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O/NSO: Ranking the 2017 road trips edition

By Greg Katz – WeAreSC.com

The Obvious: The 2017 USC Trojans will have five road games this season, and while cardinal and gold fans have been distracted by recent Coliseum renovation and 2019 seat relocation information, now is the time to make plans for any or all 2017 Trojans road games, which will take the faithful to Cal, Washington State, Notre Dame, Arizona State, and Colorado.

The Not So Obvious: If you’re thinking it’s too early to make plans for transportation, accommodations, and sightseeing for the upcoming season, think again. As a public service for those that are either committed or thinking of taking in one or all of these fun-filled excursions, the O/NSO ranks the road trips from worst to first. So, let the planning begin! One note of interest, only the Notre Dame game kickoff time in South Bend has been announced (7:30 p.m. ET).

Road Trip Ranking: 5 – Colorado

The Obvious: The Trojans last road trip of the season will be at defending Pac-12 South Division champs, the Colorado Buffaloes, in Boulder on Nov. 11 at Folsom Stadium.

The Not So Obvious: At first glance, a trip to Denver and the 45-minute drive from the Mile High City to Boulder sounds fun and refreshing; however, watching a game at Colorado in November could provide blizzard conditions or just plain bone-chattering cold. Chances are the weather will be a factor, and it figures this game will be played at night, which means burr, burr, burr.

Airport access to the University of Colorado: From Denver International Airport, take the freeway (Approximately 55 minutes; 44.7 miles). The drive is relatively uneventful.

Stadium: Folsom Field
Seating Chart:

Ticket info: http://www.cubuffs.com/sports/2016/6/26/football-tickets.aspx

Projected Boulder Weather Forecast: The average Boulder weather in November is a high of 54 and a low of 29.

Comment: This game could be for the Pac-12 South Division title, and that “might” distract from the expected cold weather, especially if the game is played in the evening. Don’t forget to bring your long underwear.

Road Trip Ranking: 4 – Washington State

The Obvious: The Trojans travel to The Great Northwest and eastern Washington for a Sept. 29, Friday night tussle with the Washington State Cougars in Pullman.

The Not So Obvious: Unlike many others, the O/NSO likes making the trek to Washington State, although a Friday night game isn’t exactly ideal. If you’re staying in Spokane, it’s about an hour and a half drive to the campus of the Cougars and Martin Stadium, but it’s a relaxing commute and a very pretty excursion with quaint little wheat fields, farm animals, and the tranquil feeling of middle America. The Trojans haven’t played in The Great Palouse in a while (2014), so if you like beautiful scenery, this could be your nirvana. Playing in late September is really a nice time to go on this journey, and the weather should be comfortable…even by Pullman standards. There is nothing like going through the little town of Colfax and its famous cigar store Indian.

Airport access to Washington State: You have two options. You can fly into Spokane and drive to Pullman or you can fly into western Idaho and make a lesser drive. The drive from Spokane is around two hours. The Trojans usually stay across the Washington State line in Idaho. If you don’t want to make the long but pretty drive from Spokane, fly into Idaho and stay on the state border.

Stadium: Martin Stadium
Seating Chart:

Ticket info: http://ev9.evenue.net/cgi-bin/ncommerce3/SEGetGroupList?groupCode=F&linkID=washst&shopperContext=&caller=&appCode=&_template=chocolate  

Projected Pullman Weather Forecast: The average weather for Pullman in the month of September is a high of 74 and a low of 44.

Comment: It’s been a couple of seasons since the Men of Troy have made this junket. Washington State’s football program is now a formidable foe under head coach Mike Leach, and a win in the Palouse Country should not be considered a given. The only real drawback is that the game is on a Friday night, which means even in September it could get chilly.

Road Trip Ranking: 3 – Arizona State

The Obvious: On Oct. 28, the Men of Troy will make their way to Tempe, Arizona for a clash with the Arizona State Sun Devils.

The Not So Obvious: The Trojans have taken some grief about reducing Coliseum capacity from 92,000 to 77,500, but the Sun Devils have done some seating reduction themselves. For those USC fans that remember an intimidating Sun Devil Stadium (64,248), it has been significantly reduced in size (56,232). One thing for sure, ASU is a good road trip because Tempe has some impressive night life on celebrated Mill Avenue, and there are also plenty of establishments in the Phoenix area to have a swinging Friday night or Saturday pregame experience.

Airport access to Sun Devil Stadium: It’s a relatively short drive from Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix to Sun Devil Stadium. It should take you about 25 minutes by car if you are staying near the airport in the Phoenix area.

