There is always a ton of talk about tough road games in college football, but which road environments are the toughest for players to navigate?
Tens of thousands of opposing fans rooting against you. In-game traditions taking away your attention. The opponent being fueled by the cheers and the comforts of a home stadium. In college football, there’s a reason that it’s much more difficult to win on the road than playing at home.
But the truth of the matter is that not all road games are created equal. It’s one thing to not be playing at a home stadium, but it’s another issue entirely when there is a massive and raucous crowd inside the confines. That’s the type of thing that can lead to upsets, to mistakes, to losses. It’s also what makes college football special.
Which road environments are the toughest to deal with, though?
To gain an inside look at the drive it takes to win on the road, The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company and The Player’s Tribune recently conducted a survey of 68 former college football players who were at both the Power Five and non-Power Five FBS levels between 2001-2021 to answer that question. The survey is part of Goodyear’s season-long mission to celebrate the fans and players who venture from their home stadiums to take on the challenges of road games each week. Here’s what that survey told us.
College football’s toughest road environments according to former players
Given the passion of Big Ten fans and the quality of football, it’s no surprise that three of the Top 6 toughest road environments as said by the former players come from the conference — though some might be surprised that the SEC is not more well-represented. What’s more surprising, however, is that both Ohio State and Michigan made it into that Top 6, but neither was the top Big Ten program and the toughest road environment.
Garnering 13.2% of the answers from the 68 players surveyed, Beaver Stadium and Penn State football earned the distinction as the toughest place to play in college football. The famous Death Valley at LSU came in at second with the raucous Baton Rouge crowd helping the Tigers get 8.8% of the votes in the survey. Thereafter, the rest of the Top 6 is as follows:
- 3. Oregon (Autzen Stadium – Eugene, OR): 7.3%
- Tied for 4.
- Ohio State (Ohio Stadium – Columbus, OH): 5.8%
- Michigan (Michigan Stadium – Ann Arbor, MI): 5.8%
- Texas (Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, Austin, TX): 5.8%
Beyond the toughest environments for visiting teams to play in, there were notable conference trends and common factors that contributed to challenging road game environments.
While it may appear from the Top 6 that the Big Ten dominated this survey, it was the SEC that led the way by conference. In fact, 29.4% of the players surveyed selected an SEC school/stadium as college football’s “toughest road game environment.” The Big Ten was not far behind, however, at 26.4%. The Big 12 received a 14.7% designation, followed by the ACC and Pac-12 at 10.2% and non-Power Five schools at 8.8%.
Unsurprisingly, the factors that players said made for a difficult road environment showed fairly obvious results. 91% of the former players said that the “Fanbase” was a factor, while 53% said “Climate” was a reason a place would be tough to play. Following “fanbase” and “climate” was “caliber/talent of opposing team,” clocking in at 50%, and then 33.3% saying “distance to the opposing teams’ city” was a factor.
On top of the toughest environments, the survey also asked former players which fanbases traveled the best to road games. Not shockingly, some of the biggest and most successful programs in the country led the way with the breakdown of the survey being as follows:
- Ohio State: 10.3%
- Georgia: 8.8%
- Clemson: 7.3%
- Oregon: 7.3%
- Alabama: 5.8%
- Texas: 5.8%
All in all, playing on the road is never easy in college football. However, the results of the survey goes to show some road environments are tougher than others. If a team has to deal with any of these factors when they are away from home, that can make coming out with a win that much more difficult – but also, much more rewarding.
To learn more about the Goodyear and The Player’s Tribune survey and Road Tested program, visit https://www.goodyear.com/en-US/company/college-football.