According to a study published by Altimore College and Company, Penn State, with 6.36 million fans, has the fourth largest college football fanbase and the second biggest in the Big Ten.
Only Ohio State (11.26 m), Notre Dame (8.21 m) and Texas (7.82 m) are ahead of Penn State. Michigan is right behind in fifth, and Wisconsin cracks the top ten at No. 9.
The study said that 16 schools make up half of all college football fans, 35 teams make up 75 percent and 61 account for 90 percent.
“These 16 teams drive much of the media attention,” the study read, “and thus represent the most attractive content for broadcasters to put in their most preferable time slots. High-demand teams that are engaged in successful turnarounds may be even more attractive, given the lagging nature of data.”
The top 16 teams are; Ohio State, Notre Dame, Texas, Penn State, Michigan, Alabama, Florida, Oregon, Wisconsin, USC, LSU, Georgia, Texas A&M, Syracuse, Auburn and Tennessee.
Although the Big Ten has three of the five largest fanbases and four of the top ten, it isn’t the conference with the most fans according to Altimore’s study. That belongs to the SEC, which has 54.1 million fans compared to the Big Ten’s 44.6. The Big Ten is also behind only the SEC in average fans per school, with an average of 3.18 million fans compared to the SEC’s 3.38 million.
The power five conferences behind the Big Ten are the ACC (2.11 m), the PAC 12 (1.96 m) and the Big 12 (0.96 m). The Mountain West (0.40 m) has the largest fanbase of non-power five conferences, the study says.
Even though Michigan is No. 5 on the list, Altimore also mentioned Michigan as an “at-risk fanbase” in danger of “alienating themselves from portions of their historical fanbases.”
Compared to other regional schools, Penn State has over five million more fans than Pitt (1.07 m) and four million more fans than West Virginia (1.84 m.)