Stadium: Sun Devil Stadium
Seating Chart:

Ticket info: http://www.thesundevils.com/sports/2013/4/17/208252611.aspx  

Projected Tempe Weather Forecast: In the month of Oct., the average weather is a high of 89 and a low of 56.

Comment: This is a good, solid road trip. There are things to do and there are plenty of entertainment and dining opportunities. A lot, however, will depend on the time of the kickoff. When the game is played at night, it can be pleasant once the sun goes down.

Road Trip Ranking: 2 – Cal

The Obvious: After three straight home games to open the season, the Trojans open their first road outing by playing the Cal Bears on Sept. 23 at Memorial Stadium in Berkeley.

The Not So Obvious: If this was not the year of The Notre Dame Weekender, USC at Cal – better known as the Bay Area Weekender – would probably be at the top road trip options.

Airport access to Memorial Stadium: If you’re looking for a long weekend or a quick trip to Berkeley, we suggest you fly into Oakland, which is a mild distance from Berkeley. Traffic in and out of Memorial Stadium can be a major hassle as are the parking options. The O/NSO suggests considering taking the BART train to the game. Memorial Stadium is on a hill overlooking both the University and the San Francisco Bay, a beautiful sight.

Stadium: Memorial Stadium
Seating Chart:

Ticket info: Use the 3-D map below and click on a section to see special area and seats. http://www.seats3d.com/ncaa/university_california_berkeley/football/?#/level_1/my_account/  

Projected The projected Berkeley Weather Forecast: The September weather in Berkeley is normally a high of 73 and low of 53.

Comment: It’s an easy flight from SoCal and plenty of accommodation options, both inside and outside of downtown San Francisco, and who can say they don’t enjoy the exhilarating Friday night Trojans Pep Rally in Union Square?

Road Trip Ranking: 1- Notre Dame

The Obvious: In the third road game of the season and the eighth game overall, the Trojans travel back to the Midwest for the nation’s most treasured intersectional rivalry – Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana on Oct 21.

The Not So Obvious: This is the mother of all road games – The Notre Dame Weekender. Most Trojans stay in Chicago and try to arrive on Thursday in time for Friday’s noontime pep rally at the Navy Pier on Lake Michigan. Yes, Dr. Bartner, the Trojans Marching Band, The Song Girls, and massive turnout of Trojans fans will all be there. Literally upwards of 10,000 Trojans make the trip, and you can see many of them either at the rally or walking the famous Miracle Mile in downtown Chicago. The restaurants – sports hangouts like Harry Carey’s or Ditka’s – are great. Some Trojans fans prefer to stay just a night in Chicago and spend Friday and Saturday night in South Bend or in the general vicinity. The Notre Dame Friday night pep rally in anticipation of the hated Trojans is a gas. FYI, the drive from Chicago to South Bend is about an hour and a half, and it’s really a relaxing ride once you leave the outskirts of the Windy City. BTW, Chicago is on Central Time, which means it’s an hour behind South Bend time.  

Airport access to Notre Dame Stadium: If you’re driving from O’Hare Airport in the north side of Chicago, it will take two hours if the traffic is smooth (don’t count on it). It’s the O/NSO view that if you can fly into Midway Airport in the south side of Chicago, it eliminates a lot of traffic, especially if you’re staying in the general South Bend area.  

Stadium: Notre Dame Stadium
Seating Chart:
Click on seating section to see specific locations.

Ticket info: http://www.und.com/tickets/lottery-questions-13.html

Projected South Bend Weather Forecast: The South Bend weather in October is normally a high of 62 and a low of 43.

Comment: Simply put, this is the best of the best of roads trips. It’s everything you could want, including staying in Chicago, which is a great city for fun. If you can get a ticket to the game, you have to go!

The Obvious: And finally, if you haven’t gone to a USC Trojans away game or haven’t gone to a specific road game, now is the time to do your reservations.

The Not So Obvious: Keep in mind that if the Trojans win and win and are ranked near or at the top, away game tickets will be scarce as will hotels and plane flights. You can take that to the bank. Don’t be caught looking from the outside in.

Greg Katz
Greg Katz

Now entering his 59th season of either writing, broadcasting, or just plain watching USC football, WeAreSC columnist Greg Katz began his affiliation with the website back in 2001, introducing his well-received O/NSO (The Obvious/The Not So Obvious) column and later adding his respected IMHO Sunday opinion and tidbits column. Greg, a former ESPN.com college football columnist covering USC, is also a member of the Football Writer's Association of America. He is also known in Southern California as a professional public address announcer, having called the the 1996 Rose Bowl Game between USC and Northwestern. Greg also holds a master's degree in athletic administration and was a former varsity high school coach of 27 years.

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