Perfect Road Trip: Four Months of College Football
It was just a conversation one Saturday afternoon with my father when I was 12. As we watched a college football game that day he turned to me and said, “How many people do you think are sitting in the stands of every game today?”
I sat there for a few minutes and finally turned to him and simply stated, “A lot.” He laughed and we continued our conversation about the games that Saturday. Then I told him, “There’s at least one game every Saturday that’s worth going to … no matter your team.”
Right then and there my idea was hatched. It wasn’t until about five or so years later that I fully comprehended my concept, but since I have shared the idea with two of my closest friends.
Now it goes a little something like this: If I ever when the lottery or come into unforeseen riches through an inheritance or whatever, I’m purchasing a John Madden-like bus, hiring a driver and traveling each week of the college football season to the best games (sometimes quantity trumps quality).
I’ve also promised those two friends (Phil and Ryan) and my father that they can come with me. It goes without saying that this expensive and long schedule could play a little havoc on the marriage, but I have an understanding wife and she’s always welcome to come along for the ride.
So if I find that money soon, here’s how my 2010 Perfect Road Trip looks.
Marshall at Ohio State (Sept. 2)
If this were a solo mission I would probably make the long road trip to Salt Lake City to see Pittsburgh and Utah in a rematch of the 2005 Fiesta Bowl. However, big-time Buckeye backer Phil isn't about to miss Ohio State's opener.
So we'll start the 2010 season in Columbus as the Buckeyes host Marshall and first-year coach Doc Holliday at The Horseshoe. Holliday would probably prefer an easier beginning to his tenure in Huntington, but the Buckeyes have played down to their competition before.
In the end, Ohio State should win by at least 17, but a Thursday night in Columbus should be exciting. It's also a great way to kick off the ultimate road trip as start in one of the best venues for college football.
Ticket difficulty: Very low.
Arizona at Toledo (Sept. 3)
This is one of those quantity games. We're already in Ohio and we don't even have to get up early after a late Thursday to get to this one. We can party a little in Columbus and then let the bus driver get us to Toledo by 6 p.m. Friday.
This is the second season for Toledo coach Tim Beckman and the Rockets hope to improve on a 5-7 finish in 2009. They still need to pick a starting QB, but it looks like sophomore Austin Dantin will be the man.
This is also a good opportunity to see the Wildcats without having to drive so far west to see Nick Foles and his Justin Bieber hair cut.
Ticket difficulty: We'll manage.
LSU vs. North Carolina (Sept. 4)
We won't be hanging around Toledo very long (we may even leave after the third quarter) so we can hit the road for Atlanta.
SEC teams have done very well in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic, but this year the ACC's UNC has a real shot at taking down LSU. This game is big for both coaches as Les Miles seems to be a loss away from getting on the hot seat again, and Butch Davis could use a signature win like this.
If the Tar Heels can muster some offense to go with that nationally vaunted defense, North Carolina should give the ACC something to brag about.
Ticket difficulty: Easier than expected as North Carolina has plenty left.
Tulsa at East Carolina (Sept. 5)
Getting to Greenville, N.C., won't be too difficult. This game also allows us to see to head coaching debut of ECU's Ruffin McNeill take on one of the game's up-and-coming coaches in Tulsa's Todd Graham.
It's also an opportunity to see two of the better teams in Conference USA go at it so early in the season. The Pirates are the defending league champion, but McNeill must find a number of new starters-especially on defense as only two starters are back.
The Golden Hurricane should improve on last year's 5-7 season with 16 starters back, including nine on offense. It will also be fun to watch dual-threat QB G.J. Kinne run and throw for Tulsa.
Ticket difficulty: Extremely easy.
Boise State vs. Virginia Tech (Sept. 6)
This is a crazy start to road trip, but we're not about to miss the best game of the opening weekend. We'll arrive in Landover, Md., in plenty of time to get in a little tailgating with the Boise fans. (Editor's note: none of us making the trip can stand Virginia Tech fans, so there's no way we're partying with them).
