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Joel Klatt: ‘Utah is Immediately the Toughest Place to Play in the Big 12’

NCAA Football: Southern Utah at Utah

Some of college football’s most loyal and proud fan bases reside in the Big 12, and despite the league not having a stadium that seats more than 65,000 fans, there is no shortage of tough venues.

Anyone who has attended a football game at Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Texas Tech, or UCF knows all about a raucous home environment.

Despite those venues being among the best in the country, FOX Sports Joel Klatt believes that none of them holds the crown for “Toughest Place to Play” in the Big 12 entering 2024.


According to Klatt, that honor belongs to the Utah Utes, who he ranked at No. 6 in his post-spring Top 25 on Monday morning.

“Utah should win the Big 12, and they’ll be in the playoff,” Klatt said on Monday. “They’ll have a top-four seed in the playoff, so wrap your heads around that. Utah, most likely, at the end of the year, is going to have a bye and a top-four seed in the College Football Playoff. They’re the best team in the Big 12.

“Cam Rising [is] back. Kyle Whittingham… Immediately, now that they’re in the Big 12, the toughest place to play in the Big 12? Salt Lake City. All do respect Stillwater because Oklahoma State and Mike Gundy–I love ya. You guys have been fantastic for a long time. Utah is immediately the toughest place to play in the Big 12.”


Rice-Eccles Stadium, which seats just over 51K fans, fits incredibly well into the fold as a Big 12 venue. It’s loud, its fan base is rabid, and the home team enjoys a healthy advantage thanks to the chaos.

But is it the hardest place to play in the Big 12? Well, recent history would suggest that it just might be. Preseason magazine guru Phil Steele gives a “Home Field Edge” score to each team and bases it on Vegas’ tendency to give the home team three points when predicting a spread.

In a similar vein, Steele does this for teams and scales it up to six points based on each team’s home record over the last three seasons. For example, Michigan and Georgia are both 22-0 over the last three seasons at home and thus earn a 6.0 grade in Steele’s metric.

Where does Utah rank nationally? Fourth, with an 18-1 (.947) home record and a 5.68 grade over the last three years. Oklahoma State checks in as the highest-ranked current Big 12 team at No. 7 nationally with a 19-2 (.905) record and a 5.43 grade.


Here’s a quick look at how the Big 12 teams stack up in Steele’s Home Field Edge grades.

1. (4)Utah18-194.7%5.68
2. (7)Oklahoma St19-290.5%5.43
3. (21)UCF16-480.0%4.80
4. (43)BYU13-572.2%4.33
5. (45)Kansas State15-671.4%4.29
6. (49)TCU14-670.0%4.20
7. (54)Texas Tech13-668.4%4.11
8. (56)West Virginia12-666.7%4.00
9. (62)Cincinnati13-765.0%3.90
10. (T-82)Iowa State11-857.9%3.47
11. (T-82)Houston11-857.9%3.47
12. (98)Kansas10-952.6%3.16
13. (100)Baylor11-1052.4%3.14
14. (104)Arizona State10-1147.6%2.86
15. (105)Arizona9-1047.4%2.84
16. (119)Colorado7-1138.9%2.33

While there’s not much of a gap between there and Boone Pickens Stadium, Rice-Eccels Stadium does appear to be the most formidable venue in the Big 12 heading into 2024, or at least it has been over the last few seasons.

However, when the Utes and Cowboys meet in 2024, it won’t be in Salt Lake City–it’ll be in Stillwater.

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