College Football season is finally here (FINALLY) and as a NCAA Football enthusiast, I’m thrilled to once again spend my weekends entranced by the tradition of collegiate gridiron. Not only do I love the grit of age-old competition but hitting the road to see my favorite teams is an experience itself. I have great memories of traveling to see games, of which a majority have been Ohio State (raised in Ohio, Saturdays in the fall are not complete without a Buckeye battle cry) and this season has me dreaming of the games I would like to see live, on the grass with the roar of the crowd.
Alabama (2) at LSU (3) – November 3 Tiger Stadium, Baton Rouge, LA
This is a rematch of the 2011-12 national title game, and both teams have a legitimate chance at the national title again this year. Overall, this SEC rivalry has grown in intensity during the last three decades with the two teams virtually splitting the series, with LSU narrowly leading 15-14-1. LSU’s Tiger Stadium hosts almost 93,000 fans and when filled to capacity, ranks as the sixth largest “city” by population in the state of Louisiana. While the intensity of this match-up is reason to make the trip alone, I would be remiss not to mention the tailgating that happens outside of stadium and all across campus. Tailgating caravans start to fill the parking lot days before the big game and the rest of the crowd starts to set up shop before the sun rises on game day. And then there is the food. Where I was raised, you boil a brat in beer, throw it on the grill and you are set. Here, you can expect some “good ol’ bayou cookin'” – fried alligator tail, fried frog legs, crab boil, gumbo and even a full cooked suckling pig (“A cochon del lait!”). Geaux Tigers!
Stanford (21) at Oregon (5) – November 17 Autzen Stadium, Eugene, OR
This game could determine who goes to the PAC-12 championship game with a possible Stanford rematch with USC – even though I’m not pulling for the Cardinals. I’m actually an honorary Duck. I was an adopted for a day when they played Auburn in the 2011 BCS Championship Game in Glendale, AZ and while I haven’t experienced the tailgate in Eugene, I will say those Ducks know how to party! I would expect nothing less when traveling to Autzen Stadium. Oregon loves their Ducks – Autzen Stadium capacity is 54,000, although attendance is routinely around 59,000 and has exceeded capacity for every game since the most recent expansion in 2002. And if you don’t make it into the stadium, you can watch the game at an array of sports bars serving up local and regional micro brews. Overall, Eugene is a robust college town nestled in the lush, green Willamette Valley and no doubt on my list to visit.
Michigan (8) at Ohio St. (18) – November 24 Ohio Stadium, Columbus, OH
Each season, my nerves rage and my blood boils with anticipation of one of the oldest rivalries in sports. As a Buckeye fan, this game is better than Christmas and this year, with it hosted at Ohio Stadium, I can’t help but dream of being in the stadium again as the Buckeyes throw a wrecking ball into Michigan’s season with a win (one can dream, right?). There really are few greater places to watch a rivalry match-up such as this. On the bank of the Olentangy River in Columbus, Ohio Stadium holds 102,329 of your closest friends and the roar of the Saturday crowd can be deafening as they chant “O-H-I-O”. Tailgate parties are set up as the sun begins to rise and an hour before game time, the crowd makes the great migration toward the stadium to watch “The Best Damn Band in the Land” march onto the field. At games end, win or lose, you feel the love and loyalty to The Ohio State University as the team and crowd sing in unison “Carmen Ohio” the alma mater. “…How firm thy friendship, O-Hi-O”. Goosebumps.
If you decide to hit the road this College Football season be sure to locate the nearest BEST WESTERN to make the experience that much better!