With the Corona-virus threatening crowds for the 2020 college football season, I thought it would be a good time to look at what exactly that would mean for each team in the Big XII. I am ranking the toughest places to play in the conference. Obviously, these rankings are very subjective, and they won’t exactly be based on an exact science. Each team will be judged on their current stadium and their time in the Big XII. Certain factors were considered, including, traditions, crowd size, past home game performances (both upsets and duds), and some of my personable observations.
1.) Kansas State – When I first started compiling these rankings, I did not expect Kansas State to be #1. Though the school always tends to pack Bill Snyder Family Stadium, there just isn’t much that stands out, though I’m admittedly a huge fan of the Wabash Cannonball. Even using Big XII standards it’s capacity is on the lower end. However, what the Wildcats stadium may lack in unique fanfare is more than made up for when you start talking results. And the truth is Kansas State has simply proven that it is the toughest place for opponents to play in.
First, they have the most recent upset win, defeating Oklahoma 48-41 last season. But beyond 2019, the Little Apple has played host to some of the most classic games in Big XII history. And this is where the northern teams have an advantage. Late season November upset wins are awesome, but they are even more memorable when you win in the tough outdoor elements. Two game stick out in mind in correlation to that assertion. The “Snow” game where Kansas State beat Nebraska 29-28 in 2000, and when a Ron Prince led Wildcat team beat Texas in 2006, 45-42, effectively ending the Longhorns chance at repeating as national champions. Those games stand out in my mind, partially because they were played in colder weather.
Traditionally, Kansas State is a team that plays above their head when they are underdogs and holds serve when they are favored. And the loud home crowd is a huge reason why.
2.) Oklahoma State – I think every Big XII fan-base is a little jealous of the Boone Pickens Stadium atmosphere. You’ve got the visiting sideline ridiculously close to the student section and of course the paddles constantly slamming against the wall. I’ve personally never been to a game there, but it looks like a fun environment. It may be biased that I have Oklahoma State so high up, because until recently Baylor did not perform well in their trips to Stillwater. More than any other team in the conference my perception of the Oklahoma State game completely changes on whether the Bears play them at home or away.
3.) Oklahoma – It’s really hard to judge if this fair to the Sooner faithful or not. Of course, Oklahoma has only lost a handful of conference home games since the inception of the Big XII, but at the same time they have also over-matched most of their opponents. It’s hard to know how much of a factor the Sooner fan-base had a role in. Would the outcomes really be different if they were played on the road? Unfortunately, Oklahoma fans also don’t get a chance to cheer against their chief rival at home because that game is played on neutral site. In addition, the Sooners have had a few disappointing home losses in recent years, including, Kstate and Baylor in 2014, and Iowa State in 2017.
Still, OU fans consistently sell out Gaylord Memorial and have eared the right to be towards the top of this list.
4.) Iowa State – This is a school that surged up the list the past few seasons. Cyclone fans bring it each and every week and have capacity or near capacity crowds even when they have not been very good. But now that the football team has caught up with the fan-base, you can really see the potential in Jack Trice Stadium. The biggest wins in the past decade for the Cyclones, OSU in 2011 and TCU in 2017, had a loud home crowd that spurred the team to victory.
5.) West Virginia – I remember Kendall writing about his experience there in 2018. There is no doubt that the Mountaineers have a rabid fan-base, but they haven’t quite had the memorable big time home wins as the schools above them, at least not while being a member of the Big XII. However, WVU always seem to bring their A game when playing at home.
6.) Texas – No Texan that has ever driven on I-35 through the State’s capitol can deny that Darrell K Royal Memorial Stadium looks impressive. The mammoth concrete jungle sits over 100K people and it is by far the largest stadium in the conference. Now, its obvious that the Longhorns have not been able to really cash in on any home field advantage over the last decade, but what is less than clear is why that is. It’s no secret that for years Texas fans were criticized for being quiet and UT’s very own players have any made comments about the lack of atmosphere in the past.
But things have improved. A new athletic director for UT has made concerted effort to change the home environment in Austin, and it’s working. Texas had a ruckus crowd when they hosted LSU in 2019.
7.) Baylor – Baylor is lower on the list and a big reason why is that McLane Stadium hasn’t really gotten a chance to establish itself quite yet. But the potential is there to really shoot up the ranking. So far in the brief history of the stadium Baylor has performed well. The place exploded in 2014 during the comeback against TCU and clinching a Big XII championship in the final game against Kansas State that same year. In addition, the Baylor fans made their presence felt in both premiere match-ups with Oklahoma in 2015 & 2019 even though the Bears fell short both games.
8.) TCU – A small private school located in the DFW metroplex, Amon G Carter Stadium can sometimes be filled with a lot of opposing fans. And there have been photos where the place has looked almost empty during games. But I was there when Baylor won the thrilling triple overtime game last year and it was loud. When TCU is playing well against a good opponent the place can be rocking. Just need to add consistency to that in the coming years.
9.) Texas Tech – Wow! What a difference a decade makes. Once upon a time Texas Tech would be up the front of this list, if not #1. Now, I just can’t bring myself to rank Jones AT&T stadium higher. Ever since Michael Crabtree made arguably the most memorable play in Big XII history, not much has happened. Believe it or not the Red Raiders have only won 1 game over an in-state rival (Texas, Texas A&m, TCU, Baylor) in the past 10 years, obviously some of that no fault of their own. And on top of that there have been too many bizarre blowout losses at home; 66-3 against OSU in 2011 and 49-26 against Kansas State in 2013.
I have no doubt that Lubbock can and will return to being a hostile environment. Count me in as someone who thinks that playing in West Texas adds to the appeal of the atmosphere. Getting Oklahoma, Texas, and Baylor at home this year can go a long way changing the current perception of Jones AT&T stadium.
10.) Kansas – If it was basketball they would be #1.