One of the things that sets college football apart from every other sport is the diverse cornucopia of places, games and traditions that make up its fabric. The professional sports, football in particular, seem to want to make every place and every team the same. College football, meanwhile, has different fan bases, different pre-and-post game routines and myriad playing styles that can all be successful. That’s what makes it so great.
In that vein, Tom Fornelli over at cbssports.com, with a little inspiration from an acquaintance, put together his Bucket List of five college football games he wants to see. That acquaintance has been pining to see his beloved Syracuse Orangemen play at LSU for years. So of course a friend of his is getting married on that day because his friend is a terrible person who is choosing to get married on a Saturday in the fall. If I’m the Syracuse fan, and the guy getting married isn’t a relative, I’m going to the game.
Back to Fornelli’s list. Among his five are two that I’ve been fortunate enough to experience, an LSU game at night (the wild Auburn game in 2007 when Les Miles forgot how much time was left but somehow pulled off a last-second TD pass) and the Rose Bowl in 2003. The LSU game was much more fun. I also rolled Toomer’s Corner once, and half of the fun is trying to dodge the industrial-sized toilet paper rolls that could possibly concuss someone.
One other game that would surely be on my list is any game at Ole Miss, but I’ve been fortunate enough to take part there too. So that’s out, along with Howard’s Rock at Clemson and seeing a game between the hedges. I also checked off Notre Dame in 2003 when WSU came from ahead to lose.
Unrelated: I’ve also been to Stillwater.
So after you read mine, I’d love to hear yours. Much like Planet Fitness’ cockamamie slogan, this is a judgement-free zone. Want to see some Tuesday night MACtion? No worries! Want to see a game at Kansas? You got it! Take in Idaho’s last game as a member of FBS in the Kibbie Dome? You will not be ridiculed! (ok, you might take some heat for that one)
So without further adieu, here is my Bucket List, in no particular order, WSU Spring Game tailgate party excluded:
The Red River Shootout
For the first 99 meetings in this series, the annual Texas-Oklahoma game was known as the Red River Shootout. For the 100th edition, some suits with whom I’d like to have words renamed it the Red River Rivalry. Now it’s apparently called the Red River Showdown. Despite the dumb name changes, this is one event I plan to see before I go. The whole 50/50 Orange-to-Crimson ratio is a really cool sight on TV, and I want to see it in person. As a bonus, I plan to eat more than one bite of deep-fried butter at the Texas State Fair either before or after the game.
Air Force at Army
A very wise and funny man named Carol “Beano” Cook once said there is no setting in college football as beautiful as Michie Stadium when the leaves are changing. It’s hard to argue after seeing this:
To hell with Army-Navy at some antiseptic stadium in a city I don’t want to visit (looking at you, Philadelphia). The risk I run is that Air Force tends to play there in early November, but what the heck. I want to root for the Zoomies to beat Army, like they do every year.
Michigan vs. Ohio State
Like Mr. Fornelli said, the venue really doesn’t matter, even though the next nice thing I hear about fans in Columbus will be the first. This is the best rivalry in college football, especially now that Jim Harbaugh and Urban Meyer occupy the respective sidelines. It always seems to take place under a steel gray sky, with temperatures in the low 40s and the Big Ten title on the line. It’s also cool that the game is nearly always an early start, so you can tailgate early, watch the proceedings, tailgate afterward and still see the rest of the action around the country.
Penn State Whiteout Game
How cool is that? You know what also helps? Penn State is actually pretty good now. In 2016, this was the only regular season game in which Ohio State left the field a loser. This year, the Whiteout game is on October 21, against Michigan. Think that’ll be a cool atmosphere? One thing I find odd is that the team wears its home blue, even for the Whiteout Game.
Miami at Florida State
This one is due partly to nostalgia. When I was growing up, this was the game in college football every year. Future pros littered the field, and we got games like Wide Right and Wide Right II. Somehow legendary carpet bagger Dennis Erickson was on the right (no pun intended) side of those kicks both times. I was actually kinda sorta at this game in 2013, as I drove to Tallahassee to wave Ol’ Crimson during College Gameday. I left town long before kick, though.
Now, with Florida State perennially in the Top 10 and Miami somewhat on the upswing with Mark Richt at the helm, this game has a shot to return near the top of college football appointment viewing. Why at Florida State? I’m sure as hell not going to Miami to watch it. FSU’s atmosphere is much better.
- The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party - another game that’s had its real name stolen - but the two teams are just...blah right now.
- An October Big Ten game at Camp Randall
- Alabama at Tennessee
So there you have it. What’s on your college football bucket list?