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Oct 14 2016
by Zach Lang

College Football Has Been Played In A NASCAR Stadium, Dublin and Australia

By Zach Lang - Oct 14 2016

NCAA Football has made a point to include many neutral site football games in this year's schedule.  

While these games may add a little spice to the normal game day with a change of scenery, the question remains as to whether these games actually benefit the teams that play.

The date of September 3rd alone had six neutral site games, five of which occurred in NFL stadiums with the other game taking place across the pond in Dublin, Ireland.  

Opening weekend saw many neutral site games in pro-football stadiums, such as #5 LSU against an unranked Wisconsin at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  Thus, Wisconsin was designated as the home team in this contest.  Against the odds, the Badgers pulled off the upset against the ranked Tigers as they won 16-14. 

In this case, the best scenario for the "home" team occurred. Lambeau Field's attendance for the game was 77,823, well over the stadium's 73,128 seating capacity, according to ESPN.  Due to the neutral site still being located within the state of Wisconsin, the stadium was a sea of red to support the Badgers.  This major upset helped start the previously unranked Wisconsin's season to get to their current standing as eighth in the country.  

A similar occurrence happened on that same day in Houston, Texas.  The unranked Houston Cougars battled against the #3 ranked Oklahoma Sooners in a packed NRG Stadium.  Again, the "home" advantage helped the Cougars pull of the unexpected win, 33-23.  The Cougars are now ranked in the top 15 and have a 5-1 record.

Not all neutral site games produce a Cinderella story game, however.

On October first, the Syracuse Orange took on a struggling Notre Dame team at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  Syracuse was considered the home team, but Syracuse University sophomore Hunter Currie says the colors represented in the stadium told a different story.

"The stadium was 90 percent Notre Dame fans.  We Syracuse fans were severely outnumbered. Beyond the student section that traveled to the game, there were not many attendees wearing orange."

Despite an initial gunslinger match that saw both teams combine for 36 points in under 5 minutes, Notre Dame pulled away as Syracuse scored just one touchdown in the second half as the Fighting Irish won 50-33.  In what was supposed to be a home game for the orange, their second-half woes could have been in-part due to the lack of a home crowd.

Houston and Wisconsin's upsets might put Syracuse's loss in the shadows, but the NCAAF has used neutral site games for some good across borders and to break records.  The very first game of the season saw Cal vs. Hawaii in Sydney, Australia.  The other game on foreign soil was Georgia Tech versus Boston College in Dublin, Ireland - a contest won by the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets after a late touchdown.

As for broken records, the NCAA's game in Bristol, Tennessee broke the attendance record for a single game.  

Tennessee's 45-24 victory over Virginia Tech was observed by an a stadium audience of 156,990. Bristol's stadium is not a natural football stadium; instead, it's main purpose is for NASCAR races, containing more seats than the average football stadium.

Despite broken records, neutral site games seem to be a mixed bag of results.  "Home" games can result in losses that may not have been in the "L column" had they occurred at the actual stadium. 

 As for this year, there is no doubt that neutral site games have produced some of the best upsets of the season, meaning that it should be expected for them to return next year.

Lead Image Credit: vol freak via YouTube   

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Zach Lang - Syracuse University

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