Look up the record crowd at your favorite school’s stadium. Chances are, it’s either a big-time matchup or the stadium’s inaugural game. For “Group of Five” schools (American, Conference-USA, MAC, Mountain West, and Sun Belt, plus three independents), those record crowds often get set when the region’s biggest Power Five teams come to town.
It’s not often that Alabama goes on the road to play a non-conference Group of Five opponent, but when it does happen, records get broken. Let’s take a look at the biggest Power Five at Group of Five matchups for the 2023 college football season.
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Home-and-home series inked between schools typically take place in the first few weeks of the football season. For smaller programs, that takes advantage of early excitement around the football team in September. For bigger programs, it throws out the possibility of a Wyoming completely derailing Texas Tech’s Sugar Bowl bid late in the season.
Texas Tech at Wyoming – Saturday, Sept. 2
The Red Raiders come to the highest college football stadium in the country (7,220 feet above sea level). This home-and-home was originally scheduled in 2013 for 2020 and 2022; a decade later, we’re finally seeing the first iteration play out. Before the COVID-19 pandemic even hit – as a part of a 2019 amendment – the 2020 date was moved all the way to 2028, where the two teams will play in Lubbock.
These two teams have played five times and Wyoming leads the all-time series 3-2. The first game played out in 1938 and most recently in 1991 and 1992. They also squared off in the 1956 Sun Bowl, where Wyoming bested Tech 21-14.
War Memorial Stadium record crowd: 34,745 (1997 vs. Colorado State)
NC State at UConn – Thursday, Aug. 31
Coming off their first bowl bid since 2015, UConn opens their 2023 season against NC State at Pratt & Whitney Stadium. Although the Huskies won six games last year, NC State was not one of them, as the Wolfpack trounced them 41-10 in Raleigh. The two schools agreed on their home-and-home in 2016 and in May 2023, the date was pushed from Saturday to Thursday.
UConn’s home field record might be a tough one to beat. Its listed capacity is 38,066, but can be expanded with standing room to at least 42,704, demonstrated back in 2013 against Michigan. NC State doesn’t quite bring the same excitement as a Michigan may, but optimism around the program might.
Pratt & Whitney Stadium record crowd: 42,704 (2013 vs. Michigan)
Stanford at Hawaii – Friday, Sept. 1
The Troy Taylor era for Stanford football opens on the road at Hawaii. The Rainbow Warriors are no strangers to hosting large programs – after all, what team wouldn’t want to spend a week in Hawaii?
The teams last played in 1972 and Stanford leads the all-time series 3-0. In 1950, they even pelted Hawaii 74-20 in Honolulu. If there was ever a season for the Rainbow Warriors to knock off the Cardinal, it’s this time around.
Note: Hawaii is currently playing at Ching Athletic Complex, a converted high school stadium. New Aloha Stadium is slowly in the works, but this complex doesn’t count for a record Hawaii crowd.
Washington State at Colorado State – Saturday, Sept. 2
Washington State plays in the second-smallest stadium in the Power Five (32,248 capacity, ahead of only Wake Forest). In fact, Colorado State’s Canvas Stadium seats nearly 9,000 more than Martin Stadium. In terms of “feel,” this game really could be masked as a Mountain West Conference game. Who knows – maybe the league will count it toward a conference win.
The record for Canvas Stadium likely isn’t in danger for this game. It was set in the stadium’s opening game, when the Rams hosted Oregon State.
Canvas Stadium record crowd: 37,583 (2017, vs. Oregon State)
Cal at North Texas – Saturday, Sept. 2
These two teams met for the first time in 2019, the first of the home-and-home deal inked in December, 2017. This game was originally scheduled for 2020, but was moved in response to the pandemic. Instead, the Mean Green host Cal to open their season. Apogee Stadium has never oversold its capacity; the record was set in 2019 against Houston (30,123, shy of its reported 30,850 capacity).
While Cal is sure to draw a fine crowd, records likely won’t be falling this weekend. Houston had the allure of a regional opponent and Cal doesn’t boast a big enough brand to shatter records.
