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O/NSO: Ranking the 2019 USC Fans Road Trips

The Obvious:  We’re at the point in mid-June where Trojan fans are either finalizing or formulating plans to attend some or all of the 2019 season road trips. There will be six cardinal and gold “football vacations” this fall, and they’re not all of equal value if you take into account the visiting city, campus, stadium, and the overall experience.

The Not So Obvious:  So, what’s a Trojans fan to do if you can’t make road trip decision? Well, as a public service, the O/NSO ranks the 2019 road trips for you and provides a little insight that may help sort out this whole travel puzzle. To add some limited suspense, we’ll list the trips from worst to first rather than take the “roadies” in schedule order. And as for as the rankings, consider a “6” as a “fugetaboutit” and just watch it on TV, as to opposed a “1”, which would be the ultimate road trip nirvana. From the photo above of the USC Marching Band performing at the traditional Friday noon Navy Pier Pep Rally in downtown Chicago, you can probably guess the No. 1 USC road trip for fans.

RANKING: NO. 6

The Obvious: GAME EIGHT– AT COLORADO (Friday night)

The Not So Obvious game information:

OCT. 25: 7:00 p.m. MT
Location: Boulder

Nothing like the beauty of the city of Boulder, Colorado, and the mountains in the backdrop

Airport access to CU: By car from Denver International – 45 minutes without traffic. 
Stadium: Folsom Field – You’re close to the action, although it seems like the massive press box and suites engulf the rest of the stadium. It might remind you somewhat of the, hmmm, renovated Coliseum. A stadium highlight: There is a rush of excitement when Ralphie the Buffalo comes charging onto the field prior to kickoff.
Folsom Field capacity: 50,183
Seating Chart: http://www.cubuffs.com/fls/600/FolsomField/Map.htm
Ticket info: 800-87-BUFFS

Projected Boulder October Weather Forecast: Well, the best you can say here is that maybe you could go skiing. You’ll probably stay in Denver, but again the weather could decide just how good a time you will have. If it is cold and/or snowing, it will be a survival challenge at Folsom Stadium.

Folsom Field and the Colorado Buffaloes will host the Trojans on a Friday night game on October 25

Pros: Most folks stay in Denver because there are some nightlife options. In addition, you can go out of town and take a tour of its beer manufacturers, which means free samples! Again, if skiing is your deal (Vail and Aspen), there are some good options. Since the game is being played in mid-October, the weather could be tolerable…knock on wood.

Cons: This game got re-rated because it’s a Friday night affair, so need we say more? We also think that the Colorado campus is overrated. The school is backed up close to the mountains, but it’s not like you haven’t seen snow on mountains before.  Don’t expect a massive throng of USC fans to show up for this one, especially for a Friday night, where it could be really cold heading into the fourth quarter.  This baby can be financially costly, and attention should be paid to whether the return is as good as the investment. Although this is a Pac-12 South Division game, it doesn’t figure this game will be long remembered because who knows what the Trojans record will be after the previous seven games, and the Buffs are trying to rebuild their program one small step at a time.  

Comments: Honestly, this one doesn’t come highly recommended unless you include Aspen and/or Vail as part of your itinerary. If you’re planning on staying the weekend in Denver, it should be noted for you NFL fans that the Broncos are out of town that weekend (at Indianapolis).

RANKING: NO. 5

The Obvious: GAME THREE – AT BYU

The Not So Obvious game information:

SEPT. 14: 1:30 p.m. MT
Location: Provo, Utah

The city of Provo, Utah, is an historic little town and can have the background of those stunning snowcapped mountains

Airport access to BYU: https://byucougars.com/story/athletics/nid/directions-lavell-edwards-stadium/

Stadium: Lavelle Edwards Stadium
Lavelle Edwards Stadium capacity: 63,470
Seating Chart: https://seatgeek.com/venues/lavell-edwards-stadium/seating-chart
Ticket info: 801-422-2981 (Individual games go on sale to the public Aug. 7).

