College Football 2011: The Ultimate September Road Trip
Okay, you're not likely to be taking any major road trips if you are a junior in college and are aggravated that you have to buy $760 worth of books for the fall semester (let’s be honest, you’ll read a quarter of them) and your life is about to end once school resumes.
But maybe you’re a single professional and you’d love to escape your cubicle and hit up Austin and LA for a game.
It's possible you’re a dad with four kids running around the house stuffing spaghetti noodles in between the new leather couch cushions and you just want to get away once the 2011 college football season kicks off in about nine weeks.
Here is my itinerary of the ultimate September college football road trip for 2011.
Friday, September 2: TCU at Baylor
Floyd Casey Stadium, Waco Texas
8 PM ET—Waco, Texas
How about this to kick off the year? The former Southwest Conference rivals lock horns on a Friday night in Waco.
What’s better than Friday night football in Texas? The weather will be great, amazing Texas grilling in the parking lot, and everyone is undefeated on opening night so the buzz will be palatable.
Baylor went bowling for the first time since 1994 last year, and looks to take another step forward with exciting junior QB Robert Griffin III.
The Bears look like a competitive Big 12 team that could challenge the big boys for an upper division finish. As far as the Horned Frogs, even with losing Andy Dalton at QB and getting only 10 starters back, TCU is still a Top 20 team and they travel to Waco in what will be a rocking home opener at Floyd Casey Stadium.
Saturday, September 3: Oregon vs. LSU
Dallas Cowboys Stadium, Dallas Texas
8 ET—Dallas, Texas
Jump in the rental car and drive an hour and a half from Waco to Dallas on Saturday morning, and get ready for the biggest non-conference game of the year.
Dallas is always worth a trip, and the Ft. Worth/Dallas metro area will be taken over by crazed Tiger and Duck faithful. Over 80,000 tickets have been sold and when standing room only tickets go on sale soon they are sure to be gobbled up (last year's TCU vs. Oregon State game drew a crowd of just over 46,000).
It’s a chance to see two Top Five teams at Jerry’s Palace, and enjoy ESPN’s Game Day, which will be in town. Pac-12 vs. SEC. Les Miles vs. Chip Kelly. East vs. West. LaMichael James and Darron Thomas vs. LSU’s lighting fast and physical defense. What’s not to like?
Though I could be talked into...
Boise St. vs. Georgia—Atlanta, Georgia
Also at 8pm ET, this game is another intriguing inter-sectional matchup of the seemingly annual BCS buster Broncos against a Bulldog team many believe will challenge South Carolina for the SEC East crown.
I have never been to Atlanta, so it would be hard to turn down a trip to check out a great downtown, the Olympic Village, Coca Cola’s headquarters and, from what I hear, “Hot”lanta’s epic nightlife.
Thursday, September 8: Arizona at Oklahoma State
8 ET—Stillwater, Oklahoma
Jumping on a plane from my home in DC to Oklahoma City, this is another Thursday night prime time matchup that’s a must see.
The Cowboys have BCS goals for 2011, and when you look at their combination of QB Brandon Weeden throwing to Justin Blackmon, it validates many placing OSU in the preseason Top 10.
However, it seems like their defense plays with only seven guys every down and Arizona brings in a high flying passing attack led by QB Nick Foles. If Arizona can figure out how to retool their offensive line, the Cats will challenge in the Pac-12 South.
I’d crash in OKC, check out Mickey Mantle’s Steakhouse right on the canal and make the hour drive over to Stillwater on game day.
Saturday, September 10: South Carolina at Geogia
4:30 ET—Athens, Georgia
An early season SEC East showdown that will go a long way in deciding who comes out of the SEC East.
While Stephen Garcia is a question mark, the Gamecocks still have RB Marcus Lattimore and WR Alshon Jeffrey to lean on. The USC fan base thinks this is their year in Columbia. Georgia stumbled last year to a repulsive 6-7 record.
As crazy as it sounds after winning four of six SEC East titles from 2002-2007, Coach Mark Richt is on the hot seat. He’ll be fine in 2011 with sophomore QB Aaron Murray back and a massive offensive line with great skill players on the edges.
