This is not for amateurs. This is not for casual fans. This is for diehards who eat, sleep and bleed college football. The Ultimate College Football Road Trip is 44 games over 106 days and nearly 30,000 miles.
Last year, our trip began in Fort Collins, Colo., where Colorado State opened their new on-campus stadium against Oregon State. This year, our trip begins in Las Cruces, N.M., where New Mexico State hosts Wyoming on Saturday, Aug. 25. It's the start of a 106-day voyage that features 44 games for 58 different teams in 38 different cities. Not including the mileage to Las Cruces, we will travel 29,736 miles — plus detours — and driving time will exceed 400 hours.
For those scoring at home, that's roughly 280 miles per day. Driving. On average.
This is not for amateurs.
There are only two rules: Driving is required for all games, as is arrival prior to kickoff. It's not cool to trim six hours by driving 100 miles per hour; it's idiotic.
Some sacrifices were made in order to be off the road for as long as possible on Saturdays. The purpose of the road trip to is to enjoy college football, not miss college football. Sacrificing a Thursday or Friday night game — or opting for one Saturday game when two is feasible — is the often the smart play so you can watch games on TV.
Warning to Pac-12 fans: You won't be thrilled. I tried desperately to work more Pac-12 games into the trip but the distance between schools, among other factors, made it difficult. On a few occasions (e.g. USC at Utah in Week 8), it was downright painful passing on games.
Some notes on most teams, cities, conference and more (not including the two scheduled conference championships in Week 14):
We'll hit five cities twice: Arlington, Texas, Fort Worth, Texas, Morgantown, W.V., Tallahassee, Fla., and … wait for it … Jonesboro, Ark.
Any Arkansas State folks have recommendations for a good taco joint near campus?
Of the 58 different teams we'll see, TCU makes the most appearances (four), followed by Ohio State (three) and FAU (three). Eighteen other teams make two appearances apiece.
All 10 conference (plus Independents) are represented, led by the ACC (14), SEC (11) and Big 12 (10). The rest: Big Ten (nine), Conference USA (nine), MAC (eight), Sun Belt (seven), American (five), Mountain West (five), Independent (four), Pac-12 (two).
Pac-12 fans, I warned you…it's bad.
Lastly, most kickoff times have yet to be announced, therefore it's possible that more games could be added or other minor changes can be made.
Here's an interactive map of all 44 stops. Scroll down for a week-by-week breakdown of The Ultimate College Football Road Trip:
(Think you can create a better road trip? Map it out and hit me up on Twitter)
We considered opening the season in Fort Collins again. Great state, great city, great stadium, decent matchup with the Rams hosting Hawai'i.
However, it's not often the schedule allows for trips to isolated programs, so the pick is Las Cruces for Wyoming at New Mexico State. Leave early, stay in nearby Alamogordo for a couple nights and visit the White Sands National Monument (and Caliche's Frozen Custard) before arriving in Las Cruces.
|Saturday, Aug. 25||Wyoming at New Mexico State||Las Cruces, N.M.||N/A|
Five games in five days, punctuated by two neutral-site matchups that could prove huge in the playoff picture. As much as I despise neutral-site games, Washington-Auburn and Miami-LSU are can't-miss matchups.
We're not visiting Clemson on the road trip, so we'll make a quick stop at Death Valley for tailgating (Furman at Clemson, 12:20 p.m. ET) on the way from Duke to Atlanta. Watching the first half might be an option.
|Thursday, Aug. 30||Northwestern at Purdue||West Lafayette, Ind.||1,439|
|Friday, Aug. 31||Army at Duke||Durham, N.C.||672|
|Saturday, Sept. 1||Washington vs. Auburn||Atlanta, Ga.||384|
|Sunday, Sept. 2||Miami (FL) vs. LSU||Arlington, Texas||803|
|Monday, Sept. 3||Virginia Tech at Florida State||Tallahassee, Fla.||887|
Monitor your alcohol intake in Houston, because you're leaving immediately after the Arizona-Houston game (or early if it's a crap game) to make the quick drive to College Station for Clemson-Texas A&M.
|Friday, Sept. 7||TCU at SMU||Dallas, Texas||867|
|Saturday, Sept. 8||Arizona at Houston||Houston, Texas||239|
|Saturday, Sept. 8||Clemson at Texas A&M||College Station, Texas||95|
We could've stayed in Texas and waited for Ohio State-TCU at A&T Stadium — and maybe caught Duke at Baylor (kickoff at 2:30 p.m. CT, Ohio State-TCU kickoff is 7 p.m. CT). Instead, we're going back east for an under-the-radar ACC game.
|Thursday, Sept. 13||Boston College at Wake Forest||Winston-Salem, N.C.||1,143|
|Friday, Sept. 14||Georgia State at Memphis||Memphis, Tenn.||647|
|Saturday, Sept. 15||Ohio State vs. TCU||Arlington, Texas||473|
Another 1,100-mile trip awaits for the second straight week. And it's more than worth the trip to see one of the best Group of Five games all season.
Either leave after the game or wake up early for the drive to Tuscaloosa so you don't miss — depending on kickoff times — Stanford-Oregon, Wisconsin-Iowa, Nebraska-Michigan, TCU-Texas and other TV games.
|Friday, Sept. 21||FAU at UCF||Orlando, Fla.||1,142|
|Saturday, Sept. 22||Texas A&M at Alabama||Tuscaloosa, Ala.||554|
Ohio State makes their second appearance in three weeks, and while the 1,251-mile drive from Miami to State College is meaty, we're not missing Ohio State-Penn State.