Projected Provo September Weather Forecast: Average mid-September weather is a high of 82 and a low of 51 degrees. Remember, this will be a true early afternoon kickoff (1:30 p.m. MT).

Lavelle Edwards Stadium, named after BYU’s legendary football coach, entertains the Trojans on September 14

Pros: Because the kickoff was announced as a day game, this roadie got moved from No. 6 to No. 5. If you like a wholesome environment, then Provo is for you. In fact, it’s all pretty much a clean-cut environment. However, it you want a little bit more action – if skiing isn’t your thing – you have the option of staying in Salt Lake City, which isn’t exactly the Las Vegas Strip. If you’ve come in the past to Salt Lake City for a game at Utah, you know the drill, which is a major positive.  

Cons: You normally fly into Salt Lake City and make the 45-minute drive south to Provo…if you want to stay close to Lavelle Edwards Stadium. The night action in Provo doesn’t zeal for nightlife. However, with a Saturday 1:30 p.m. kickoff, you’ll be getting up fairly early to enjoy a BYU tailgate experience.

Comments: The Trojans have played at BYU just once before (2004), so you can bet the locals in Provo will see this as another once in a lifetime opportunity. FYI, prior to hosting the Trojans, BYU will play at Tennessee (Sept. 7), and you should know that BYU, like Notre Dame, does not play in a conference. We are told that on game day, BYU can tailgate with the best of them, but we are also told to come early to get a decent tailgate location.

RANKING: NO. 4

The Obvious: GAME TEN – AT ARIZONA STATE

The Not So Obvious game information:

Nov. 9: Kickoff time TBD
Location: Tempe

Tempe, Arizona, a college community next to Phoenix, will welcome Trojan fans for the ASU game on Nov. 9

Airport access to ASU: From Sky Harbor airport by car – 20-25 minutes
Stadium: Sun Devils Stadium – Not a bad seat in the house although the seats can be uncomfortable day or night and in the day those seats can get mighty hot, hot, hot.
Sun Devils Stadium capacity: 65,870
Seating Chart: http://phoenix.about.com/library/blseatingsundevil.htm
Ticket info: 480-727-0000

Projected Tempe November Weather Forecast: The average temperatures for a November game in the Phoenix area is a high of 78 and a low of 55 degrees.

Sun Devils Stadium can be a comfortable venue to watch the Trojans and ASU, especially if the game is played at night and in early November.

Pros: It’s a short airplane trip from any Southland airport, and Tempe and Phoenix have a lot to offer. There are some real options at night in Tempe, especially on Mill Street where the night before and on game day brings the college football crowd. There are also plenty of dining options and hangouts. Plus, being played in November, it figures that the game will be comfortable either during the day and night.

Cons: The seats in Sun Devils Stadium leave a lot to be desired and again, so weather will have a say in your comfort zone. If you sit high in the stadium, the desert wind can become quite uncomfortable and once the sun goes down, it can get quite chilly. Keep your fingers crossed on what time is kickoff. Unfortunately, the Arizona Cardinals of the NFL are out of town, so make note of that when making your travel itinerary if you thought about watching the Cards.

Comment: The overall trip is affordable, and Tempe is a fine college town. Friday night rocks on Mill Avenue and then again on game day. However, the overall experience really depends on the heat or cold at kickoff time.  

RANKING: NO. 3  

The Obvious: GAME FIVE – AT WASHINGTON

The Not So Obvious game information:

SEPT. 28: Kickoff time TBD
Location: Seattle, Washington

There is nothing more iconic for the city of Seattle than its Space Needle, which provides a great view from the top of the city and the Puget Sound.

Airport access to SeaTac Airport: SeaTac to Husky Stadium is around 25 minutes (17.4 miles) if the traffic is light. Take into account heavy game day traffic.
Stadium: Husky Stadium
Husky Stadium capacity: 70,138
Seating Chart: http://sidearm.sites.s3.amazonaws.com/washington.sidearmsports.com/documents/2016/6/14/4141906.pdf?id=2123http://www.wsucougars.com/ViewArticle.dbml?ATCLID=208262489
Ticket info: Phone: (206) 543-2200/Email: tickets@uw.edu

Projected Seattle September Weather Forecast: Late September weather in Seattle averages a high of 66 and a low of 50 degrees.