When the game starts, we'll probably all be rooting for the Hokies, though. We just want to put an early end to all of the Boise State whining.
We're also interested in seeing Boise QB Kellen Moore, as well as Tech QB Tyrod Taylor up close and personal. We're also curious to see if Virginia Tech DC Bud Foster can put together a game plan with a lot of new faces to stop the innovative Broncos.
Ticket difficulty: Difficult.
Auburn at Mississippi State (Sept. 9)
Nothing like a trip to Davis Wade Stadium to see an early season test for Auburn, which has ambitions of ousting Alabama from the top spot in the SEC West. If the Tigers are for real they can't slip up in tough road environments like this.
The Bulldogs, who should also be 1-0 entering this game, have bowl aspirations as Dan Mullen begins his second season.
It would also be nice to see the beginning of the Cam Newton era at quarterback. Plus, I really want to experience the whole cowbell thing.
Ticket difficulty: We'll buy some student tickets.
Penn State at Alabama (Sept. 11)
Now this is going to be fun. Big-time football programs in one of the best college football environments. I'm buying Kenny Stabler his first drink of the day (and he'll still probably know more than Joe Paterno when it comes to what's happening on the field).
The Nittany Lions are good, but this isn't one of their better teams. So the Tide should manage just fine. It will also be fun to watch Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson and Nick Saban in person.
I'm also looking forward to the post-game celebration. Since I have family in the area, I'll probably need a few extra tickets for this one. Do I have to wear a houndstooth hat?
Ticket difficulty: Scalpers? eBay? I don't care, we'll pay.
Nebraska at Washington (Sept. 18)
After a week off, we'll make the long trek out west for the first time and see the future Big Ten contending Cornhuskers take on the upstart Huskies at the raucous Husky Stadium.
Getting a chance to see QB Jake Locker take on the stifling Nebraska defense that is led by All-American candidate CB Prince Amukamara is worth the road trip.
It's also a great chance to see two programs that are close to returning to national prominence, even if the Huskies are a little further away than Nebraska.
Ticket difficulty: It'll be raining ... someone will sell their tickets.
Miami at Pittsburgh (Sept. 23)
Sweet. An old Big East match up that only a die-hard Big East fan could enjoy.
There's also a little side story of Dave Wannstedt, who once coached the Dolphins and was an assistant with the Hurricanes, has something to prove. The Panthers are favored to win the Big East and Miami is considered an ACC possibility so it should be competitive.
It'll be interesting to see if Miami's defense can stop RB Dion Lewis and WR Jonathan Baldwin at Heinz Field. The Panthers don't have the greatest home-field advantage, but a night game in Pittsburgh is still special.
Ticket difficulty: We'll probably get them for less than face value.
West Virginia at LSU (Sept. 25)
This is probably our toughest road trip following a game. We'll make it, but don't be shocked if we have to down a gallon of Red Bull to stay awake (we'll try not to mix it with Jagermeister).
Two LSU games in less than a month is not ideal, but we could be watching the eventual downfall of Les Miles. Lose to the Mountaineers at home in a night game is not good for his future.
We've seen WVU handle SEC speed before, but RB Noel Devine will need a huge game and QB Geno Smith will need to avoid blowing up like Jarrett Brown did last year at Auburn.
Ticket difficulty: I'm a little worried about this one, but we'll pay what it takes.
Texas A&M at Oklahoma State (Sept. 30)
This will be the entire group's first trip to Oklahoma (flying over and passing through doesn't count). This one is also the appetizer to our long weekend.
Still, getting to watch the athletic freak Jerrod Johnson lead A&M in this key Big 12 road game should be fun. Also, there's a chance OSU coach Mike Gundy may see us in the parking lot and get all self-righteous and make some more YouTube history.
Plus, with T. Boone Pickens in the stadium I'm guaranteed to not be the richest person in attendance.
Ticket difficulty: Much cheaper than a Barry Sanders autograph.