You could add Memphis at Tulane on Friday night but you'd miss all the Saturday games while driving 18 hours overnight.
|Thursday, Sept. 27||North Carolina at Miami (FL)||Miami Gardens, Fla.||766|
|Saturday, Sept. 29||Ohio State at Penn State||State College, Pa.||1,251|
This is the lightest driving week of the trip and the first Conference USA home game.
Take your time driving from State College to Huntington (and Huntington to Blacksburg); the area will be beautiful in early October. Check out the abandoned Lake Shawnee Amusement Park on the way to Blacksburg.
|Friday, Oct. 5||Middle Tennessee at Marshall||Huntington, W.V.||385|
|Saturday, Oct. 6||Notre Dame at Virginia Tech||Blacksburg, Va.||192|
After a couple stop-over nights in Nashville, we have a massive Fun Belt game in Jonesboro, where Arkansas State hosts App State on Tuesday.
The real gem of the week is one of the biggest games of the entire season: Wisconsin and Michigan.
|Tuesday, Oct. 9||App State at Arkansas State||Jonesboro, Ark.||696|
|Thursday, Oct. 11||Texas Tech at TCU||Fort Worth, Texas||479|
|Saturday, Oct. 13||Wisconsin at Michigan||Ann Arbor, Mich.||1,205|
Jonesboro and Fort Worth for a second straight week. That was unexpected, but we're not missing Oklahoma's visit to TCU in what could be a preview of the Big 12 Championship. Might as stop at Arkansas State on the way to watch Justice Hansen again (and Georgia State's Penny Hart).
As noted, it's agonizing to miss a game like USC-Utah in a rocking Rice-Eccles Stadium. We could've done Stanford-Arizona State on Thursday, Air Force-UNLV on Friday and USC-Utah on Saturday, but it's impossible to pass up OU-TCU.
|Thursday, Oct. 18||Georgia State at Arkansas State||Jonesboro, Ark.||718|
|Saturday, Oct. 20||Oklahoma at TCU||Fort Worth, Texas||478|
It sucks that Troy didn't get a home game on the road trip, but at least we'll see the Trojans at South Alabama in a busy Week 9.
It's a longer drive to Morgantown for Baylor-West Virginia than it is to Blacksburg for Georgia Tech-Virginia Tech but I expect the former to be a more entertaining game and worth the long trip to Boca Raton for Louisiana Tech-FAU the next day.
The four-game week closes with a beauty in Tallahassee.
|Tuesday, Oct. 23||Troy at South Alabama||Mobile, Ala.||626|
|Thursday, Oct. 25||Baylor at West Virginia||Morgantown, W.V.||929|
|Friday, Oct. 26||Louisiana Tech at FAU||Boca Raton, Fla.||1,065|
|Saturday, Oct. 27||Clemson at Florida State||Tallahassee, Fla.||441|
Three MACtion games in three games. And five total games in five days. It's our first five-game week since Week 1.
Murfreesboro is on the way from Kalamazoo to Baton Rouge, so we'll stop to see Brent Stockstill and the Blue Raiders host WKU.
|Tuesday, Oct. 30||Miami (OH) at Buffalo||Buffalo, N.Y.||1,165|
|Wednesday, Oct. 31||Ball State at Toledo||Toledo, Ohio||303|
|Thursday, Nov. 1||Ohio at Western Michigan||Kalamazoo, Mich.||152|
|Friday, Nov. 2||Western Kentucky at Middle Tennessee||Murfreesboro, Tenn.||558|
|Saturday, Nov. 3||Alabama at LSU||Baton Rouge, La.||592|
And then it's back to the MAC to see both Miami (OH) and Ohio for the second times in as many weeks. This game could decide the West title.
Enjoy the Wake Forest-NC State game (and hit up Sosta Cafe in Raleigh) but get to Athens, Ga., as quickly as possible. That city will be on fire all weekend.
It hurts to skip Fresno State-Boise State on Friday night, but that trip is not feasible.
|Wednesday, Nov. 7||Ohio at Miami (OH)||Oxford, Ohio||900|
|Thursday, Nov. 8||Wake Forest at NC State||Raleigh, N.C.||560|
|Saturday, Nov. 10||Auburn at Georgia||Athens, Ga.||356|
Conference USA is back with its eighth and ninth teams, including the third appearance for Lane Kiffin and FAU. Both the Owls and North Texas should be in contention for a division title. Expect a shootout in Denton.
After a stop in Albuquerque, it's 912 miles to one of my favorite games of the season: San Diego State and Fresno State.
|Thursday, Nov. 15||FAU at North Texas||Denton, Texas||890|
|Friday, Nov. 16||Boise State at New Mexico||Albuquerque, N.M.||611|
|Saturday, Nov. 17||San Diego State at Fresno State||Fresno, Calif.||912|
Fresno to Oxford, Miss., is the longest drive of the season: 2,001 miles. Who knows where Mississippi State and Ole Miss will be in Week 13, but it's The Grove at the Egg Bowl. We're not missing that.
Oklahoma's visit to West Virginia could be for a spot in the Big 12 Championship, as could The Game in Columbus on Saturday.
|Thursday, Nov. 22||Mississippi State at Ole Miss||Oxford, Miss.||2,001|
|Friday, Nov. 23||Oklahoma at West Virginia||Morgantown, W.V.||803|
|Saturday, Nov. 24||Michigan at Ohio State||Columbus, Ohio||205|
The tentative plan is to see the Big Ten Championship. As of now, it might be the best chance to see two teams competing for a playoff spot. Audibles are an option if another title game is more delectable.
|Friday, Nov. 30||MAC Championship||Detroit, Mich.||204|
|Saturday, Dec. 1||Big Ten Championship||Indianapolis, Ind.||305|
The 119th Army-Navy Game. Done.
|Saturday, Dec. 8|