College football is a deep and diverse game that is always evolving, and while we may not be granted the ability to watch every game in the the limited time we have spent in college, we can still find hints of the future season. This past week, I took myself on a road trip from Nashville to Provo, UT, to see the BYU Cougars take on the Utah Utes.
I was contemplating writing this article about a year ago, but never got around to it. It was a fun exercise, though, mapping out a trip across the country to watch each college football game of the 2021 season. There will be changes to the playoff format, but I didn’t think any of them were going to make much of a difference to where you could go and where you could watch games. Here is the ultimate road trip, complete with how to get to each place and what to do while you are there.
Have you been on a road trip where you’ve seen some of the best sights of the country? Have you done the same with college football? Well, if you’ve ever been to a game near a stadium that you’ve never been to, then you likely have a lot of sights that you’ve seen—and that you will never see again.. Read more about follow concept football and let us know what you think.
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College football’s appeal extends well beyond the field, and even beyond the raucous crowds and electrifying stadiums. There are also road excursions, tailgating, and parties to look forward to. Visiting the local restaurants and pubs in the neighborhood of your favorite team or arch-rival may be just as much fun as the game itself — or perhaps more so, depending on the final result.
To that end, we’ve put together a week-by-week guide to the perfect college football road trip, emphasizing the must-see places for food, drink, and celebration — as well as some excellent games — along the route. (It’s a nasty job, but it has to be done.)
So gather your belongings, fill up the gas tank, and make preparations for a once-in-a-lifetime road trip.
A vacation to Virginia Tech is like a relaxing mountain retreat, complete with a little Metallica and a few strong drinks. A three-step prep-enjoy-recovery strategy is the best way to make the most of your stay in Blacksburg. The day before the big game, the preparation starts. Dinner at The Cellar or Rivermill, or the Blacksburg Wine Lab, led by renowned professor John Boyer, will offer essential nourishment in a more gentle setting. Then go to Sharkey’s on Main Street, where the drinks are inexpensive and the terrace is always packed. Top of the Stairs, a New Orleans-style institution that serves Blacksburg’s most famous beverage, The Rail, should be the final stop on Friday. It’s been characterized as “Self Hatred with a dash of Sprite” on Reddit. (Note: This isn’t the best time to do this before a 12:00 start.) If you eat it, you do it at your own peril.)
Game day is all about tailgating, but don’t forget to stop by Carol Lee Donuts for a morning treat before going to the stadium. It’s a friendly bunch, so expect to meet some new friends. On Center Street, the atmosphere is usually a raucous mix of student tailgates, while more adult-oriented parties occupy the lots close to Lane Stadium, with the areas around the dormitories acting as valuable real estate. Bring some beverages for you and your new neighbors to share. The key to all of this is arriving to your seats at least 30 minutes before kickoff because you won’t want to miss the most famous stadium entrance in college football when the Hokies enter the field to “Enter Sandman” and the whole stadium shakes as the crowd erupts in applause. Sundays are ideal for recharging, whether it’s with a fatty breakfast at Joe’s Diner or a relaxing tube ride through New River Junction. Make a few journeys. There is a complimentary shuttle service back to the hotel. Also, bring a couple extra beverages in case you make new pals. ‘David Hale’