The University of Washington’s Husky Stadium can be one of the most intimidating places to play in the Pac-12

Pros: As far as excitement, there are plenty of things to see and do in Seattle.

If you like fish, this city has some of the best fish restaurants. The O/NSO always takes a visit to the famed Pike Market Place, a combination tourist trap, souvenir heaven, and exciting fish market, and did we mention the original Starbucks across the street? And on occasion, the O/NSO takes a trip up the Space Needle, a symbol of the city dating back to the 1962 World’s Fair, which provides an awesome view of Seattle and all the beautiful waterways.   

Cons: Getting into Husky Stadium can be a bitch off the freeway since there is really only one exit off the freeway. It’s hard to find a decent place to park unless you like walking. With the weather, you never know what to expect, which is usually the worst. If you sit high in Husky Stadium, you’d better bring some seatbelts if you have vertigo, and the wind blowing in off the adjacent lake can be brutal. If you want to tailgate, you’d better get there mighty early to find a spot. And if it rains – like it usually does – it can be a football game of viewing survival.

Comments: There are a lot of fun options both in downtown Seattle and the outer fringes. No doubt, the Great Northwest has real beauty, and the air is mighty clear and crisp. We are in the minority when we hear how beautiful Lake Washington is adjacent to Husky Stadium and TV captures the boats arriving at the stadium with fans. Take out the lake scene, which television directors love to focus on, and it’s a nice university setting but a bit overrated for our taste. Unless you’re sitting high in Husky Stadium, the lake ambiance just doesn’t show up anyway. 

RANKING: N0. 2

The Obvious: GAME ELEVEN – AT CALIFORNIA (BAY AREA WEEKENDER)

The Not So Obvious game information:

NOV. 16: Kickoff time TBD
Location: Berkeley

The Bay Area Weekender is a fan favorite for USC fans, and those cable cars and the steep hills add to the ambiance

Airport access to Cal: By car without traffic – 30 minutes from Oakland International.
Stadium: Memorial Stadium – From the top of this picturesque venue looking west, one can see from afar the San Francisco Bay, Alcatraz, and the Golden Gate Bridge. To the east, there is the greenery of celebrated Tightwad Hill and The Tree People looking to see the game down below for free. Although the Cal campus is a bit hilly, especially the walk up to the stadium, it is still a delightful display of college campus beauty.   
Memorial Stadium capacity: 62,467
Seating Chart: http://grfx.cstv.com/photos/schools/cal/genrel/auto_pdf/2012-13/misc_non_event/2012_cms_map.pdf
Ticket info: 800-GO-BEARS

Projected Berkeley November Weather Forecast: In mid-November, the high averages 65 degrees and a low of 47 degrees.

With Tightwad Hill in the background, Cal’s Memorial Stadium is a great place to watch an afternoon game.

Pros:. There are worse things to do than spend a weekend in the Bay Area, and the atmosphere for the Friday night USC pep rally in downtown Union Square – which will be Trojan Marching Band director Dr. Arthur C. Bartner’s last – will really get your juices flowing. Again, on game day, it all depends on the time of day for kickoff and the precipitation. A daytime game at Cal under ideal weather conditions is delightful, but an evening game can be a chilly and sometimes wind challenged. You want honesty, right? With some skillful financial consideration, you can make this a big money trip on a a relatively small budget.  

Cons: The stadium is located up on a hill and for those of you not in shape, it can be very challenging. Parking is a disaster, and even the media has to be shuttled in from down the hill. Getting in and out after a game can be a nightmare, so you might want to consider taking the BART. And then there is the annoying cannon on Tightwad Hill that gets shot off after every Cal score. It can be quite startling. And the concessions at the stadium can make the Coliseum look like Beverly Hills restaurant row on La Cienega.   

