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College Football’s Ultimate Road Trip for 2013: August-September

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Have you ever wondered how many people are sitting on a bleacher, or in a luxury box on a Saturday during football season?

The passion of fans from Division III programs like Mount Union all the way to Ohio State is simply amazing. For many of these fans they respect what their counterparts do around the nation.

Plan all week, put together a menu for the tailgate and then cheer relentlessly for three to four hours hoping the home team wins.

But I believe many of these same fans would love nothing more than to plan the perfect college football road trip that would take them around the country seeing the best games.

I have one simple, self-imposed rule: You can’t travel to the same stadium more than once. So do you want to see Ole Miss at Alabama or wait for LSU to travel to Tuscaloosa?

You have to make a choice.

Every Wednesday for the next few weeks I will give you a road map of the best games to see this season. Here are my suggestions for the first month of the 2013 season.

Week 1

Aug. 29: North Carolina at South Carolina

Is it just me or does South Carolina have a contract with ESPN that says it gets to open the season every year with a Thursday night game?

The Gamecocks, which may have their best team since Steve Spurrier arrived in Columbia, kicks things off with a potentially strong North Carolina. If Brynn Renner can get the offense going the Tar Heals could pull off one of the biggest upsets on the first night of the season.

South Carolina has Jadeveon Clowney and I’d love to see him play in person.

I’d also like to do a little pre-game partying with the folks at the Cockaboose Railroad.

Aug. 30: Texas Tech at SMU

It would take some meticulous travel arrangements, but I’m sure we can get from Columbia, S.C., to Dallas in time for the Friday night game.

Neither SMU nor Texas Tech is expected to compete for a conference championship in 2012, but there are two good reasons to make this trek.

Getting to see former Texas quarterback Garrett Gilbert lead the Mustangs in June Jones’ offense has great potential. Tech quarterback Michael Brewer has the potential to be a special talent, and it will be interesting to see what impact first-year coach Kliff Kingsbury has on his signal caller.

Aug. 31: Georgia at Clemson

Here’s a chance to watch an elimination game the first week of the season. Both Georgia and Clemson have national title aspirations and whoever loses this game will be fighting an uphill battle the rest of the season.

It’s also a chance to see two of the games best quarterbacks — Aaron Murray and Tajh Boyd — go at it in the other Death Valley. There will also be a ton of other great athletes on the field, including Clemson’s Sammy Watkins and Georgia’s Todd Gurley.

With the new playoff system on the horizon, let’s hope we get more of these early match ups.

Sept. 1: Ohio at Louisville

Louisville is the clear-cut favorite to win the inaugural season of the American Athletic Conference and the Cardinals have an outside shot of playing for a national championship.

It’s tough to pass up an early chance to see another Heisman candidate in Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. While he should be fine against a young Ohio defense, it will also be interesting to see if the Cardinals can put together a running game.

Let’s not forget that the Bobcats have a solid dual-threat guy in Tyler Tettleton. He led Ohio to a nice win at Penn State to start the 2012 season. He’d love nothing more to add a win over Louisville to his resume.

bennett-isaacSept. 2: Florida State at Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh’s football program has been trending downward for the past three seasons and the Panthers’ first year in the ACC could be another tough campaign.

I guess you can say the ACC rewarded Pitt with a season-opener at Heinz Field against one of the conference’s best in Florida State.

Pitt’s offense is going to struggle to score, but it’s still worth going to see the start of a new era.

Week 2

Sept. 6: Wake Forest at Boston College

It’s a crappy ACC game, but let’s go to Boston before the weather gets too cold. It’s also the start of the Stave Addazio era in Chestnut Hill, so let’s see what the former Temple coach does with the mess left behind by Frank Spaziani.

Offensively, BC will have three-year starter Chase Rettig at quarterback and a solid running game led by Andre Williams.

Wake Forest will counter with Tanner Price, who coach Jim Grobe hopes will be able to use more of Price’s overall athletic ability this season by going back to an option offense.

Sept. 7: Notre Dame at Michigan

Other good options include Florida at Miami and South Carolina at Georgia, so this one is a tough week.

But this will be the final meeting in Ann Arbor until at least 2020 as these two rivals are not scheduled to play after 2014.

With no Everett Golson it looks like it will be the Tommy Rees show — again.

It goes without saying, but the Wolverines will provide a warm welcome for the Irish as Brady Hoke has no hard feelings about the end of the series.

Week 3

Sept. 13: Air Force at Boise State

It wouldn’t be a college football ultimate roadtrip without a trekking out west to see the blue turf.

Air Force is one of the few teams that could challenge Boise State for the Mountain West crown, but it’s never easy to take down the Broncos at home.

Should be interesting to see how much Joe Southwick has matured as enters a second season as the starter at quarterback.

The Falcons are coming off a disappointing 6-7 season, so it will be interesting to see what Troy Calhoun does to whip this team into shape.

manziel-amSept. 14: Alabama at Texas A&M

Welcome to the SEC’s newest (and possibly most competitive) rivalry.

The Aggies handed Alabama its lone loss of 2012 and that’s about all Nick Saban needs to motivate his group.

With the talent A&M returns, the rowdy 12th Man crowd and everything that is riding on this game, we could be witnessing the best game of the season.

Week 4

Sept. 19: Clemson at North Carolina State

Never thought I’d care to see Clemson play twice in a season, much less twice in a month, but this Tiger team is talented and taking on N.C. State at Carter-Finley Stadium is never an easy task.

We know what we get with Clemson, but the Wolfpack are in transition with first-year coach Dave Doeren, who guided Northern Illinois to the Orange Bowl last season.

It’s still unclear how the offense will score this season, but State’s defense is solid. If the unit isn’t on the field all night then it could keep this game close and make it worth making the visit.

Sept. 21: Kansas State at Texas

No one is expecting Kansas State to be the Big 12 champs again, but this is the perfect game to find out if Mack Brown is finally turning things around in Austin.

The Longhorns hope to speed up the offensive attack this season and OC Major Applewhite plans to do it with a balanced plan. He has the running game in place with Johnathan Gray, but does anyone really believe David Ash or Case McCoy can lead this team on offense?

The Wildcats still have Tyler Lockett at wide receiver, but they don’t have their inspirational leader Collin Klein. The defense also lost eight players, so this K-State team is rebuilding.

Even if the game is weak, we’ll still have a blast hanging out in Austin.

Week 5

thomas-logan1Sept. 26: Virginia Tech at Georgia Tech

There’s always something fun on Thursday night’s in Atlanta when Georgia Tech is playing.

I don’t expect anything less when the Hokies come to town.

Neither of these programs are considered ACC frontrunners this year, but never count out either. This game will give one of them a shot at taking down Miami or North Carolina for the Coastal Division.

Sept. 28: LSU at Georgia

The Bulldogs have a brutal September so don’t be surprised if Mark Richt’s team enters this key SEC game at 1-2. LSU will probably be 4-0.

It doesn’t really matter as both are talented and this should be a tough, hard-hitting contest.

And everyone should see a game between the hedges at least once.

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