If they upend Boise St. in the opener, Georgia could come in humming with confidence. With a Top 5 recruiting class coming in, if Georgia gels early they could make a serious run at an SEC East crown.
I hear Friday nights before home games in Athens are pretty crazy; and the tailgating across from Broad Street under the large oak trees is sure to be packed.
Though I could be talked into...
BYU at Texas—Austin, Texas
First of all, it's Austin. I have never experienced Austin and would love to hit up electric 6th Street with block after block of great food and live music, likely Texas' best known street.
Will Texas be able to beat newly minted Independent BYU? If not, the wheels could come off the Longhorns' train before it ever gets going in 2011 and Coach Mack Brown could find his seat awfully warm.
BYU has had this game circled on the calendar; it would be a monumental win for the Cougars.
Thursday, September 15: LSU at Mississippi State
Davis Wade Stadium, Starkville Mississippi
8 ET LSU—Starkville, Mississippi
On September 15 there will be no bigger party in the entire country than in “The Junction” where Mississippi St. fans gather to tailgate.
Stay at Hotel Chester right in downtown on Main St. and be at the center of what is sure to be a huge SEC game. The Bulldogs will wax Memphis in their season opener, but if they can survive Auburn at their place they’ll come home for what could be a very special early season game in Starkville.
If LSU beats Oregon in their season opener, and if MSU is undefeated? Oh my, look out for this one, it will be a thriller.
Saturday, September 17: Oklahoma at Florida State
Tallahassee, Florida (time TBA)
We’re headed to Tallahassee.
How about a trip to Tennessee Street right across the street from FSU’s campus on a Friday night before a gigantic home game? Maybe a day trip to Panama City and hit the beach before the game?
Jimbo Fisher has the Seminoles moving in the right direction. 9-4 in year one, a nice win over South Carolina in their bowl game and now it’s time to take the next step.
Christian Ponder left some big shoes to fill, but FSU’s cupboards are not bare. Rolling into Tallahassee could be potentially No. 1 ranked OU, and Heisman candidate Landry Jones. This is Bob Stoops’ team's sternest test and it comes early. One of the biggest home games in the past 10 years at Doak Campbell Stadium, and it will be rocking.
I could also be talked into...
Washington at Nebraska—Lincoln, Nebraska
While I have been to Memorial Stadium, I have never been there on game day and it’s on every college football fan’s bucket list.
This is the rubber match after the Huskers pummeled the Huskies in Seattle last September, and then UW responded with a Holiday Bowl win over UN.
The Huskers think they can contend for a Big 10 title in year one, and the Huskies are looking for national respect after finally getting back to a bowl in 2010 and gaining some momentum.
So why not tailgate at Haymarket Park and enjoy a Saturday night in the Historic Haymarket District in the Old Warehouse District?
Saturday, September 24: USC at Arizona State
ASU fans tailgating outside Sun Devil Stadium
10:15 ET—Tempe, Arizona
While ASU is not known for its rabid tailgating (can you blame them, standing in front of a hot grill at 3 p.m. when it’s 100 degrees and the asphalt and cars radiate even more heat?), this is a good enough trip for the game alone. I imagine the Mill Street District in downtown Tempe will be swarming with USC fans.
If ASU can get by Missouri at home, both teams are likely to be highly ranked and undefeated. A national TV audience and a lot of buildup are sure to make the atmosphere at Sun Devil Stadium crazy. A matchup that will be worth watching is USC’s QB Matt Barkley go up against one of the best linebackers in the country, ASU’s Vontaze Burfict.
I could also be talked into...
Arkansas at Alabama—Tuscaloosa, Alabama
It’s tough to find a better place to watch a game than Bryant-Denny Stadium, which is the fifth largest stadium in the country at 101,821.
A few hours before kickoff, when the team arrives at the stadium, the “Walk of Champions” more closely resembles the Beatles arriving at Shea Stadium in 1965 for a concert. It’s a great scene, with the pageantry and tradition of Tide fans at its finest.
The Hogs should be 3-0 at this point, and the first demanding test in the post Ryan Mallett era. Alabama, widely considered a Top Five team should be undefeated as well and looking to defend its turf in this SEC battle.