BLOG | by Lance Fraenkel

Which college football teams have the biggest fanbases?

Last week we looked at who would have won the MLB postseason if the playoffs were decided according to the size of each team’s fanbase (well done, Yankees).

We got some great feedback and since fanbase size is data we collect on a whole host of teams, we thought this week we’d settle a few of the arguments around the followings of some of NCAA football’s biggest rivals.

Army – Navy

These schools may not be the first teams you think of when we talk about college football but the rivalry is fierce and fanatical. All-time, the Navy leads 60-51-7 but even though victories win fans, it’s still the Army Black Knights who enjoy the biggest following, leading  the Midshipmen by a small margin 1.40m to 1.36m.

BYU – Utah

The ‘Holy War’ game has been fought 98 times, with Utah winning 60 times (including the last seven) so you might expect the Utes to win the fanbase war too. But in fact, it’s the underdogs who win out – the Cougars have a fanbase of 1.35m compared to Utah’s 1.15m.

Ohio State – Michigan

Michigan leads with all-time series wins, Ohio State has had more success in the Big Ten and nationally over the last several years.  But who leads on fanbase size? It’s the Buckeyes, who boast 6.1m fans, compared to 5.1m for the Wolverines. In fact, these are the two best-supported teams across college football, with Alabama just behind them with 4.8m fans.

Michigan – Notre Dame

Contested a mere 43 times, this is a rivalry that makes up in fierceness what it may lack in history. Michigan leads in wins and that’s the way it goes on fanbase size too. The Fighting Irish have 2.94m fans but that’s trumped by Michigan’s enormous 5.1m

Stanford – Southern California

Representing one of the geographically closest rivalries (one of these sides has won the Pacific-12 title in four of the past six seasons,) Stanford vs. USC isn’t as close when it comes to fanbase size. It’s the Trojans who win, with just over 3m fans, compared to Stanford’s 1.9m.

Wisconsin – Minnesota

The most played major college football game, this battle has been fought 127 times, with Wisconsin leading 60-59-8. In one of the greatest come-backs of all time, the Badgers took the series lead for the first time in 2017, no doubt earning plenty of fans on the way.It’s Wisconsin who has the biggest fanbase, with 3.29m followers, compared to 1.72m for the Gophers.

To round things off, here is a chart of the five best-supported college teams.

To keep a close eye on these followings, contact us to learn more about our SportsIndex service, which tracks and connects league, team, brand and fan data every day of the week.

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Lance joined SMG Insight in 2017 as Vice President for North America. Having previously worked for YouGov, Lance has over ten years’ experience in the market research products industry, beginning as an analyst within the consumer division and advancing to the role of Head of Client Management for North America. Lance has successfully developed talent and led large cross-functional teams, consulting with a broad range of clients including Google, NBC, VISA, Bank of America, Omnicom Media Group and Twitter. Lance is a graduate of New York’s Cornell University.


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