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O/NSO: Ranking the 2018 USC road trips edition

The Obvious: The 2018 USC Trojans will have six road games this season, which include Stanford, Texas, Arizona, Utah, Oregon State, and UCLA.

The Not So Obvious: If you’re thinking of attending one or all of these six cardinal and gold road trips, it might a good idea to begin checking airline, hotel, and ticket prices. Like deciding which ride to go on at Disneyland in the order of excitement and experience, such is also the case with this season’s roadies. As an annual spring O/NSO public service, we have ranked the road trips from a fan’s worst to first perspective.

Road Trip Ranking: 6 – UCLA

The Obvious: The Trojans last road trip of the season will “traveling” across town to play at UCLA on Nov. 17, a Saturday.

The Not So Obvious: Seriously, you call this a road trip? A venture into Pasadena? Hey, if it’s the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day, the stadium in the Arroyo Seco becomes magical. Sure, playing the Bruins is usually dramatic with all sorts of ramifications, but calling this a road trip is like calling Bartow a wedding destination.

Airport access to Rose Bowl: Seriously? Okay, if you’re an out-of-towner and want to stay relatively close to the Rose Bowl, fly into less crowded Burbank than the horrendous experience of LAX. Stay in Pasadena and enjoy some of the nice city hospitality. If you’re not staying in the general San Gabriel or San Fernando Valley area, you’d better know the freeways and the traffic flows. FYI, if you fly into Burbank, the Rose Bowl is about a 30-minute ride or less…if traffic is cooperating, but don’t count on it.

Stadium: Rose Bowl
Seating Chart:

Ticket info: (310) UCLA-WIN (825-2946)

Projected Pasadena Weather Forecast: The average Pasadena weather in November is a high of 74 and a low of 50.

Comment: This one could be for the Pac-12 South Division title, and with new Bruins head coach Chip Kelly, confidence is riding high in Westwood. Travel is not an issue for this game and buying a ticket is not overly taxing either. The experience, however, is priceless. It’s the Trojans and the Bruins…enough said.

Road Trip Ranking: 5 – Oregon State

The Obvious: The Trojans travel to The Great Northwest and play at Oregon State on Saturday, November 3.

The Not So Obvious: It’s been awhile since the Trojans have been to Reser Stadium, and Corvallis is a sweet college town. It’s a pain in the behind to get there from the freeway because of two-lane road access to the campus, so the key here to arrive early and, boy, you’d better be dressed for some cold and probably rainy weather. The Beavers are in the midst of a coaching change as former OSU quarterback Jonathan Smith is now leading his alma mater and former Trojans’ OC, former head coach at Nebraska and Oregon State, Mike Riley, has returned as Smith’s righthand man.

Airport access to Oregon State: Fly into Portland or Eugene, although the cost of flying into Portland is less expensive than flying into Eugene, home of the Oregon Ducks. Eugene is a relatively short drive (45 min.) to Corvallis while Portland can be well over an hour and a half without traffic. FYI, either way, there is one road access from the freeway into the Reser Stadium area, so plan to be there at least two hours prior to kickoff.

Stadium: Reser Stadium
Seating Chart:
https://ev12.evenue.net/evenue/linkID=oregonst/images/maps/reserStadium.png Ticket info: beavertickets.com

Projected Corvallis Weather Forecast: The average weather for Corvallis in the month of November is a high of 55 and a low of 40.

Comment: If you take the weather out of the equation, this is a fun road trip to a place that is really a college town. The campus is beautiful and the stadium doesn’t have a bad view…unless you are seated up top, which can be extremely cold if the wind is blowing. Bundle up, baby!

Road Trip Ranking: 4 – Arizona

The Obvious: The Trojans will travel to Tucson to battle the Arizona Wildcats on Sept. 29, a Saturday.

The Not So Obvious: Not to sound to offensive, but Tucson isn’t exactly a tourist destination. The campus is okay, but nothing to crow about. The stadium has done remodeling in the past, so it’s a nice place to watch a game and the UA fans really get into it. The game figures to be at night because of the oppressive heat, but if it isn’t, Lord help you sizzling in the desert heat.   

Airport access to Arizona Stadium: If you fly into Phoenix, which a lot of people do, it’s a lot cheaper than flying into Tucson. The drive from the Tucson airport to the stadium is about 25 minutes. Unfortunately, the drive from Phoenix to Tucson by car is around an hour and forty-five minutes and that’s with no traffic or road construction. Oh, did we mention the ride is quite boring?

Stadium: Arizona Stadium
Seating Chart:

Ticket info: 520-621-2287/1-800-452-CATS  

Projected Tucson Weather Forecast: In the month of September, the average weather is a high of 95 and a low of 71.

Comment: Okay, this one is a Pac-12 South Division must-win, and with new head coach Kevin Sumlin, this would be a perfect game for the Wildcats to make a statement with and about the former head coach at Texas A&M. Strange things can happen in Tucson, and this one could end up being a sink or win moment for the Trojans.