Texas vs. Oklahoma (Oct. 2)
If everything goes as planned, we should get two undefeated teams who are ranked in the Top Five. But if we don't, it's still a chance to be a part of the Red River Rivalry.
This is also the post Colt McCoy-Sam Bradford era. OU's Landry Jones gained valuable experience as Bradford missed most of the season. Garrett Gilbert's main experience came in the BCS title game.
The winner is in the driver's seat for a Big 12 title and possibly a trip to the championship game ... and we'll be able to say we were there.
Ticket difficulty: Certainly we can talk Matthew McConaughey out his ticket. So just two more to go.
UAB at UCF (Oct. 6)
Look, it's on the way to Miami so why not stop and watch two programs who like to go by initials.
Then on Thursday and Friday we'll stop in Broward or Dade County and catch some high school football.
Ticket difficulty: We may have more trouble getting the high school tickets.
Florida State at Miami (Oct. 9)
Now you know why we're traveling south.
Growing up, this game was the must-see game of the year. It may be close to earning back that reputation, but it's still a good game to watch. Great athletes in a heated rivalry game are always a good mix.
It's also Jimbo Fisher's first game in this series as the head coach. Will his Noles start a new tradition? Remember Wide Right and Bobby Bowden?
Ticket difficulty: It's not 1989 ... tickets are available.
UCF at Marshall (Oct. 13)
Remember, it's about quantity ... and sometimes regionalism. That's the only way to explain seeing UCF and Marshall twice in one season.
Really, who doesn't want to party in Huntington on a Thursday night.
Ticket difficulty: Just buy the Thundering Herd season ticket package and give away the rest.
South Florida at WVU (Oct. 14)
This has become one of the Big East's best rivalries over the past five seasons. WVU recruits a ton of Florida players and they don't like losing to the Bulls. However, South Florida owns a 3-2 mark over that stretch.
A night game in Morgantown in October will be chilly, but probably not enough to impact the outcome. But the rowdy, packed Mountaineer Field crowd should help WVU gain an edge.
I can't overlook the fact that I just love to tailgate in the Blue Lot.
Ticket difficulty: It'll be packed, but there will be tickets around face value available.
Cincinnati at Louisville (Oct. 15)
This is really turning into another busy week. But trekking from Morgantown to Louisville won't be too taxing (plus we're paying a driver).
The Cardinals may struggle again this year, but getting to see them in Charlie Strong's first year is something you'll be able to tell other fans, "I was there when Charlie began to turn this thing around."
Watching QB Zach Collaros run and throw all over the place makes for an exciting Friday night ... plus my buddy Phil who's lucky enough to be on the bus is from the same hometown as Collaros (or something like that).
Ticket difficulty: Papa John's Cardinal Stadium should be closer to capacity this season, but getting in won't be tough.
South Carolina at Kentucky (Oct. 16)
Ending the week with a little SEC football is a good thing, even if it's two middle of the road teams.
OK, this could finally be the year for the Gamecocks, but I'm placing my bets on Stephen Garcia throwing more interceptions than TDs in this game.
It's also a chance to see another first-year coach in Kentucky's Joker Phillips.
Ticket difficulty: Commonwealth Stadium holds more than 67,000. Finding four tickets should be easy right up to kickoff.
UCLA at Oregon (Oct. 21)
I must admit, seeing a game at Autzen Stadium has always interested me. I love watching that crazy crowd on TV and I've heard a few great stories about seeing a game in Eugene.
Chip Kelly worked magic with the Ducks last year, and he has a good chance of having them playing for another Pac-10 title. UCLA expects to take another step under Rick Neuheisel and this will be a huge obstacle.
Besides, I love great defenses and Oregon's linebacking corps of Casey Matthews, Spencer Paysinger and probably Josh Kaddu is one of the nation's best.
Ticket difficulty: I know very little about the challenge of getting a ticket at Oregon, but I don't imagine it will be simple.
Florida State at North Carolina State (Oct. 28)
An ACC game at Carter-Finley Stadium on a Thursday night is a good way to kick off the weekend.
