2019 Ultimate Road Trip – By Seth Vander Tuig

As a lifelong college football fan, the idea of attending as many “random” games as possible is nothing new. Although a friend (Mike) and I had always talked about attending games together, it wasn’t until 2013 when we officially launched ‘Mission: College Football,’ the journey to see every (FBS) College Football team in the country.  As of the end of the 2018 season, we’d officially checked off 72 teams from that list.  As the self-proclaimed stat nerd of our duo, compiling stats and planning out dream road trips is nothing new.  The 163 games (and 45,114 miles) I’ve attended in my life have taken Mike and I on a journey through some of the most historic venues in the country while experiencing some of the best that college football has to offer.

Yet, each year, we’re only able to check off a few new teams and take a few weekends away from our full-time jobs, our wives, kids, and other “normal” obligations in life.  But even without the ability to take an entire football season away from the normal life, it doesn’t stop the daydreams of a “what if” scenario.  Andrew Doughty of HERO Sports has put together the Ultimate College Football Road Trip for the past several years and when he sent an invite to put together a dream schedule of my own and join him on his High Motor Podcast, the die-hard college football fan (obviously) jumped at the opportunity.

His rules were simple – Drive to every game, and make sure we arrive by kickoff.  So with that, I naturally added another layer of challenges for myself – see as many of the top teams as possible and never visit the same place twice.

After countless hours of planning (a road trip I will never actually do), the schedule is complete. The journey will take us (Mike and I) to 49 games over 108 days, total 25,215 miles, and take roughly 384 hours and 21 minutes of drive time (not including stops, detours, or waiting to get into stadium parking lots).  I also allowed an entire day in Atlanta to visit the College Football Hall of Fame. Each day is an average of 233.5 miles of driving (with 514.6 miles between each game).

The journey would cost a lot in hotels, gas, rental car, a few oil changes, and whatever else pops up along the way.  It would also cost $2,632 per person in tickets (buying the cheapest “get in the stadium” ticket on StubHub).  The average ticket went for $53.70 per game.  10 games featured a ticket less than $20, led by Miami (OH) at Ohio for $6.  Only seven games had a ticket over $75, including Army/Navy at $249 and the Iron Bowl at $235.

In our added qualification of seeing the best teams, we were able to see 27 teams in Athlon’s top 30.  No disrespect to Texas, Washington or Wisconsin, we just couldn’t seem to find a way to make it happen.  In total, we have a minimum of 79 different teams (maybe more with conference championships) with only 13 teams being seen twice: Akron, Clemson, Louisiana, Miami (OH), Michigan, Mississippi State, North Carolina, Ohio, Ohio State, South Alabama (3 times), Texas A&M, UCF & Utah.

These teams represent every conference: ACC (12), SEC (10), MAC (9), Big Ten (8), Big 12 (8), Sun Belt (8), American (7), Pac 12 (7), Conference USA (3), Mountain West (3), Independents (2).

So with that, here is the Mission: College Football ultimate road trip for 2019:

Week 1:  Although it was tempting to attend the Miami and Florida game in Orlando in Week 0, I decided it would be a long enough season without this game.  In an effort to rest up for the season, I’ll watch this one from my couch before a road trip to LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo, Utah for the Holy War between Utah and BYU to start the season.  After that, it’s the only regular season “neutral site” game on the schedule with Colorado State and Colorado in Denver.  Then it’s an overnight trip to see South Alabama and Nebraska in Lincoln before a quick trip south to see the debut of Chris Klieman’s career at Kansas State against Nicholls (FCS).  We then get all day Sunday to make it to Louisville for the game against Notre Dame on Monday.

Week 2: It’s Scott Stadium in Virginia on Friday night to see FCS William & Mary at Virginia.  Then, after enough begging from Hokie fans on our Twitter page the past several years, we finally get to experience Enter Sandman at Virginia Tech - against Old Dominion, the team that knocked off the 13th ranked Hokies last fall with a backup quarterback (for their first EVER win over a Power 5 program).  After the 11am kick in Blacksburg, it’s a quick 203-mile journey to see Miami at North Carolina to conclude week 2.

Week 3: We head north in week 3 to see Kansas (you’re welcome Andrew) visit Boston College on Friday night.  Then make the 309-mile journey to the west as the defending national champion, Clemson Tigers, visit the Carrier Dome to take on Syracuse, the team that nearly beat them in Death Valley last season.

Week 4: We leave the east coast for the longest trip of the season, a 2,374-mile journey from New York to Boise, Idaho where we will see the Air Force Falcons on the blue turf at Boise State.  Ironically enough, this is the same game we ended our 2018 season with (in real life) when we saw Boise State win their first ever game at Falcon Stadium in Colorado.  After the game in Boise, we make a long 10-hour drive overnight to Stanford Stadium to see the Oregon Ducks take on the Stanford Cardinal.

Week 5:  In a complete opposite of last week’s 35-hour drive across the country, we now have 6 days to hang out in the Bay Area.  Our next game isn’t until Friday night at Cal when Arizona State visits the Bears in Memorial Stadium. The 42 miles between stadiums is the second shortest on our schedule.  After the game, we get the caffeine and make a 730-mile trip to Salt Lake City (our longest overnight drive of the season).  When we arrive, it’s Mike Leach and the Washington State Cougars visiting the Utah Utes.  We’ve heard nothing but great things about Rice-Eccles Stadium which makes this one of the most anticipated games on the schedule.