Apogee Stadium record crowd: 30,123 (2019 vs. Houston)
Oregon State at San Jose State – Sunday, Sept. 3
A lot of excitement surrounds the Oregon State Beavers this season. The debut of Clemson transfer DJ Uiagalelei will help boost not just the crowd, but the TV audience, as well. A game like this can only be good for the San Jose State athletic department. This home-and-home was announced in 2013, with the first installment coming in 2015 in Corvallis. The second was set for 2020 and moved to 2023.
Oregon State leads the all-time series 4-2, with their latest win coming in that 2015 matchup. The two schools already inked a second home-and-home, set for 2029 and 2030.
The record attendance may be attainable, given that Grambling State drew the largest. CEFCU Stadium is also scheduled to complete its multi-year renovation in time for the 2023 season.
CEFCU Stadium record crowd: 31,681 (2003, vs. Grambling State)
Ole Miss at Tulane – Saturday, Sept. 9
This was supposed to be the second major program to visit Yulman Stadium in the last three seasons. However, a 2021 home game against Oklahoma – sure to shatter attendance numbers – was moved back to Norman after Hurricane Ida battered New Orleans. Instead, the Green Wave host Ole Miss, a regional power. Tulane is also coming off their most successful season in modern history, having just beaten USC in the Cotton Bowl.
Of all the games on this list, Ole Miss at Tulane is the most certain to break an attendance record. Currently, Yulman Stadium’s record crowd was set twice over in 2022, but stands at 30,118 from the AAC Championship against UCF.
Yulman Stadium record crowd: 30,118 (2022, vs. UCF)
UCLA at San Diego State – Saturday, Sept. 9
Snapdragon Stadium just opened last year but had to slash ticket prices to draw in more of a crowd. In fact, the Aztecs don’t own their own stadium attendance record – that was set by San Diego Wave FC of the National Women’s Soccer League. Technically, SDSU sold over 34,000 tickets to their season opener against Arizona, but a record heat wave brought just over 26,000 to the stadium that day.
Barring another historic heat wave, San Diego State’s game against UCLA will likely break the attendance mark.
The home-and-home was scheduled back in 2017. San Diego State was in the works to build a new football stadium by then, but it wasn’t approved by voters until a year later. Now a year after opening, this deal will likely pay off for the Aztecs.
Snapdragon Stadium record crowd: 32,000 (San Diego Wave FC)
Houston at Rice – Saturday, Sept. 9
Technically, Houston counts toward the Power Five with its newly-minted Big 12 membership. But they’re still transitioning, so I’m only noting this in-city rivalry. It’s difficult to really count.
Wake Forest at Old Dominion – Saturday, Sept. 16
Old Dominion brought down visiting Virginia Tech last season in dramatic fashion. This year, they welcome regional opponent Wake Forest to Norfolk. The Demon Deacons last played a true Group of Five road game in 2019 when they traveled to face Rice. This home-and-home was scheduled back in 2014 and was supposed to take place in 2020 and 2021, but the 2020 date was rescheduled.
Instead, Wake Forest looks to avoid being the second ACC team knocked off by Old Dominion in the last two seasons. Wake took the first all-time meeting between the two teams in their ACC runner-up season in 2021 with a sound 42-10 win over ODU in Winston-Salem.
S. B. Ballard Stadium record crowd: 21,944 (2022 vs. Virginia Tech)
Oklahoma at Tulsa – Saturday, Sept. 16
It’s been a long time since Oklahoma hit the road to play at a Group of Five program. That time came in 2014 when the Sooners visited Tulsa, soundly winning 52-7. Oklahoma also visited Tulsa in 1987 as the nation’s #1 ranked team and beat the Golden Hurricane 62-7. That 1987 crowd still holds the H. A. Chapman attendance record at 47,350.
Back then, the venue held 40,385, a clear over-sell on tickets. Today, H. A. Chapman Stadium holds only 30,000 and Tulsa’s home attendance record likely won’t ever be broken.
H. A. Chapman Stadium record crowd: 47,350 (1987 vs. Oklahoma)
Alabama at USF – Saturday, Sept. 16
This one’s kind of cheating since USF plays in Raymond James Stadium, home to the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers. From 2011-2022, Alabama played exactly zero true road games outside of SEC play. Nick Saban became famous for avoiding those kinds of games for over a decade, which broke last year when the Crimson Tide visited Texas. Now, Alabama goes back-to-back road games outside of conference play.
