The first wave of spring games kicks off tomorrow, marking the unofficial halfway point of the seemingly never-ending offseason. This is a time for underclassmen to make a name for themselves, veterans to battle for starting positions, and new coaches and coordinators to make a good first impression. In addition to the on-the-field importance, this is a special spring Saturday for the fans. Based on a variety of factors including the fan base passion, spring game tradition, team's success, coaching changes, and optimism for the new season, certain stadiums will fill more than others this month. Here are my predictions for the Top 15 spring game attendances (weather permitting)
TOP 15 ATTENDANCE PREDICTIONS
Last season, Auburn finished with the highest attendance (83,401) thanks to a combination of the return of head coach Gus Malzahn and the final chance to roll Toomer's Corner. The SEC finished with 7 of the top 10 crowds, and looks to have high numbers again this time around.
Alabama fans historically come out in droves to "A-Day," and some offensive change will spark interest even further. Nick Saban added offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin to the staff, who is faced with a 6-man quarterback battle upon his arrival. I think the new offensive identity, coupled with star skill players and a loaded defense will ultimately give Alabama the top attendance spot.
Last April, Urban Meyer moved the Buckeye Spring Game to Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, a move that many in the fan base questioned. After a year away from the Horseshoe, I expect Ohio State fans to be extra excited about this year's Scarlet and Gray game and finish in the top 5 nationally.
Another Big Ten squad Nebraska checks in at #3. The Huskers always draw top 5 crowds and that certainly wont change this spring. 45,000 tickets are already sold - impressive, considering NU is one of the only schools that actually charges for the usually-free campus event. Last year, in one of 2013's best overall moments in sports, 60,000+ saw Jack Hoffman - a 7 year old cancer patient that the Husker team has befriended - run 70 yards for a touchdown.
While they probably wont eclipse 80,000 again this year, I fully expect a significant turnout in Jordan-Hare, hallowed grounds that saw two miracles in November. The SEC always shows well in the spring; joining the Iron Bowl rivals, Georgia, LSU, Ole Miss, and Tennessee also made my top 15 list. Butch Jones has the Tennessee football program heading in the right direction, and the "VFL's" (Vol For Life) are excited. The bright orange kool-aid will certainly be flowing in Neyland.
The return of 2012 quarterback Everett Golson will be intriguing enough for Notre Dame fans to keep up their annually solid showing at the Blue-Gold Game. Another quarterback receiving a lot of attention is Oklahoma's Trevor Knight, after his dazzling performance in the Sugar Bowl. By knocking off the heavily favored Crimson Tide, OU has jumped towards the top of preseason rankings, and has thrown its sophomore quarterback into early Heisman discussions.
Jameis Winston is balancing baseball and spring football, but will play in FSU's April 12th Spring Game, earning the Seminoles a spot on my top-15 attendance list. This fan base has been very vocal of late, mostly opposed to a leaked new logo the school will unveil at the game next Saturday.
Two additional Big Ten spring games to keep an eye on are the Land-Grant Trophy "rivals." Michigan State will honor its 2013 Big Ten and Rose Bowl Champion squad, which should boost the perennial top-20 crowd into the top-15 or higher. Over in State College, new head coach James Frankin (from Vanderbilt) has pushed for a high turnout to the Blue-White game. Backed by a huge student push, I think PSU may crack the top 15 and even the top 10.
For More Spring Football Coverage, FOLLOW:
We invite you to join our 16,000+ fans for frequent updates and content releases. Submit your email below and follow us on Twitter