Joel Klatt’s five toughest environments in college football

College football spring practices have wrapped up and transfers have found new homes. As we await the start of a highly anticipated 2024 season, I answered some life questions in a mailbag episode of my podcast, “The Joel Klatt Show.” But one football question stood out: What are the top-five environments in the new Big Ten?

As you likely know, the Big Ten is expanding to 18 schools this summer. I’m obviously interested in the new Big Ten and what that’s going to look like. But I didn’t want to only rank the five toughest stadiums to play at in the new Big Ten. I also want to rank the five toughest stadium environments in college football. 

Truth be told, a lot of this has to do with how good your team is. That’s pretty obvious. But I also wanted to focus on the environment of each stadium, particularly what it’s like when they host a big game. 

Let’s start with my five toughest environments in college football before focusing on the five toughest environments in the new Big Ten.

College Football

5. Clemson – Memorial Stadium

Clemson had a stretch where it went 62-1 at home from 2013-22. It won 40 straight home games during that stretch, marking the longest home winning streak in ACC history and the longest in the FBS since the great Nebraska teams of the 1990s. That’s ridiculous. It’s a combination of “Yes, this team is really good” but it’s also a ridiculously tough environment to play at.

4. Oregon – Autzen Stadium

Autzen Stadium is one of the most underrated environments in all of college football. I know it’s not a giant stadium, at least in terms of the number of seats, but man it’s loud in there. The fans really get going in there and they’re really intelligent. They understand the game. They know when to get loud, which has benefited the Ducks the last few seasons.

3. Alabama – Bryant-Denny Stadium

Alabama is intimidating for a lot of different reasons. No. 1, it’s Alabama. No. 2, there are 100,000 people there. No. 3, Alabama generally just doesn’t lose there. That’s why Texas’ win there last year was so impressive, and it should’ve opened our eyes up on how good the Longhorns were going to be the rest of that season, as they ended Alabama’s 21-game home winning streak. It was the only time Nick Saban lost by double digits at home during his Alabama tenure, too.

Joel Klatt’s top 5 toughest places to play in college football

Joel Klatt's top 5 toughest places to play in college football

2. Penn State – Beaver Stadium

That “White Out” environment is really tough to beat in a big game. The Nittany Lions are 6-1 in their last seven “White Out” matchups, which are typically against the Big Ten’s elite. That one loss was to a fourth-ranked Ohio State team in 2018, losing by one point. 

1. LSU – Tiger Stadium

Truth be told, I haven’t called a game at LSU. But LSU at night is something else. Just watching it and talking about that environment with people around the sport, it’s definitely something special. 

Big Ten

5. Washington – Husky Stadium

When you think of that game against Oregon last season, the noise in Husky Stadium was tremendous. It’s a great fan base and a proud program. Washington hasn’t lost a game at home since 2021. 

4. Michigan – Michigan Stadium

This ranking is a little bit more toward the “This team has been really good over the last few years” category. If we’re being honest, The Big House isn’t the loudest venue in college football. I’ve called a lot of games there and it’s not a knock. It’s just the way it’s built. There aren’t multiple decks like there are at more modern stadiums. The fans kind of go up and back away from the field. It’s the mystique and the quality of the opponent that factor in here.

Joel Klatt on how Michigan united for Zak Zinter’s injury

Joel Klatt on how Michigan united for Zak Zinter's injury

3. Ohio State – Ohio Stadium

The Shoe is a little bit louder than The Big House. The way The Shoe is constructed and the intimidation of it plays into its ranking. Ohio State has only lost two home games going back to the start of the 2018 season and has lost just one home conference game over the last eight years.

2. Oregon – Autzen Stadium

Again, Autzen Stadium is one of the most underrated stadiums in all of college football. Their fans are great and know the game really well. 

1. Penn State – Beaver Stadium

A “White Out” at Penn State is the best environment in the new Big Ten. Every time I talk with anybody who’s going on the road, they always say the same thing. They all agree that Penn State is the toughest environment in the Big Ten. 

Old-school Nebraska would’ve been on this list, but it’s just not tough enough as a team yet under Matt Rhule. I thought about putting Wisconsin and “Jump Around” on here, too. Iowa was also under consideration. All three are tough places to play at.

Joel Klatt is FOX Sports’ lead college football game analyst and the host of the podcast “The Joel Klatt Show.” Follow him on X/Twitter at @joelklatt and subscribe to the “Joel Klatt Show” on YouTube.

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