USF and Alabama played once before in Birmingham, where the Tide won 40-17 in a year Alabama went 4-9. The Tide welcome USF back to Tuscaloosa next season in a three-game deal inked in 2019. Alabama has not played on the road against a non-Power Five opponent in 31 years.
Raymond James Stadium USF record crowd: 69,383 (2012 vs. Florida State)
Iowa State at Ohio – Saturday, Sept. 16
Ohio set their home attendance record in their 2012 season opener coming off a 10-win season. They hosted New Mexico State, far from a big-time opponent. The five highest attendance records all come against smaller programs, so this home game against Iowa State may be in contention to break records.
This home-and-home series has been in the books for some time, having been scheduled in 2015. Iowa State also inked a home-and-home with Bowling Green from the MAC in 2018. Iowa State won all eight historical matchups with Ohio, one of which came in Athens (2001).
Peden Stadium record crowd: 25,893 (2012 vs. New Mexico State)
Kansas at Nevada – Saturday, Sept. 16
If this looks like a strange matchup, that’s because it is. Kansas and Nevada have never met on the football field. The two schools inked the home-and-home just last year, with the second chapter coming in 2029 when the Wolfpack travel to Lawrence. Each school will pay each other $300,000, a net neutral for each team.
Given that Reno and Lawrence both sit far from major airports, a record crowd isn’t likely due for this matchup. However, watching Kansas likely at 10:00 p.m. ET may just be the Sickos game of the year.
Mackay Stadium record crowd: 33,391 (1995, vs. UNLV)
Virginia Tech at Marshall – Saturday, Sept. 23
The Hokies suffered a loss at the hands of Old Dominion last season in Norfolk. They hit the road again to play Marshall in Huntington, another tough venue for Virginia Tech. In fact, VA Tech has multiple losses on the road against smaller regional opponents. Could they be set up for another in 2023?
Virginia Tech leads the all-time series with Marshall, winning 11 of 13 games; their only defeats came in back-to-back years (1939-40). This home-and-home was scheduled in 2019, just after the last time the two played. Marshall travels to Blacksburg in 2024 to complete the deal.
Marshall tarped off over 8,000 seats for the 2022 season, which may continue into 2023; its capacity reduced to 30,475. Should the tarps stay on for this game, Joan C. Edwards’ record attendance will remain.
Joan C. Edwards Stadium record crowd: 41,382 (2010, vs. West Virginia)
Duke at UConn – Saturday, Sept. 23
As an independent, UConn went to lengths to bring in bigger opponents. In 2023, they welcome both NC State and Duke from the ACC. The two schools inked the home-and-home in 2019 and UConn travels to Durham in 2024. Despite being two basketball blue bloods with plenty of historic postseason meetings, the two teams have only met twice on the gridiron.
Coincidentally, UConn won both of those meetings, in 2004 and 2007. However, they’re staring down a Duke team coming off a nine-win season and returning a young star QB. Regardless, the all-time attendance record at Pratt & Whitney Stadium is likely safe.
Pratt & Whitney Stadium record crowd: 42,704 (2013 vs. Michigan)
Miami (FL) at Temple – Saturday, Sept. 23
Like USF, Temple plays their home football in an NFL stadium (Lincoln Financial Field, shared with the Eagles). Chances are, this home game against Miami is going to fill the stands up. Not only is Miami a traditional power, but both Miami and Philadelphia are major airports who house American Airline hubs. Flights to Philly will be easy to find.
Miami and Temple played annually as members of the Big East from 1992-2003. The Hurricanes lead the all-time series 13-1, with their sole loss coming back in 1930. Both non-conference matchups – 1930 and 2005 – were played in Philadelphia. This iteration of the game will make it so that Temple hosted Miami more times than Miami hosted Temple.
Lincoln Financial Field Temple record crowd: More than 70,000 (est., 2015 vs. Notre Dame)
Power Five Teams Visiting Group Of Five Teams
NC State at UConn
Stanford at Hawaii
Texas Tech at Wyoming
Washington State at Colorado State
Cal at North Texas
Oregon State at San Jose State
Ole Miss at Tulane
UCLA at San Diego State
Houston at Rice
Wake Forest at Old Dominion
Oklahoma at Tulsa
Alabama at USF
Iowa State at Ohio
Kansas at Nevada
Virginia Tech at Marshall
Duke at UConn
Miami (FL) at Temple