Planning a college football road trip? Here are a few ideas
There are road trips that are planned far in advance. And those that are spur-of-the-moment.
Either way, if the goal is to catch some college football, there are plenty of options in the Sunshine State each week. No need to buy airline tickets or spend thousands of dollars. Just pack a duffle bag, gas up the car and go.
So if you’re looking for the ultimate fan’s guide for watching the state’s college football teams, and don’t feel like going beyond the state line to do it, here’s a look at the best options each week of the season.
Aug. 29 — Kick the season off with a Thursday night game as Central Florida opens at home against Akron. The Knights are making the transition to the American Athletic Conference (the old Big East), but up first is a warm-up with Akron. UCF won 10 games in 2012 and returns a talented passer in junior Blake Bortles, who threw for 3,059 yards and 25 touchdowns last year. Akron struggled to a 1-11 finish last season as Terry Bowden continues the Zips’ rebuilding effort. But Akron likes to pass, racking up 312 yards per game last season, so it could be a night where the teams light up the scoreboard.
Aug. 31 — Since it’s the first weekend of the season, consider attending two games and making the trip down I-4 to watch McNeese State play at South Florida in the first game of the Willie Taggart Era. There’s plenty of enthusiasm in Tampa for the Bulls, who struggled with injuries to quarterbacks late in 2012. Taggart needs to find a quarterback (it’s a three-way race between Bobby Eveld, Matt Floyd and Steven Bench) and the Bulls have plenty of holes to fill on defense.
Sept 7 — Enjoy Florida at Miami because we won’t be seeing the two rivals face off again – barring a bowl matchup – anytime soon. Both schools have filled up their nonconference schedules in the future, and it could be at least five years before they play again. So plan to be at Sun Life Stadium for what should be a packed house for a noon kickoff.
Sept. 14 — Florida State opens up its home schedule with Nevada, a team that averaged 37.8 points per game last season and features QB Cody Fajardo (2,786 yards and 20 TDs in 2012). But the eyes of Florida State fans will be on the Seminoles’ quarterback. Odds are it will be Jameis Winston, the nation’s top dual-threat QB from the class of 2012. There are already high expectations for Winston, and he has plenty of talent around him on offense to succeed.
Sept. 21 — Florida opens SEC play at home against Tennessee. And while it’s hard to believe, the Gators have won eight straight over the Volunteers. Tennessee is rebuilding with coach Butch Jones, but it’s Florida’s chance to show it is up to the task of challenging South Carolina for the East Division title.
Sept 28 — This just shows you how far UCF and USF have come: the Knights are hosting South Carolina and the Bulls are hosting Miami. The state is far from being all about the Big Three anymore, so take your pick and catch a potential top-10 South Carolina team in Orlando or watch a talented Miami offense in Tampa.
Oct. 5 — Georgia Tech plays at Miami in what one can only hope is as entertaining a game as the 2012 matchup between the teams. Miami quarterback Stephen Morris threw for 436 yards and the Hurricanes scored the last 23 points to rally and win 42-36 in overtime in Atlanta. Another option is to make the trip to Gainesville, where new Arkansas coach Bret Bielema will try to run against a stout Florida defense.
Oct. 12 — FAU was just 3-9 in Carl Pelini’s first season in Boca Raton. And the schedule isn’t easy with five of the first six games on the road. But when Marshall visits, it’s a good chance to see how the rebuilding is going and watch electric FAU receiver William Dukes (63 catches for 979 yards and four touchdowns in 2012).
Oct. 19 — All of the state’s FBS schools are off with the exception of Florida State, which has an Atlantic Division showdown with Clemson. It’s a good day to channel-surf ... but if you’re in the mood for a good show, try Howard at Florida A&M. It’s homecoming for the Rattlers, who are beginning their first season under former NFL standout Earl Holmes. And the Marching 100 is back to entertain fans.
Oct. 26 — Florida State fans won’t want to miss this trip to Tallahassee as legendary coach Bobby Bowden returns to the sideline at Doak Campbell Stadium for the first time since he was forced to retire in 2009. Bowden will step foot on the field that bears his name and for the first time see the program he helped build. Oh, yeah: and the Seminoles host N.C. State, a team that rallied in the fourth quarter of the 2012 matchup between the teams to take a 17-16 win. Florida State players surely haven’t forgotten.
Nov. 2 — Normally, all arguments begin and end with a reservation at the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. When Florida and Georgia face off, it’s tough to beat a sold-out crowd in Jacksonville. But a strong case can also be made for Miami at Florida State. Either way, you can’t go wrong. The tailgating (and football) should be worth the trip to Jacksonville or Tallahassee.
Nov. 9 — It’s tough to tell if Virginia Tech will challenge for the Coastal title or fall toward the basement. Quarterback Logan Thomas has been hit-and-miss, but if he improves, and the Hokies defense is as good as expected, this game at Miami could go a long way toward deciding who wins the division.
Nov. 16 — Florida State is getting the band back together for a 20-year celebration of the Seminoles’ national championship. Bowden and a large group of the 1993 Seminoles are expected to be back in Tallahassee for a ceremony before Florida State plays host to Syracuse.
Nov. 29 — The teams haven’t played the “War on I-4” since 2008, but make plans to catch South Florida play at Central Florida. The schools are in the same conference again and will face off for the first time in five years. And with just 45,000 seats at UCF, buy tickets early to make sure you have a seat for this Friday night game.
Nov. 30 — There’s only one way to finish the season: at The Swamp. Florida vs. Florida State is one of the nation’s best rivalries. And now that both teams are coming off seasons in which they both had double figures in wins, you might want to buy tickets early.
Contact Bob Ferrante at email@example.com or follow on Twitter @bobferrante