
Small towns, huge crowds, tailgating, bands, cheerleaders and student sections are just a few of the reasons college football is the best sport on the planet. When campuses jump to life across the nation each weekend in the fall, college stadiums become a staging ground for history.
There are a variety of ways to evaluate the greatness of a stadium. Huge attendance numbers, home-field advantage in the win-loss column, rich traditions, picturesque landscapes and amenities are just a few of the aspects that must be considered to rank so many great college football cathedrals.
With that in mind, here's how the stadiums in the Pac-12 stack up.
1. Autzen Stadium, Oregon
2012 Attendance: 57,490 (28th)
There is a long list of players who have claimed they’ve never heard a louder atmosphere than the Ducks' home building. Tales of the tunnel shaking in the pre-game ceremonies only add to the already amazing Saturday experience despite a smaller capacity. Smooth design lines, a beautiful setting, signature, two-tone green field turf and loads of backing from Nike money make Oregon’s home stadium one of the nation’s top venues. In the friendly confines of Thomas J. Autzen Stadium, the Ducks were 26-2 under Chip Kelly in his four seasons.
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2. Husky Stadium, Washington
2012 Attendance: 58,617 (27th)
Technically, the rebuild is a renovation but it might as well be considered a new stadium. With a breath-taking view of Lake Washington, new Husky Stadium will be one of the finest facilities in the nation when it opens this fall. The $250 million “facelift” will actually drop the capacity ever so slightly, but the building will keep its trademark cantilever roofs that trap sound and make the venue one of the Pac-12’s loudest. Seattle has excellent fan support for its football teams (including its MLS Sounders) and no doubt U of W faithful will flock to this luxurious and picturesque football cathedral.
* - estimated
3. Rose Bowl, UCLA
2012 Attendance: 68,481 (22nd)
There may not be more hallowed ground in college football than the Rose Bowl. Historically, some of sports greatest moments have happened within these walls — five Super Bowls, multiple World Cup matches, BCS national title games and, of course, the Granddaddy of Them All. So Bruins home games, at times, fail to live up to the epic reputation of the venue — there were roughly 20,000 empty seats per game last year for a team that won the Pac-12 South championship. The building also deserves to get knocked for being 30 minutes from campus. That said, visiting the Arroyo Seco Park Area for a game, with mountains on the horizon and the Brookside Golf Course next door, is a one-of-a-kind experience. A $164.5 million renovation is underway that should be completed by the end of the 2013 calendar year and should only add to the experience on Saturdays.
4. Los Angeles Coliseum, USC
2012 Attendance: 87,945 (9th)
The biggest venue in the Pac-12 is home to the Men of Troy. The massive, intimidating Coliseum has all the quirks and character of the best venues in the nation, which is why this building has hosted the Summer Olympics, the Super Bowl and the World Series. And when the Trojans are rolling, it is an impossible place for the visiting team to win in. That said, USC doesn’t feature one of the louder 90,000-seat atmospheres in the nation, and, in certain sections, the sheer size of the building can distance the fans from the action. Otherwise, the weather is amazing and the scenery (in all senses of the word) gorgeous.
5. Folsom Field, Colorado
2012 Attendance: 45,373 (50th)
When the Buffs are good, this is one of the greatest places to watch a game in the nation. It certainly needs a facelift and the accommodations need upgrading across the board, but few places can match the beauty of Boulder, Colo., on Saturdays. Named after former coach Fred Folsom, rowdy fans have poured into this building for nearly a century. The Buffaloes have won a grand total of four games over the last two years but this building was still 84.6-percent full last season — a testament to the passion of the fans.
6. Memorial Stadium, Cal
2012 Attendance: 55,876 (34th)
This venue was in dire need of an upgrade and the administration has done a great job refurbishing one of the more unique stadiums in the Pac-12. The $321 million renovation took two years but, Memorial Stadium re-opened in 2012 and the project was hailed as a rousing success. The entire West Side was demolished and rebuilt, the field was lowered to improve sightlines and the East Side amenities were totally overhauled. Earthquake engineering and Tight Wad Hill, where students climb trees to watch the game, give this building some extremely unique character. And at 34th nationally in attendance, Cal sports one of the sneaky good gameday atmospheres on the West Coast.
7. Sun Devil Stadium, Arizona State
2012 Attendance: 56,835 (31st)
This building is a bit older than some of the others and has plenty of empty seats, but Sun Devil Stadium has provided many a excellent Saturday evening. The crowd is one of the most beautiful in the nation and climbing nearby Tempe Butte is a right of passage for many. It also is one of the league’s largest venues and consistently led the conference in attendance in the '80s. Future renovations and consistent winning could make SDS one of the nation’s best in the near future.
8. Reser Stadium, Oregon State
2012 Attendance: 43,424 (56th)
At 95.1-percent of capacity, quaint Reser Stadium has very few empty seats on Saturdays. Recent renovations gave Oregon State faithful one of the biggest video boards in the nation, expanded seating in the end zones, hip upgrades to the East Grandstand and improved amenities. Future plans also call for more growth, targeting a 55,000-seat capacity. Named in 1999 after benefactors Al and Pat Reser of Reser’s Fine Foods, Oregon State’s home on Saturday’s is one of the more underrated places to watch a game.
9. Stanford Stadium, Stanford
2012 Attendance: 43,343 (57th)
The Farm isn’t the biggest or loudest place to watch a game but there is much to like about Stanford Stadium. The amenities are second-to-none and the state-of-the-art building is located among groves of eucalyptus and oak trees on one of the most beautiful campuses in the nation. If the building were bigger, and the fans louder, Stanford Stadium would be ranked higher among its peers.
10. Arizona Stadium, Arizona
2012 Attendance: 47,931 (43rd)
When the team is playing well, this place can get loud. The recent $378 million renovation project added a new video board, upgraded team facilities and football offices while expanding seating in the North end zone. The Wildcats' home sits 2,430 feet above sea level in the beautiful Santa Catalina Mountains. The three-tiered stadium has a long-standing reputation for bizarre late-season upsets and crazy endings.
11. Rice-Eccles Stadium, Utah
2012 Attendance: 45,347 (51st)
The building was completely torn down and rebuilt in 1998 after being deemed unworthy of hosting events for the Salt Lake Winter Olympics. Since then, the building and its fans have watched the school outgrow the Mountain West and leap into the deep and powerful Pac-12 waters. Named after donors Robert L. Rice and George and Dolores Eccles, the building is regularly at capacity and the offers the Wasatch Mountains as a fantastic backdrop. The longer this team plays in the Pac-12, the better Saturdays will get in Rice-Eccles.
12. Martin Stadium, Washington State
2012 Attendance: 30,252 (74th)
During a big game, Martin Stadium will pop to life and make fans forget the building is the smallest in the league. Or that it’s located in the Pac-12’s most distant outpost. The building has a metallic feel and getting to campus is virtually impossible, but the Cougars' faithful hold their own during critical moments (see Washington game last year).
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