Ranking the most loyal Big Ten college football fanbases

“Football is a religion, and Saturday is the day of holy obligation,” famous former Michigan football broadcaster Bob Ufer once said.

That’s especially true in the sport of college football, where tradition and frenzy are picked up several, several notches above its professional NFL counterpart. But not all programs are built like the others.

The Big Ten Conference is one of the two major conferences in college football, also part of the Power Five, and it offers some of the best programs in all of sport. From Michigan and Ohio State to Penn State, Wisconsin and Nebraska, the league exudes tradition, passion, brand recognition, while embodying old-school football and hard-nosed. And with that, the Big Ten not only has some of the best fanbases in the country, but packs butts into seats unlike any other conference.

But, as we said, not everyone in the conference is created equal.

With that in mind, we’ve rated each team in the Big Ten fan base on their loyalty, from worst to first. We considered attendance, general fervor for the team, how many fans stay on the train when the going gets tough, and the general dispersal of fans across the country. Here’s how each Big Ten team compares.


Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Photo: Isaiah Hole

We’re sorry to always put you last, Rutgers, but you usually don’t show up very well. And, even when you do, if things go south in a hurry, your stadium empties pretty quickly.

Either way, SHI Stadium isn’t a guaranteed sellout, and when your program has resorted to selling season passes at Costco for less than three bills, that’s not exactly a vote. of confidence. Also, Scarlet Knight fans don’t travel particularly well. That’s not to say it’s not a good fan base – it is – but compared to the rest of the conference, it’s just not in the same league – except maybe for a handful of players. teams.


Northwest Wildcats

Photo: Isaiah Hole

Northwestern fans are some of the nicest fans you’ll ever meet, and if you’re a fan of another Big Ten team that has a large, rabid fanbase, they’ll gladly give up their position inside Ryan Field so that you can come and watch them play a Game.

The Wildcats have a nice, friendly fan base, but even in the small stadium they call home — the smallest in the conference — it doesn’t sell out consistently and fans don’t travel particularly well.


Maryland Terrapins

Photo: Isaiah Hole

The last time we saw Maryland fans really foam at the mouth was in 2014, the year they joined the Big Ten. Since? It was a bit risky.

This is largely thanks to the performance of the team. The Terps have been off to a really good start lately, and then when they get to that “prove it” game, they tend to fall apart. Early high attendance is giving way to smaller crowds, and from what we’ve seen games against the big dawgs – Michigan, Ohio State – don’t sell out and have more road fanbases in attendance, just like the others mentioned above.


Indian Hoosiers

Photo: Isaiah Hole

The Hoosiers have a beautiful, but small, home stadium, and when IU is good it fills up pretty well, but when it’s not, it’s a bit lacking.

Like the other three fanbases we’ve mentioned, Indiana has some of the nicest, most collegial fans in the game. The Hoosiers haven’t been consistently competitive, which makes it all the more disappointing that we haven’t had couldn’t see any fans in the seats in 2020, as they vied for the top of the conference. This is another school where rival fans also tend to occupy a lot of real estate.

Again, a big fan base, one that didn’t have a lot of upside. But not in the upper tier.


Illinois Fighting Illinois

Photo: Isaiah Hole

The only time we went to Illinois, the stadium was probably a little more than half empty at kickoff, and it was packed to the brim with Michigan fans (pictured above was before the kickoff). fan entry, for the record). While the Illini contingent in attendance were quite loud and enthusiastic, they were still lacking in quantity to match quality.

Illinois is another team that hasn’t really given fans a chance to cheer, but there are plenty who are quite dedicated.


Purdue Boilermakers

Photo: Isaiah Hole

Sorry Indiana, but your rival in the state has a little more fervor for your Hoosiers than you do.

Ross-Ade Stadium can (and does) get packed, but not as packed as some of Purdue’s Big Ten counterparts. However, the Boilermakers have a fervent and enthusiastic fanbase and are as friendly as you’ll find (unless you’re an IU fan). The team is a bit up and down, but Purdue fans remain pretty consistent, putting them in the middle of the pack.


Minnesota Golden Gopher

Photo: Nick Wosika – USA TODAY Sports

Week after week, TCF Bank Stadium is packed with enthusiastic Gopher fans. Playing Minnesota is tough if you’re a road team, but if you’re sitting in the stands as a rival fan, you’re probably not going to have a bad time, even if you’re outnumbered.

Minnesota fans show up with regularity and support their team through thick and thin. In some years, that mantra pays off, but in others, the season doesn’t quite turn out the way fans hope.

