Welcome back to another edition of CougCenter's fantasy college football road trip. We had so much fun thinking about what a Pac-12 road trip would look like (Part One here, Part Two here) that we decided to take it a step further and go national. If you're a married person, this would probably take a kitchen pass equivalent to Willy Wonka's golden ticket, but it is a fantasy trip after all. Who wants to deal with the real world? A couple of the ground rules were tweaked from our Pac-12 version.
1) We have an RV and 3-4 people
2) There are no Pac-12 teams involved, since we already covered them
3) There can be no repeat visits to any venue
4) Every segment of the trip involves at least one stop at a brewery
Alright, we only have a couple weeks to get this squared away, so no more waiting around...
Thursday, September 3 - South Carolina vs. North Carolina (Charlotte): You guys think WSU is bad at this scheduling stuff? Well, they have an ACC partner. UNC played at South Carolina a couple years ago, and their return game is in Charlotte. Unfortunately, we don't get to see one of college football's coolest entrances. The playing of Sandstorm before kick is great as well. We do get to see whether Steve Spurrier's Gamecocks can rebound from a disappointing 2014, or whether Larry Fedora can get UNC on track to a season that doesn't end in Detroit.
Charlotte to Atlanta: 245 miles
Saturday, September 5 - Louisville vs. Auburn: After a meal of Fox Bros. Barbecue and a visit to Sweetwater Brewery, where we downed our share of Georgia Brown and Sweetwater Blue, it's time to head to one of America's worst downtowns (in terms of things to do) and take in the Cardinals and Tigers. Hopefully Louisville isn't wearing those hideous uniforms that try and make a cardinal look scary. They face an Auburn team that many believe will end up in the playoff. Of course, in true southern fashion, the SEC media picked Alabama to win the SEC West, and Auburn to win the conference. That don't make no dadgum sense, PAAAWWWLLL!
Atlanta to Blacksburg (via Asheville, NC): 425 miles
Monday, September 7 - Ohio State at Virginia Tech: Why are we going through Asheville? Why to visit the fine folks at Highland Brewing, of course. We need to try the Thunderstruck Coffee Porter and Clawhammer Oktoberfest. We then arrive in Blacksburg for a rare treat, college football on Monday Night. Although we didn't get to see the 2001 entrance, we do get to see another one that is among the best. This game is one of the toughest on Ohio State's schedule, which doesn't say much for the Big Ten. The Buckeyes will be without their best defender in Joey Bosa, and a few receivers due to suspension. They still have Braxton, Ezekiel, J.T. and the 12 Gauge, however, which should be enough to get by.
Blacksburg to Knoxville: 236 miles
Saturday, September 12 - Oklahoma at Tennessee: After a stop at Johnson City Brewing for a MexVan Cream Ale and a Tongue-in-Cheek White IPA, we arrive in Knoxville for an interesting cross-sectional matchup between the Sooners and Volunteers. The Sooners won this game rather handily last season, but Tennessee has a ton of young talent, let by sophomore quarterback Josh Dobbs. They might even have enough talent to challenge for the title in the weaker SEC East. This is also a chance to take in two other great traditions, the Vol Navy and seeing the team run through the T.
Knoxville to Louisville: 246 miles
Thursday, September 17 - Clemson at Louisville: Have I mentioned yet how much easier it is to drive from game to game in this part of the country? No? We roll into the 'Ville for our second Thursday night game of the season, and an ACC I have no idea which Division showdown between the Cardinals and Tigers. First, we hit up Bluegrass Brewing Company for some Raspberry Meade and Altbier Amber Ale. Once that's done, it's time to head to the big pizza box. Louisville will be better than predicted this year, due largely to the fact that Bobby Petrino will accept pretty much any transfer who isn't an ISIS member. Clemson has been decimated by injuries and attrition, but will be in nearly every game as long as Deshaun Watson stays healthy.
Louisville to Notre Dame: 259 miles
Saturday, September 19 - Georgia Tech at Notre Dame: After a visit to the Circle City and a pint or two of Wee Mac Scottish Ale and Osiris Pale Ale (seriously, check out the can designs, they're incredible) at Sun King Brewing, we head north. Fun fact: Notre Dame is installing its first jumbotron this season. Another fun fact: they will run exactly zero advertisements on it. I guess you can do that when your endowment is hovering around eleventy billion dollars. Both of these teams are going to be quite good in 2015, so this is an intriguing matchup. The Irish are well-versed in Paul Johnson's offense since they face Navy every season. That gives them the edge here.
Notre Dame to Arlington: 1050 miles
Saturday, September 26 - Texas A&M vs. Arkansas: Our first long drive of the season is aided by a visit to 3 Floyds Brewing, which is among the favorites of beer nerds. After wanting to try everything, we settle on a Moloko milk stout and a Gumballhead American Wheat. This place has some of the best beer names anywhere. It's too bad that we won't be there for Dark Lord day, but oh well. Moving along, we made a decided effort to avoid neutral site games in amusement park stadia on this trip, but this is the best game on the weekend's slate. This is an excellent matchup because of the style contrast. It's Kevin Sumlin's fast-paced Air Raid derivative against Bret Bielema's "put eight offensive linemen in there and bludgeon the opponent's soul" rushing attack. A&M better make the most of its possessions, because it'll get far fewer in this game than normal.
Arlington to Madison: 1041 miles
Saturday, October 3 - Iowa at Wisconsin: We're staring down our second straight lengthy drive, but we've always wanted to visit Camp Randall, and this was a good chance to do it. We've also wanted to try New Glarus Brewing's Spotted Cow, which we'll also be able to do. Their Road Slush Stout also looks quite appealing. The weather should be perfect for this one as well. The football? A Kirk Ferentz-coached team will be on the field, so the football will be the opposite of the setting. Well, unless you're into run-run-overthrow-punt offenses. If you are, Iowa is the team for you! Wisconsin is the favorite to win the Big Ten West, but that's mostly because the competition is a giant heap of trash.
Madison to Manhattan, KS: 603 miles
Saturday, October 10 - TCU at Kansas State: TCU is a bona fide national title contender. Kansas State...isn't. Our decided aversion to purple won't stop us from invading the Little Apple after quenching our thirst at Boulevard Brewing in Kansas City. Dark Truth Stout and The Sixth Glass Belgian Strong Ale are sure hit the spot. TCU's new offense, led by former receiver-turned Heisman-contending quarterback Trevone Boykin, should hum along this season. And even though KSU isn't predicted to do much in 2015, Bill Snyder often finds a way to make life miserable on a team with a significant talent edge. This game could very well come down to the last possession.
And there you have it. We've finished the first segment of our football road trip. Part two promises to be even better, as the heart of the conference season kicks into gear.