Because there are so many choices in Columbus, this schedule is likely to be contested by locals. There is no such thing as an incorrect response, and you’ll most likely need a few days to digest all there is to eat. When I go to Columbus, though, my usual routine begins with breakfast at Super Chef’s, where they think breakfast is an art form. To prepare a makeshift chicken and waffles, I buy Cinnamon Toast Crunch waffles and add chicken. They’re cinnamon sugar waffles with Cinnamon Toast Crunch flakes on top, and they’re delicious. After that, I go to Hot Chicken Takeover for some Nashville hot chicken for lunch. You may choose your meat and then the level of heat; I typically get the hot drumsticks with mac & cheese and coleslaw. After that, you’ll probably need to relax, but when it’s time for dinner, I like to play tourist every now and then, and there’s nothing more touristy than heading to The Thurman Cafe and ordering a Thurmanator hamburger. It’s a 12-ounce burger with bacon, cheddar, and another 12-ounce patty, onions, mushrooms, ham, mozzarella, and American cheese, with a pickle on top. To round out your day, pay a visit to Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams and marvel at the variety of delectable scoops on offer. Tom VanHaaren (Tom VanHaaren)
The Swamp (not the actual football stadium) should always be the first destination while visiting Gainesville for a game. But save that information until 2022, when the venerable Swamp reopens in a new site. Instead, visit The Salty Dog Saloon, a University Avenue institution that has been serving beverages and cuisine since 1962. From the O’Dome parking lot to the furthest point on campus, Norman Hall, which is a good 15- to 20-minute walk from the stadium, there are plenty of places to soak in the tailgating scene. As the squad enters the stadium, get in line early for the Gator Walk. Don’t forget to stop by Satchel’s Pizza, a short drive from school, for a slice and homemade soda (or whatever beverage you like). Inquire about eating in the blue VW van that has been transformed. Andrea Adelson’s remark
It’s incredible to see over a thousand cadets march onto the field at Michie Stadium. USA Today Sports/Danny Wild
It makes no difference which team Army is up against: Attend a game at Michie Stadium, one of the finest sports grounds in the country. Michie is unlike any other college football setting, since it was built in 1924 on the banks of the Lusk Reservoir with vistas of the Hudson Valley in upstate New York. The leaves will be changing color, and the campus, which is full of beautiful buildings and is located on an active military post, will be a national historic monument. The gates open six hours before kickoff, giving you plenty of time to take it all in. The parking areas are a little out of the way, and shuttle buses start operating four and a half hours before kickoff. If the weather cooperates, a full-dress cadet march takes place three hours before kickoff, and Black Knights Alley opens with live music, food and drink tents, and kid’s activities. To watch 1,000 cadets enter the field and the national anthem performed, you’ll want to be in your seat with 20 minutes to spare. A group of cadets then leaps out of a helicopter and parachutes down to the middle of the field with the game ball as a last reminder that you’re watching America’s Team. Dave Wilson is an author.
Auburn vs. LSU, Week 5 Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Begin by taking a trip around campus, stopping to see Mike the Tiger in his cage. How often do you get to witness a real tiger mascot only steps away from a football stadium? It’s well worth the detour. After that, go to Fleur de Lis for some Louisiana-style pizza. You didn’t know Louisiana pizza existed, did you? It’s cheesy, rectangular, and magnificent. It’s difficult to go wrong with seafood, whether it’s a po-boy at Parrain’s or oysters at Drago’s. On game day, though, don’t eat too much breakfast since tailgating on campus begins early and will keep you going until kickoff, whether it’s delicious gumbo, smoked sausage, or even alligator. In Baton Rouge, hospitality means feeding everyone under the tent, so don’t be afraid to walk around and make friends. Alex Scarborough’s remark
The Texas State Fair includes a massive Ferris wheel, an incredible array of fair cuisine, and, of course, the Texas-Oklahoma game. USA TODAY Sports/Kevin Jairaj
Sure, you’ll be seeing a heated rivalry in a big metropolis. This excursion, however, is solely focused on Fair Park in South Dallas. Since 1929, the Longhorns and Sooners have faced off in the midst of the Texas State Fair, which lasts 24 days. (As Texans, we feel obligated to point you that this is the country’s longest-running fair.) Big Tex, the world’s largest cowboy, will welcome you, as will the Texas Star, a 212-foot-tall Ferris wheel that provides beautiful vistas of the city, including a bird’s-eye perspective inside the Cotton Bowl. The fair cuisine, on the other hand, is another highlight of the weekend. You must first consume a Fletcher’s Corny Dog before proceeding to the crazy scientists’ laboratory to discover what kind of unholy concoctions they have in store for you. The deep-fried seafood gumbo balls or the deep-fried I-35 (see a theme? ), which is a Czech pastry called a kolache stuffed with smoked brisket, covered with a peach/Dr Pepper sauce and garnished with peach slices, are among the prize contenders this year. Try the deep-fried Halloween, which is a big pretzel topped with sweet corn syrup, buttercream frosting, caramel and chocolate drizzle, and lots of Halloween candy. Just the thing to keep your blood sugar up in the midst of one of college football’s most intense rivalries, with the two teams split straight along the 50-yard line. Wilson’s words