Still, they don’t pack it and stay pretty loyal to the Gophers.


Michigan State Spartans

Photo: Isaiah Hole

There’s a loud, rowdy fanbase in East Lansing — and if you’re a Michigan fan, one that’s downright hostile. Michigan State fans are intensely passionate about their Spartans, and their stadium isn’t particularly weak to being taken over by rivals coming to watch their team on the road.

However, if there are any issues, although there doesn’t seem to be much anger coming out in terms of a call for the head coach to be fired, or if there is bad weather, attendance will definitely lag behind.

MSU is in the top tier of the Big Ten, sure, but with the bulk of the really passionate fanbases in the conference, it’s hard to put the Spartans ahead of the rest.


Iowa Hawkeye

Photo: Jeffrey Becker – USA TODAY Sports

In terms of on-field product, Iowa is the definition of hit-or-miss. In any given year, he could be in the top echelon of the conference, while the next he could be near the bottom.

Still, Kinnick Stadium is always packed and Hawkeye fans show up in force no matter where they play. Last year’s Big Ten Championship was a good example of this, as they tied with the Michigan Wolverines in attendance. Plus, “the wave” is one of the best, most heartwarming traditions in all of college football.

The only reason Iowa isn’t higher is because of those ahead of them. But Kinnick is one of the most intimidating places to play in the sport, and that’s down to a loud, yet friendly fan base.


Wisconsin badgers

Photo: Isaiah Hole

Camp Randall Stadium is a must-see destination for many, and it has less to do with the location in Madison, or the architecture, and more with its crowded house jumping everywhere.

Wisconsin fans truly stand behind their team, rain or shine, hot or cold (physically and metaphorically) and it shows. They truly are one of the best and most respected fanbases in the country and it shows every year.


Penn StateNittany Lions

Photo: Isaiah Hole

The ‘whiteout’ is the best atmosphere in all of college football, it’s quite simply. And, when it comes to attendance, Penn State is literally second to only one, and there’s really nothing it can do about it. What’s most impressive is that PSU is located in the middle of a fairly large state, with State College being quite a distance from either of Pennsylvania’s two city centers, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Yet every game has more than 100,000, even in years when the Nittany Lions are struggling.

Coming in fourth isn’t a blow to Penn State, but rather an acknowledgment of the three ahead of it.


Michigan Wolverines

Photo: Isaiah Hole

Ann Arbor, Michigan is home to the largest college football stadium, and it’s almost always overcapacity. With the largest living alumni base in the world, you’ll find enthusiastic Michigan fans everywhere you go. Even in bad years, the stadium still holds over 100,000 spectators and only one team manages to invade The Big House, making a dent in the corn and blue in the stands.

The Wolverines travel very well, occupying stadiums themselves. The only thing holding Michigan fans back is, as MGoBlog calls it, “the black pit of negative expectations.” The stadium rarely empties if the going gets tough, but the Corn and Blue faithful resort to plenty of complaints at the first sign of trouble. And it persists until Ohio State is defeated.


Ohio State Buckeyes

Photo: Isaiah Hole

There is perhaps no more vocal, obnoxious, and downright hostile fanbase than the one that resides in the state of Ohio. “Buckeye Nation” can’t handle losing very well, but it doesn’t take much better to win, which benefits them because they don’t lose very often.

Every week, Ohio Stadium is packed, echoing the “OH-IO” chants that have seemingly echoed for ages, even if only for a few moments. Buckeyes fans travel extremely well, filling just about every stadium the Scarlets and Grays play in, regardless of the size or fervor of the home team.

Ohio State has two NFL teams, but is powered only by the state’s only true football team — and religion — Ohio State University.

We mean this in the nicest way possible: OSU’s fan base is pathological.


Nebraska Cornhuskers

Photo: Isaiah Hole

Honestly, this one isn’t even close.

Nebraska was, how do you say? – downright bad – for a while. Still, the most beautiful fans of any sport you’ll meet flock to Lincoln’s Memorial Stadium, with the longest sold-out streak in the nation. As of this writing, the Huskers have had 379 straight sellouts at a stadium that has more than 90,000 — even though Nebraska only intermittently gives fans something to cheer about.

That’s right, Nebraska has sold out every game at its huge stadium for the past 49 years, dating back to 1962.

Husker fans are dedicated like no other, and they’re kind, to boot. There was no doubt here — even on this Michigan Wolverines site — that Nebraska would claim first place overall for most loyal fans in the conference. And, let’s face it, it’s the most loyal in all of college football.


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