I smell an upset brewing here as well. The Seminoles have high expectations under first-year coach Jimbo Fisher, while Tom O'Brien may be fighting for his job at N.C. State. While many consider FSU QB Christian Ponder to be the class of the conference, Russell Wilson actually led the ACC in touchdown passes last year with 31.
The Seminoles get the edge on defense, but hopefully a hopped up home crowd will even the playing field.
Ticket difficulty: About 15 years ago a home game with a Top Five team like FSU in town would have been a hot ticket. Not so much anymore.
Florida vs. Georgia (Oct. 30)
Everyone should get a chance to attend the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party at least once. So here's our shot.
This battle has had a lot of great moments, and the heat has been ratcheted up of late as Urban Meyer and Mark Richt tolerate each other.
Florida has dominated this series of late, but it may be time for Georgia to turn the tide on its SEC rival.
Ticket difficulty: To date, this may be our toughest task.
Georgia Tech vs. Virginia Tech (Nov. 4)
The two Techs have been the elite of the ACC in recent history. Now both are considered favorites to win the conference again. But only one can represent the Coastal in the league's title game.
This game also features two of the ACC's best dual-threat quarterbacks in Virginia Tech's Tyrod Taylor and Georgia Tech's Josh Nesbitt. So this game should see a lot of points scored.
Besides it gives me a chance to go to Lane Stadium and root against the Hokies.
Ticket difficulty: Difficult, but nothing some extra cash can't solve.
Alabama at LSU (Nov. 6)
Nick Saban returns to LSU again. It may not be as crazy as the first time, but those Cajuns are still bitter Saban and Alabama won it all last year ... plus their still pissed that Les Miles is still their coach.
Take the coaches out of the mix and these two teams are pretty equal on talent. The big difference is Alabama is more experienced and has the reigning Heisman Trophy winner in Mark Ingram.
So the X-Factor is 92,000 screaming LSU fans in Tiger Stadium. Damn that sounds like a blast.
Ticket difficulty: I have concerns. Any tips?
Toledo at Northern Illinois (Nov. 9)
What makes this so interesting? Not one of my friends on the bus would want to go to this game. It's Mid-American Conference football on a Tuesday night.
What they don't understand is Toledo and Northern Illinois are legitimate MAC contenders and I'd rather be at Huskie Stadium watching Chad Spann and Eric Page than another episode of Bones.
These two also played a great game last year that saw Toledo nip the Huskies 20-19. It's time for some payback.
Ticket difficulty: It's MAC football on a Tuesday, how difficult could that be?
Miami, Ohio at Bowling Green (Nov. 10)
The laughs just keep coming. I'll probably neglect to tell them we're going to stay over in Bowling Green for another MAC game on Wednesday.
We're scraping the bottom a little on this one, but it's still a game.
Ticket difficulty: Bowling Green will see us pull up in the bus and give us what we want.
Penn State at Ohio State (Nov. 13)
This game makes the rest of the week worth it.
It's likely to be cold and rainy this time of year in Columbus, so Joe Paterno will probably be coaching from the press box. Jim Tressel won't even notice.
Ohio State could very possibly be undefeated, so the entire stadium will be overly intoxicated and every play will be do or die.
Those same fans will fall in and out of love with Terrelle Pryor at least 58 times. But in the end, the Buckeyes' Devin Barclay will kick a late field goal for the win.
Ticket difficulty: Luckily there are always scalpers, err, I mean Stub Hub.
UCLA at Washington (Nov. 18)
It's time to head west again and we'll start with two programs that have been down on their luck for longer than anyone would have ever expected. It's also our second trip to Husky Stadium.
UCLA's Rick Neuheisel returns to Seattle where he was unceremoniously booted as the Huskies coach. Neuheisel would love a shot at coaching Jake Locker. Instead, he gets Kevin Prince.
If Washington wants to take the next step and make it to a bowl game this year, not letting up against the Bruins is a big step.