There are few better places to spend a Saturday in the fall than Oregon’s Autzen Stadium. It’s a destination that belongs on every college football fan’s bucket list and provides a game-day experience that is unique in the Pac-12. Eugene, a city of more than 100,000 people, doesn’t have the college town vibe that exists at Washington State and Oregon State, but there is a much more intimate charm than in the major metropolitan areas around the conference. So there are plenty of bars, restaurants and tailgating spots to host a sold-out game, while still generating the game-day buzz around town that gets lost in larger cities. If the sports bar scene is your preference, give Sam’s Place Tavern across town a try (there’s a game-day shuttle to the stadium) or check out Trev’s Sports Bar & Grill just across the Willamette River near campus. If you’re looking for a tailgate, it won’t be hard to find one. Thousands of people will be posted up around Autzen. Walk around, meet new friends and there’s a good chance you’ll find yourself taken care of. — Kyle Bonagura
Week 8 features a doubleheader!
There’s a solid argument that Boone, North Carolina, is the greatest college town that most college football fans are unaware of. It’s a mountain town with a fantastic beer and food culture, as well as a game-day atmosphere that matches anything in the Group of Five (and probably is better than a number of the big boys too). Take a walk down King Street and stop into Macado’s or Melanie’s for some before food and entertainment, or go over to Booneshine Brewing Company for some of the finest craft beers in town. Then, for a big game, go over to the tailgate, which takes up almost every open area on campus. The Library Deck is the best location, but ask around and a local can direct you to Big C’s tailgate on River Street. It’s a legend. However, get to the stadium in time for kickoff. The mountain background is breathtaking, and the atmosphere before kickoff is electrifying. Grab a burger at the Come Back Shack after the game before celebrating (or drowning your sorrows) at The Annex, where the celebration will continue late into the night. But don’t let your trip to campus stop there. Blowing Rock, only a short drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway, boasts a fantastic restaurant scene, including Woodlands Barbecue and The Speckled Trout, which has an excellent beer and wine selection. Then burn some calories on one of the many beautiful treks available. Just remember to drink plenty of water. -Hales
If you want something simple yet excellent, Rocco’s pizza is the way to go. They describe their cuisine as “comfort food, Italian style,” and they are correct. If you’re in the mood for a burger, go to CJ’s Pub and get a five-ounce, ten-ounce, or twenty-ounce burger. The Golden Domer is the name given to the 20-ouncer for obvious reasons. If you’re searching for traditional American cuisine or unusual beer choices, the Evil Czech Brewery is a wonderful place to go. You wouldn’t think you’d find excellent barbecue in Northwest Indiana, but The Prized Pig is a fantastic choice. Tippecanoe Place, a restaurant in a house constructed in the 1800s, offers a more upscale experience. VanHaaren (VanHaaren)
The tailgate between Florida and Georgia, dubbed the “World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party,” usually lives up to its title. AP Photo/Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution
This series is still dubbed “The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party” for a reason. The drinking begins early (in many instances, days early), and the beverages flow like the St. Johns River, which flows through Jacksonville. Reason No. 2: The tailgate lots around the stadium have far too many parties to count. To be honest, you don’t really need a lot to have a good time. Along the river, people often have parties on their boats. Alumni groups from both colleges have their own tailgates in between the orange and blue or red and black vehicles and RVs, and there is live music wherever you turn. Three days before kickoff, the partying begins at the RV parks. Even though TIAA Bank Field has a capacity of 67,000, the tailgating scene attracts twice as many people every year. That, in fact, is the greatest counsel. Grab a drink, take a stroll around the parking lots, meet some new acquaintances, and take it all in. — Sheldon Adelson
When you visit Tuscaloosa, embrace the memories. Take a stroll along the Walk of Champions. The Bryant Museum is a great place to spend some time. Order country ham and red-eye gravy with biscuits and sit at Paul “Bear” Bryant’s table for breakfast at the famous Waysider Restaurant. It’s impossible to miss. It’s the one with Bryant’s bust in the front. Get some barbeque at Dreamland or Archibald’s, two of the town’s famous establishments. I’m not going to go into the contentious argument over which is better — they’re both fantastic — but if you have the opportunity, go to their original sites. Finally, stop by Gallettes for a renowned Yellow Hammer drink before heading to Bryant-Denny Stadium for the game. Scarborough, North Yorkshire
If you like classic Southern literature and run-on sentences, Oxford is the place to go for a dose of William Faulkner nostalgia. The spirit of Mississippi’s most renowned writer may be found all throughout the state. But don’t worry if that’s not your thing. Whether at the renowned Ajax Diner, City Grocery, or Big Bad Breakfast, the cuisine is excellent. The Saturday tailgate, though, is the true star of the show. No one does tailgating like Ole Miss, and I mean no one. It’s like taking a trip back in time as you stroll into the Grove. Men in suits, ladies in gowns, and chandeliers dangling from pop-up tents are all present. It may seem like the scene is overpowering what should be the primary event at times, which is why you’ll frequently hear something along the lines of, “We may not win every game, but we’ve never lost a party.” Scarborough, North Yorkshire
Campus Corner, a 1917 commercial area, is the highlight of Norman’s game-day experience. It’s packed with shops, restaurants, and bars, including Othello’s, which houses Barry Switzer’s renowned “table of truth,” and the Greek House, a classic diner founded by Greek immigrants in 1979 and known for its hot yogurt sauce. Visit the Legends Lobby inside the Barry Switzer Center on the south side of Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium for a taste of history and to witness firsthand how dominant one of the sport’s top programs was. The Sooners’ five Heisman trophies are on display, as are statues honoring four coaches with more than 100 victories at OU, the only school in the nation to do so: Switzer, Bob Stoops, Bud Wilkinson, and Bennie Owen. Finally, a trip to Benvenuti’s, an elegant Italian restaurant in downtown Norman where Switzer first met Riley when the young Riley was the new offensive coordinator for Stoops, would allow you to see whether you’re just as much of a gamer as current Sooners coach Lincoln Riley. Riley claims that the evening was filled with numerous tales and a few too many glasses of Switzer Family Vineyards wine, despite a 5:30 a.m. practice the following morning, which Riley proudly claims he made. Wilson’s words
If you’re going to an Ann Arbor game and like cuisine, I recommend coming in on Wednesday and eating until Saturday or Sunday. There are so many options and so many locations to see that you can’t go wrong. Fresh, creative sandwiches on housemade bread are a mainstay at Zingerman’s. Mr. Spots, which serves cheese steaks and wings, is also popular. If you’re craving a burger, Krazy Jim’s Blimpy Burger has been around for almost 70 years and is still going strong. Jolly Pumpkin, a well-known local brewery, offers a diverse menu of cuisine as well as beer. Sava’s is one of the best options in the neighborhood for brunch or lunch if you’re looking for something a bit more upmarket. The list could go on and on, but if you like Cuban street cuisine, Frita Batidos is a must-visit. VanHaaren (VanHaaren)
At the start of college football’s 2021 season, the road schedule for teams will be reset, with a new plan in place for the way games are scheduled. The committee will once again provide a schedule that is resistant to chaos and the vagaries of the sport.. Read more about snag concept football and let us know what you think.
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