Forde-Yard Dash: College Football’s Most—and Least—Picturesque Stadiums – Sports Illustrated

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Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college football, where the McQuarterback battle is finally over at Michigan (McCarthy in, McNamara out):
With ESPN’s “College GameDay” show descending upon Appalachian State for the first time this week, the world will get a good look at one of the most picturesque football settings in America. Which got The Dash thinking about the underrated gems in the sport and the places that lack charm.
Henceforth, a brief list (which comes with the understanding that just about every major-college stadium has been upgraded to the point of fancy comfort and aesthetic pleasure, so simmer down if your favorite school is on the Dump List):
Boone, N.C. will play host to Troy and ESPN’s “College GameDay” this weekend.
Reinhold Matay/USA TODAY Sports
GEM: Kidd Brewer Stadium, Appalachian State (31). The mountain setting in Boone, N.C., is beautiful, and the fans will get after it. Looked like a great atmosphere for North Carolina’s visit Sept. 3. Which stands out in stark contrast to …
DUMP: Kyle Field, Texas A&M (32). You might have seen the Midnight Yell practice video (before it was deleted) of one of the Aggie Yell Leaders describing the App State students as hillbillies. He did this while wearing overalls, mind you, and while leading a midnight pep rally on a Friday night because there is not enough else to do on A&M’s flat, beige sprawl of a campus, surrounded by sagebrush on all sides. Kyle Field is massive and can be incredibly loud (and actually sway) when the Corps of Cadets is getting after it—but the surroundings are drab.
GEM: Michie Stadium, Army. Amid West Point’s Gothic architecture and situated near the banks of the Hudson River, this is a goosebump location—and that’s even before the cadets march in. When the fall foliage is turning, it’s hard to beat.
DUMP: Bill Snyder Family Stadium, Kansas State (33). It’s in the Little Apple, which is a bad place to start. And the castle-like structure added on to one side only reinforces the fact that the rest of the stadium is quite ordinary.
GEM: LaVell Edwards Stadium, BYU (34). The Wasatch Mountains almost leap out of the east side of the stadium, creating a breathtaking backdrop that perhaps only Air Force can match.
DUMP: Williams-Brice Stadium, South Carolina (35). It’s not on campus, instead occupying space adjacent to the state fairgrounds. They’ve improved the joint and its surroundings, but it still feels like you’re at a generic location in a metropolitan area.
GEM: Sun Bowl, UTEP (35). The Miners are perennially bad, but their home base is perennially picturesque. The place is literally carved into the side of a mountain, situated so snugly against some desert highland that cheapskates can watch games from atop it for free. The sky seems to always be cloudless and blue.
DUMP: Darrell K. Royal Stadium, Texas (36). For a program of such distinction, in a city of such character, very little of it seeps into the stadium or its immediate surroundings. It’s just a huge place wedged into a tight space on campus.
GEM: Husky Stadium, Washington. Tailgate on your boat right outside one end zone on Lake Washington, with Union Bay adjacent. (Sailgating, as it’s known.) Nobody will blame you if you’re late getting inside.
DUMP: JMA Wireless Dome, Syracuse (37). It serves a purpose, given the dismal weather. But nobody has walked in and marveled at the place since the 1980s. It’s hot and charmless.
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Jonathan Smith (38), Oregon State. Smith has done good work re-establishing the Beavers as a solid program, with the potential for a special season this year. Toward that end, he delivered a bold call for a thrilling, walk-off touchdown to beat Fresno State in a late-night thriller Saturday. Down three on the final play, with the ball on the 2-yard line, Smith disdained the tying field goal and played for the win. Going with a wildcat formation, he put the ball in the hands of sixth-year senior Jack Colletto—who has damn near done everything on the football field at OSU. He’s played quarterback and linebacker, caught passes, played special teams, whatever needs to be done. Now primarily a linebacker, Colletto is an adept short-yardage runner who made Smith’s gamble pay off by scoring the winning TD.
Pat Narduzzi (39), Pittsburgh. His Panthers played well in pushing Tennessee to overtime after injuries to starting quarterback Kedon Slovis and backup Nick Patti (who limped through it and stayed on the field). But Narduzzi turtled at the end of regulation, not using a final timeout after forcing a punt with about a minute left and trying to get the ball downfield for a potential winning field goal. The Volunteers won in OT.
When thirsty in Lexington, Ky.—home of a football school these days, no matter what John Calipari says—The Dash recommends dropping in at West Sixth Brewery (40). It’s bourbon country, but West Sixth has established its staying power over the last decade and makes a quality IPA, among other varieties. Grab some food from next door at Smithtown Seafood and thank The Dash later.
MORE DASH: Frost Fired | Who’s Next? | Surprising Starts


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