Comments: Depending on the weather, playing a game in “Strawberry Canyon” can be a picture postcard. If it’s a clear day, from the top of Memorial Stadium you can see the San Francisco Bay and the city. And if it’s really clear, you can see the Golden Gate Bridge. Keep your fingers crossed in terms of the kickoff time; it can really make impact on your enjoyment. If you don’t want to pay for the game, you can try and hike up to “Tightwad Hill” and watch the game for free and get some national TV exposure.

RANKING: NO. 1

The Obvious: GAME SIX– AT NOTRE DAME (The ND Weekender)

The Not So Obvious game information:

OCT. 12: 7:30 p.m. EST/ 4:30 p.m. PDT
Location: South Bend, Ind.

No surprisingly, the Notre Dame Weekender ranks as the O/NSO’s No. 1 USC road trip for fans because of the many offerings of fun, food, entertainment of downtown Chicago, which rests next to the beauty of mammouth Lake Michigan.

Airport access to ND: By car without traffic – Chicago O’Hare (2 hrs), Chicago Midway (1 hr. 20 min.), South Bend Airport (10 min.)
Stadium: Notre Dame Stadium – As good as it gets. The place reeks with tradition and the seats, which most have no backs, can test the resolve of one’s back and backside. From views of Touchdown Jesus to the Golden Dome, the stadium along with the campus is something out of a movie. Yes, “Rudy” still captures it all.
Notre Dame Stadium capacity: 77,622
Seating Chart: http://stadium.nd.edu/facts-and-stats/seating/
Ticket info: 574-631-7356

Projected South Bend October Weather Forecast: Even with the game a week earlier than usual, the average early October temperature should be a crisp 63 and a chilly low of 44 degrees. And take into account it’s a night game and the potential for wind, as well.

Legendary Notre Dame Stadium will again feature the Trojans and the Irish in a night game on October 12

Pros: Although costly,this road trip is the best of the best, a premier experience for this or any other season for that matter and a true bucket list item for all Trojans fans. The Notre Dame Weekender normally begins in Chicago with great restaurants, shopping down Michigan Avenue , the Magnificent Mile, and the Friday noon pep rally at The Navy Pier alongside stunning Lake Michigan. On Saturday, it’s the pretty ride to South Bend and the Notre Dame campus, which more than lives up to all the hype. This is more than a game; it’s an event! Notre Dame Stadium is awesome and so is the entire campus, which is like a movie set (again think Rudy). In fact, go watch Rudy before you leave your home. For first-timers, you’re going to be blown away either by the Chicago wind or the beauty of the ND campus.

Cons: To the point, it’s a night game and you’d better have plenty of warm clothes. If you choose to stay in Chicago and go to the game on Saturday, remember that there is a one-hour time difference between Chicago, which is on Central time, while South Bend is on Eastern Time. Getting out of Notre Dame at the conclusion of the game means that you probably won’t get back to your Chicago hotel by 1:30 a.m. at the earliest. Our advice is don’t try to be a hero and drive yourself back to Chicago late at night since you’ll be tired, and your mood will probably be predicated on the results of the game. Try finding a hotel room in the South Bend area (not easy if you are on a budget), so you might want to also avoid those endless toll roads each way by either taking a round trip by USC rooters bus or taking the train. They tell me either way is a good mode of transportation – especially for a night game.

Comment: There isn’t really much more to say regarding the Notre Dame Weekender other than to say it’s No. 1 on our list and those who have experienced it will totally agree. It’s a bucket list item not to be missed and don’t worry about saving money. Enjoy it for all that it is – USC vs Notre Dame!

The Obvious: So, there you have it, the O/NSO rankings of the six road trips.

The Not So Obvious: You may not agree with all the rankings – comparing Seattle and Berkeley (San Francisco), but you won’t get much or any debate on our No. 1 choice – The Notre Dame Weekender – so case closed and end of discussion.



Greg Katz
Author
Greg Katz

Now in his 57th 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 staff writer covering USC, is also is 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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