Playing on the road in college football can be dangerous, but some traditions make it almost a nightmare for the visitors to leave town with a win.
There’s nothing better than having an electric college football atmosphere, and there’s nothing like giving visitors fear before they take the field. However, there are exceptions to this, like when the setting is just right and the tradition takes over.
Usually, teams like to win on the road and silence the crowd. They also enjoy playing at home and providing a rather uncomfortable visit for the opposition. Yet, there are some traditions so sacred that usually, when it happens, you can expect a mega-upset or a last-second final result that will leave you breathless.
So how do we define that? First, you have to be a reputable program with a storied history. Second, you must provide a gameday experience that draws the attention of television networks and celebrities. Lastly, your place has to be known as “the place where the records don’t matter.
Above everything, though, is the fans. They are the ones that ultimately fuel the gameday experience. Their presence alone is enough to tilt the balance of power in a single direction. More often than not, a crowd can have an impact on how the game shapes out and what it means for a team for the rest of the season.
Now that we got the monologue out of the way let’s take a look at three college football traditions that make a visiting team weary of leaving the locker room, starting in the midwest, where a simple wave on a magical night can be a trap for the visitors.
No. 3: Iowa Hawkeyes wave to the Children’s Hospital
This may be a shocking choice, but it deserves to be mentioned. A kind yet powerful gesture by the Black and Gold of the Midwest, the University of Iowa Hawkeyes Kinnick Stadium is home to some very kind fans, who put aside the game early and wave to the children of the Children’s Hospital, who sit near the windows to watch the games and wave back to fans, players, and even the visiting team.
For that one moment, the home and the away squad join together in waving and wishing the children well for their health. A precious moment, but that’s when the pleasantries end. Once the lights go on and the kickoff ensues, the game is on.
In recent years, Kinnick Stadium has been home to some of the biggest upsets in college football. Take 2016, for example, when the Michigan Wolverines came to town and were ranked No. 2 in the nation. That didn’t matter. It came down to a last-second kick by Keith Duncan, but the Wolverines left town with a loss, more heartbreaking than the one Ricky Stanzi and co. suffered seven years prior.
There was also the thrashing of Ohio State in 2017. The Buckeye beatdown didn’t occur at night, but the wave was enough of a powerful sign that would send Urban Meyer (yes, that Urban Meyer) and his scarlet and grey disciples back to Columbus with a loss.
Next up, a trip down south to the Bayou, where ferocious gold and purple cats reside, waiting for the lights to come on.
No. 2: LSU Tigers Rule the Night in Death Valley
Yes, yes, the SEC is about Alabama and Georgia; we get it. However, last we checked, this is about environments. And if you want tough environments in college football, specifically the SEC, look no further than Louisiana and Death Valley. The LSU Tigers have produced stars like Marcus Spears, Ryan Clark, Joe Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase, Justin Jefferson, etc.
If we want to look beyond recent history, go back to LSU’s 24-17 victory over Auburn in 2001. Revenge for the “Cigar Game.” How about Auburn in 2009, losing 45-10? LSU’s cats dominated despite missing Tyrann Mathieu. But the night games aren’t the only reason Death Valley is what it is.
There were games during the day that was also special, including the 36-16 win over Georgia in 2018. Still, it goes back to the night, like in 2015, where the Tigers, in front of a crowd of well over 102,000, beat Florida 35-28. If only this team could beat Alabama at home in a night game, but we’re sure LSU prefers road victories at Bryant-Denny, so no harm, no foul.
That said, there is one place left to reveal, and this place is loud, rabid, and filled with enthusiasm that no matter who goes in there, even if they win big or small, they leave a bit shaken.
No. 1: Penn State White Out at Beaver Stadium
Ladies and Gentlemen, please understand this very carefully. The White Out at Penn State is so vibrant, lively, and raucous that any fan who dares enter Beaver Stadium will succumb to the mystique and lore that comes with it. Take it from someone who has been to a White Out Game and saw a massive upset in person and felt it for days after.
That’s right, the Penn State and Ohio State game with the blocked field goal return by Grant Haley. When Marcus Allen blocked the kick, the stadium blew a casket, and the moment Haley landed in the endzone, voices were gone, and faces of shock were painted in every seat. 24-21 Penn State over the previously ranked No. 2 Buckeyes.
Even in a loss, the White Out makes an arduous task for the opposition. But when Penn State wins, you just feel it. Take 2013’s 43-40 overtime win over Michigan when Allen Robinson stole the show. Take 2017, when the Nittany Lions smashed the Wolverines 42-13, or 2021 when Penn State beat Auburn. It’s just magical.
Day Games are cool, but nothing beats a White Out at Penn State, especially when a big-name team is in town and faces the possibility of the crowd ensuring the home squad sends the visitors home with shattered dreams.