Road Trip Ranking: 3 – Utah

The Obvious: The Trojans trip to Salt Lake City for a Saturday, October 20, battle against the Utah Utes.

The Not So Obvious: A trip to Salt Lake City is always refreshing because the air is so clean and access to other activities like skiing is so appealing. It’s not unusual for Trojan fans to come to the game and then extend their “vacation” with a trip to Park City and the fun atmosphere of skiing and partying. Definitely a worthy road trip – and include a self-guided tour of Mormon Temple grounds if you have the time. Be aware that the town of Salt Lake City tends to go to sleep when the sun goes down.

Airport access to the University of Utah: You’ll fly into Salt Lake City and the University is conveniently accessible if you know your drive route. Drive time from the Salt Lake City Airport to the university and the stadium is about 20-25 minutes.

Stadium: Rice-Eccles Stadium
Seating Chart:

Ticket info: 801-581-UTIX

Projected Salt Lake City Weather Forecast: The November weather in Salt Lake City is normally a high of 66 and low of 48.

Comment: The Utes seem to give the Trojans all they can handle, especially in Salt Lake City. Just ask Sam Darnold about his experience as an inexperience quarterback. It would be safe to say that this is a major test for the Trojans, and if they have any hope of returning to the Pac-12 title game in Santa Clara, there’s no room for a downer near the Great Salt Lake.

Road Trip Ranking: 2- Stanford (The Bay Area Weekender)

The Obvious: The Trojans travel to Palo Alto play the Stanford Cardinal on Saturday, Sept. 8.

The Not So Obvious: Always a huge game at “The Farm.” Stanford lost twice to the Trojans last season – including the Pac-12 title game – and Stanford head coach David Shaw will be pulling out all the stops. And, of course, it doesn’t help the Trojans’ cause that Cardinal electrifying tailback Bryce Love elected to return for his senior season. Stanford is a beautiful campus, the stadium is excellent, and the experience between two private schools is intense. Add the Bay Area Weekender events in downtown San Francisco (think Union Square Pep Rally), the ambiance of it all, and this experience is just one step behind getting the No. 1 road trip award.

Airport access to Stanford Stadium: You’ve got two choices. Fly into San Francisco International and the drive is about 30 minutes (without severe traffic) or fly into San Jose, which is approximately 25 minutes. Pick your poison, but either way get there two hours or earlier because traffic can be a pain and parking at Stanford can be an experience.

Stadium: Stanford Stadium
Seating Chart:

Ticket info: http://gostanford.com/sports/2015/1/25/208602060.aspx  

Projected Palo Alto Weather Forecast: The Palo Alto weather in September is normally a high of 78 and a low of 54.

Comment: Annually one of the best USC road trips whether it’s the Cardinal or the Cal Golden Bears. How can you mess up a weekend trip to San Francisco? Once again, the Trojans and Stanford open Pac-12 play and a lot will be on the line early. This trip has a couple of options. If the game is at night, you can always just fly in Saturday morning into either San Fran or San Jose and return on Sunday morning. If kickoff is in the afternoon (not likely as the O/NSO is already predicting a nationally televised game at 5 p.m. PDT), you can make it a full weekend and party out by the bay.

Road Trip Ranking: 1 – Texas

The Obvious: The Trojans travel to Austin, Texas, to play the Texas Longhorns on Saturday, Sept. 15.

The Not So Obvious: The last time the Trojans played in Austin was back in 1966, a 10-6 Trojans victory. It was a time when John McKay was coaching the Men of Troy and Darrell Royal was already a legend at Texas. This 2018 trip figures to be played at night (7 p.m. CDT), and it also figures to be hot, hot, hot since September is still a wicked month in Texas for heat. The good news is that not only is the game a bigtime clash, but the nightlife in Austin with all its music venues and bars is quite a happening and well worth the trip.

Airport access from Austin-Bergstrom International Airport to Darrell K Royal Memorial Stadium: The drive time from the airport to the stadium is 19 minutes or 7.7 miles, but that’s not including gameday traffic for a stadium that holds over 100,000 fans. The stadium is not far off from the freeway exits, but you know what over 100,000 fans looks like getting into and out of the Rose Bowl or the Coliseum.

Stadium: Darrell K. Royal Texas Memorial Stadium
Seating Chart:
Ticket info:

Projected Austin Weather Forecast: The Austin weather in September is normally a high of 90 and a low of 69.

Comment: Simply put, this is the best of the best of roads trips. It’s everything you could want, including staying in a college town and state capital like Austin, which is a great city for fun and entertainment. If you can get a ticket to the game, this clash should be tops on your list of traveling options!

The Obvious: And finally, if you haven’t traveled to a Trojans away game or haven’t gone to a specific road game, make this an early holiday present for you and/or your family.

The Not So Obvious: The key to any USC road trip is planning and checking prices. Some games, like Texas, should be best executed right about now. A game at Stanford is less problematic in terms of travel and hotel availability. Whatever you do,…plan, plan, plan.

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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