Ticket difficulty: We'll learn some tricks from our first visit.
Fresno State at Boise State (Nov. 19)
It's ugly, but everyone should see the Blue Turf in person at least once. Don't worry, I'll have the camera and I'll change my Facebook profile photo after this game. We'll also Tweet all game about random Boise or blue facts.
If Boise is still undefeated, the Broncos are likely to be ranked second or third in the nation and Fresno would love nothing more than to ruin that perfect season. Fresno coach Pat Hill exudes confidence, but his teams have been lacking it of late.
In case you didn't know, Boise returns 21 of 22 starters from last year. Just ask any Broncos fan, they'll tell you.
Ticket difficulty: This game will be sold out, so does anyone know a good ticket broker in Idaho?
USC at Oregon State (Nov. 20)
By this point in the season we'll know how talented our bus driver is because I have no idea how long it will take us to get from Boise to Corvallis.
This game is tough to predict right now. USC can't go to a bowl, but both of these could be near or on top of the Pac-10 this late in the year. It's also reasonable to predict both could have three or four losses as well.
No matter what, we're going to see the Rodgers brothers at Oregon State and yell at Lane Kiffin from whatever seats we score.
Ticket difficulty: Depends on the importance of the game.
West Virginia at Pittsburgh (Nov. 26)
Through 14 years of marriage one lesson I've learned is the day after Thanksgiving is the one day my wife is nowhere to be found as she shops all day. So I'll either have to load the children up on the bus or beg the grandparents to watch them all day.
The Backyard Brawl is an underrated rivalry and has intensified since the Panthers upset WVU in 2007. This year it should decide the Big East champion.
This game also features two of the nation's most explosive running backs in Pitt's Dion Lewis and WVU's Noel Devine. Big runs and tough defense should be the MO of this game.
Ticket difficulty: If it's sold out it's because WVU fans bought up the tickets.
Michigan at Ohio State (Nov. 27)
I've wanted to attend The Game since I was 8. I watched this game on TV every year growing up in Florida and always respected the tradition.
Now we get to go as the Buckeyes close out a perfect season and Rich Rodriguez may be coaching his last game with the Wolverines.
It's going to be fun just reading the creative signs the OSU fans make for this one.
Ticket difficulty: Expensive.
Arizona State at Arizona (Dec. 2)
It's December, so we have two choices: go south or west for some warm weather. So Tucson will have to do.
The Duel in the Desert is a great way to spend an early December day as Mike Stoops and the Wildcats play for bowl positioning and Dennis Erickson plays for his job at ASU.
If the Arizona fans decide to rush the field a little early, we'll be there to join them.
Ticket difficulty: I don't know. Anyone have an idea?
Illinois at Fresno State (Dec. 3)
Will Ron Zook still be the coach at Illinois this late in the season? I hope so, because watching the Zooker roam the sidelines is part of the draw.
It will also be fun to watch Pat Hill and the Bulldogs pull off one of those upsets of a Big Boy.
But really we'll just be itching to get on the road for the next day's game.
Ticket difficulty: Normally a BCS team traveling to a non-BCS program is good for an attendance boost. Not so much here.
Oregon at Oregon State (Dec. 4)
The Civil War will likely decide who's going to the Rose Bowl again. Even if it doesn't this game is one of the West Coast's best rivalries.
The Beavers haven't won since 2007, so Mike Riley will have his team ready.
The environment alone makes this one worth the long road trip.
Ticket difficulty: Another rivalry another tough ticket. Thankfully I won all of that money.
Navy vs. Army (Dec. 11)
We may be lucky to see 10 passes thrown between the two military academies, but Navy QB Ricky Dobbs is one of the toughest and most talented players in the country. Could this guy really win the Heisman?
Army counters with their own skilled quarterback in sophomore Trent Steelman, who started every game last year as a plebe.
Navy has dominated the series of late, but Army is getting better. Is this the year for the Black Knights? Probably not.
Ticket difficulty: Tough, but we're not missing this one.