Week 6: We begin the most daunting overall week on our schedule as we make our way from Salt Lake City, Utah to Greenville, North Carolina, a 2,266-mile trip that has us questioning the rule of driving to every game.  Once we arrive, we see Temple at ECU on Thursday before an immediate 608-mile journey to Cincinnati.  We’re really excited to return to Nippert Stadium (for Chicken & Waffles!), one of the most memorable and underrated stadiums we’ve been to on our Mission: College Football journey.  It’s UCF against the Cincinnati Bearcats on Friday night before another overnight drive north to Michigan Stadium.  Our home state Iowa Hawkeyes visit Michigan in The Big House for an early kick (Noon eastern).  When the game ends, it’s an immediate 3 hour and 23-minute drive to Ohio Stadium to see Michigan State at Ohio State for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff.  We’re confident we can get out of Michigan (with 110,000 other fans), but finding parking at Ohio State is not something we’re familiar with.  We might just pull up to the stadium and let someone tow the car at this point. (Ironically enough, it would be the SECOND time we've seen Michigan and Michigan State on the same day, in different stadiums)

Week 7: After waking up Sunday and finding the impound lot that our car has been towed to is the first challenge, then we have a few days to make the 15-hour drive to Louisiana for a Wednesday night game between Appalachian State and Louisiana Lafayette at Cajun Field.  Then we make our way to Texas for the first time this season to see ULM visit Texas State in San Marcos for a Thursday night game.  Friday is a rare day off from games, our first such Friday of the season.  That gives us plenty of time to make a 400+ mile drive back to Louisiana for Saturday’s rivalry between the visiting Florida Gators and the hometown LSU Tigers.  Although kickoff time has not yet been announced, we can only hope for a night game at Tiger Stadium.

Week 8: We stay in the south for a Wednesday night game in Troy, Alabama where we see Troy take on the visiting South Alabama Jaguar. Thursday night it’s Louisiana at Arkansas State.  Friday night it’s Ohio State at Northwestern at Ryan Field.  We had originally planned for Wisconsin at Illinois, but opted to make a nine and a half hour drive to State College, Pennsylvania.  The opportunity to see Michigan at Penn State with the Whiteout at Beaver Stadium was too good to pass up.

Week 9:  The initial drive over the next few days is more than 1,500 miles as we make our way to Houston, but once we arrive, we have the next 10 or 11 days with less than 200 total miles on the agenda.  First, it’s SMU at Houston on Thursday, then Mississippi State at Texas A&M on Saturday.  That leaves us with all of Friday in College Station, Texas to rest up for Midnight Yell Practice.

Week 10:  If we haven’t gotten enough rest over the past week in Texas, we have another five days to make a 90-mile journey to Waco for the Halloween showdown between West Virginia and Baylor.   Saturday, we stay in the Big 12 for TCU at Oklahoma State at Boone Pickens Stadium.

Week 11:  It’s officially MACvember!  The MACtion fun kicks off in Kalamazoo, Michigan on Tuesday with Ball State at Western Michigan before Miami (OH) at Ohio on Wednesday.  Thursday is a drive day to Tulsa, Oklahoma, the FBS school with the smallest enrollment in the country.  The Friday night game with UCF and Tulsa at Chapman Stadium reminds us of the Memphis game we saw there two seasons ago.  Then it’s a short 128-mile drive to Norman, Oklahoma.  As a two-time Iowa State grad, I couldn’t fit a trip to Ames on the ultimate road trip, so a game between the Iowa State Cyclones and Oklahoma Sooners here is my chance to see the Cyclones, and the Sooners chance to get revenge on the Cyclone team who came to Norman and beat them two seasons ago.

Week 12:  MACtion means a trip back to Ohio where Eastern Michigan plays at Akron on Tuesday and Northern Illinois plays Toledo at the Glass Bowl on Wednesday.  Thursday, we step out of the MAC and head to Heinz Field where North Carolina visits Pitt.  Friday is Louisiana Tech at Marshall before the highlight of the week, a trip to touch Howard’s Rock and see Clemson take on Wake Forrest.

Week 13:  Of all of the weeks of this ultimate football road trip, this is the one I’m most excited about, primarily because our actual ‘Mission: College Football’ adventures are scheduled to include parts of this in real life.  For the purpose of this road trip, it’s Ohio at Bowling Green on Tuesday followed by Akron at Miami (OH) on Wednesday.  That’s when we get to real life travels.  Thursday night is NC State and Georgia Tech at the oldest stadium in college football, Bobby Dodd Stadium.  Friday is the opportunity to visit the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta. That evening, we’ll find a sports bar to watch the Border War on TV, the game between Wyoming and Colorado State that we attended last season.  Saturday morning, we’re rooting for an early kick between South Alabama and Georgia State. Then it’s a 72-mile drive to Athens for Texas A&M at Georgia between the hedges.

Week 14:  Although we haven’t been afraid of a long drive in this road trip, we’re opting to skip a trip to DeKalb, Illinois for Western Michigan and Northern Illinois on Tuesday and simply heading west for the Egg Bowl with Ole Miss at Mississippi State on Thanksgiving night. Friday afternoon, we head to War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock, Arkansas to see Missouri take on the Arkansas Razorbacks. Although it’s not the home stadium for Arkansas, it’s certainly not a neutral game.  We leave the afternoon game and head to Jordan-Hare Stadium for Saturday’s Iron Bowl between Alabama and Auburn to end the regular season.

Conference Championships:  Without knowing the teams, it’s hard to determine which championship to attend.  For the purpose of our preseason planning efforts, we chose the MAC Championship in Detroit that kicks at Noon AND the Big Ten Championship in Indianapolis that kicks at 8 p.m.  We might add more teams here, or we might opt to skip either of these for another home stadium in the Conference USA Championship game.

Army/Navy:  We kicked off our season with The Holy War in Utah, and end it with another rivalry game between Army and Navy at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.

79 Teams.  49 Games.  108 Days. 25,515 Miles.  Is it football season yet?