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What was the Loudest Ohio State Football Game of the Millennium?

With a capacity of up to 110,000, Ohio State boasts one of the most intimidating home-field environments in college football. But which games this century have been most intimidating at the 'Shoe?

Crowd Noise in College Football

Unlike most other sports, college football is blessed with a nearly endless litany of debatable subjects with no objective - or at least no objectively measureable - answers. Case in point:

  • Rather than weighing teams' strength during the season through objective "standings" of wins and losses, college football evaluates teams through subjective "polls".

  • Rather than clean criteria to determine worthiness for the sport's "playoffs", the college football playoff is determined by the subjective whims of a secretive committee.

  • And rather than objective criteria for crowning individual awards, the sport's Heisman Trophy is essentially a popularity contest.

Add onto this the fact that college football fan loyalties are wrapped in comparisons of pageantry rather than performance to a greater degree than any other sport, and the result is a sport fueled by endless unsolved and unsolvable arguments about who is best, who is most deserving, and who, in the case of fans, creates the most hostile environments for visiting teams.

In this strange world of college football pageantry, the question of which stadium has the rowdiest student section and the loudest crowds is somehow a question of great importance. Over the years, many a school - Washington, Penn State, LSU, among the legitimate contenders, and others with jealous but unrealistic claims such as lower-tier Clemson and Oregon - have each staked a case for the most difficult home-field advantage.

The Ohio Stadium Rankings

While it's hard to compare between stadiums, we at CapitalFrontiers were able to run a comparison using game feed data that assessed the loudest in-game crowd noise at games held at Ohio Stadium this century. We did so by isolating crowd noise and measuring oscillations between the quietest and loudest moments by the crowd over the course of the game. Below is the resulting ranking of the loudest games in Ohio Stadium history since the start of the Jim Tressel era.

1. Ohio State 13, Penn State 7 (2002): This game epitomized the perfect formula for a truly loud Ohio Stadium game, and to this date has not been surpassed.

  • Weather cold enough to trigger lots of energy but warm enough that fans did not wear gloves;

  • A then-record stadium crowd;

  • A big game featuring two highly ranked teams; in this case #4 Ohio State hosting #17 Penn State

  • A defensively-oriented low-scoring, close game; in this case a 7-3 halftime Ohio State deficit-turned 13-7 victory

  • A second half that required Ohio State to make many huge defensive stops; on the drive Chris Gamble netted his interception, the volume had already been ratcheted up thanks to a stop of running back Larry Johnson for no gain followed by an AJ Hawk of Zach Mills that pinned Penn State deep near its own end zone for a long third down

  • One game-changing, earthquake moment that changed the course of the game and the season - in this case Chris Gamble's interception TD in the third quarter, which registered at earthquake levels on the Richter scale and broke ABC's audio feed in-stadiu

2. Ohio State 30, Michigan 27 (2016): The Curtis Samuel game-winning TD also registered on the Richter scale

3. USC 18, Ohio State 15 (2009): While there was no earthquake moment and Ohio State lost, the record crowd brought the noise to this highly heralded night game

4. Texas 25, Ohio State 22 (2005): The crowd was loud enough it got Brent Musberger talking about it.

5. Ohio State 28, Penn State 6 (2006)

6. Ohio State 62, Michigan 39 (2018)

7. Ohio State 37, Michigan 21 (2004)

8. Ohio State 14, Michigan 9 (2002)

9. Penn State 13, Ohio State 6 (2008)

10. Ohio State 42, Michigan 39 (2006)

11. Ohio State 33, Wisconsin 29 (2011)

12. Ohio State 39, Penn State 38 (2017)

13. Ohio State 27, Iowa 24 (2009)

14. Ohio State 26, Michigan 21 (2012)

15. Ohio State 28, Penn State 17 (2019)

16. Ohio State 16, Purdue 13 (2003)

17. Ohio State 36, Miami 24 (2010)

18. Ohio State 19, Iowa 10 (2003)

19. Ohio State 28, Washington 9 (2003)

20. Ohio State 38, Wisconsin 7 (2019)

21. Virginia Tech 35, Ohio State 21 (2014)

22. Ohio State 38, Northwestern 20 (2001)

23. Ohio State 25, Washington State 7 (2002)

24. Ohio State 42, Michigan 28 (2014)

25. Ohio State 63, Nebraska 38 (2012)

26. Ohio State 29, Purdue 22 (2012)

27. Ohio State 24, Marshall 21 (2004)

28. Ohio State 62, Nebraska 3 (2016)

29. Ohio State 63, Penn State 14 (2013)

30. Ohio State 31, Iowa 6 (2005)

31. Ohio State 34, Michigan State 10 (2019)

32. Ohio State 38, Penn State 10 (2015)

33. Ohio State 34, Iowa 24 (2013)

34. Ohio State 24, Northwestern 20 (2016)

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