It’s a slow sports week but as training camp opens and college summer camps begin, groups of buddies all around the country begin to plan their fall trips to see their favorite teams at opponent’s stadiums across the land. I have been to a number of Browns away games with a group of friends and there is nothing like going into enemy territory and seeing a new stadium while sticking out in the crowd in your orange and brown. Recently, it is rare to see a Browns win at these away games but we continually try to pick out one game a year for which we can leave town and if the Browns win it is extra gravy. While the Browns are the impetus for such trips, there is still nothing that compares to seeing a new college stadium and campus on a fall Saturday. The pageantry is incomparable to visiting an away NFL stadium. If you can manage to see a college game in the area on a Saturday and then seek out the hair of the dog that bit you Sunday morning to get to the Browns game, it makes for a truly memorable weekend. There seem to be less options than normal with the Browns 8 away games this year but one still has to take a look at all the trip possibilities. I would say there are about five legitimate weekends a group could attempt with one obvious weekend that takes the cake.
The first option is probably the least appealing to Cleveland fans. First of all, it most likely requires a plane trip instead of a car ride and everyone knows that might not be the most feasible option. If you do throw down for the trip, the payoff would be worth it. The weekend of September 19-20 would be an excursion to the mountains of Colorado. On September 19th, the Colorado Buffaloes have a home game against border rival Wyoming. This may not appeal to you at first glance but I can assure you that Boulder is an amazing and unique college town and Folsom Field is a stadium with great character and a great gameday experience. The crowd is wild and it is exhilarating watching Ralphie lead the team onto the field with the foothills of the Rockies towering over the stadium in the background. Air Force, another great campus to visit and see in your lifetime, is unfortunately out of town The Browns play on Sunday at “Invesco Field at Mile High” in Denver and the game is at 2:15 local time so you get a little time to catch your breath from Saturday. We all know the Broncos have one of the more devoted fan bases and exciting game day experiences. Do the Browns have a chance to pick this game off? Denver has gone through so much offseason turmoil and overhaul that maybe the Browns could sneak out a road win early in the season. It would be an exciting place to see your hometown Browns in an away environment.
The following weekend is a second legitimate option as the Browns play at Baltimore on Sunday September 27th. There are not many serious college football programs on the East Coast but there are a few options for catching a college game in the same weekend. The Maryland Terps host Rutgers in nearby College Park on the 26th at Byrd Stadium. Maryland has a raucous crowd and Byrd provides a good gameday experience but the College Park area is not the most impressive and this game itself is not that riveting a matchup. It is a solid option because of the convenience. A better option for a college game on Saturday would be taking I-77 south to Blacksburg and taking in the Miami-Virginia Tech game and then swinging back up to Baltimore on Sunday on a loop home. It is over a four hour drive from Blacksburg up to Baltimore so you would have to hit the road at the crack of dawn on Sunday or leave Saturday evening if the game is not scheduled at night. It is a lot of driving in three-four days but seeing a Miami game at Lane Stadium would be quite memorable. A third option for a college game would be Iowa at Penn State in Happy Valley. I know most readers are Bucks fans and would only head there for a Bucks game. It might be well worth it to take in the Happy Valley experience without the tension and/or heartbreak of having a rooting interest. This is also a solid Big Ten match up with two of the better programs in the conference. It is the best option on Saturday for our non-Bucks readers. On Sunday it would be treacherous but fun to wear the orange and brown in Baltimore for a Ravens game. I imagine Denny and many of the DC Browns Backers will be there as well. What chances do we give the Browns in that game?
Halloween weekend brings a Great Lakes matchup of Browns-Bears at Soldier Field on November 1. This would be a great away game to travel to for Browns fans. If the recent Tribe trip to Wrigley is any indication, there should be a strong contingent of relocated Clevelanders and Browns Backers at Solider Field. The city of Chicago sells itself and I do not need to sit here and tell you what a great town it would be to visit for a football weekend. Locally, Penn State is at Northwestern on Halloween at Ryan Field. Evanston is also an exciting and scenic place to spend a Saturday afternoon tailgating and watching football. A second option for Halloween is to make the two hour drive north to Madison and “jump around” in your costume for Wisconsin-Purdue. Madison is obviously another great college town and gameday atmosphere.
I will step out of chronological order for a moment to save the most obvious weekend for last. The Browns make their annual trip to Cincinnati to face the division rival Bengals on November 29th. The hometown UC Bearcats host out-of-conference Illinois and Rejus Benn on Friday night for a convenient college option. The SEC provides the best gameday atmosphere for college football (BigTen fans can chew me out if they want but that’s my opinion). While Kentucky is down the list for SEC football history, their game against border rival Tennessee on Saturday will provide a wild setting for college football. Lexington, believe it or not, can hold its own when it comes to college football Saturdays. It is only a 1.5 hour drive south from Cincy to Lexington and it would be a great SEC rivalry to catch on a Saturday afternoon. This also might be one of the few options to see a potential Browns road win at Paul Brown Stadium.
The most obvious fantasy travel weekend is a perfect storm for WFNY readers. The weekend of November 21-22, the Ohio State Buckeyes play in Ann Arbor on Saturday and the Cleveland Browns play at Ford Field on Sunday. I really do not need to provide many details to pitch this weekend. We have all made the drive at one point or another and know that it is an easy trip. It is the number one road trip and away game experience for OSU fans. Both Ohio teams have a very good chance at winning on the road. Your biggest expense will probably be finding tickets for a reasonable price to both games. If you cannot get a ticket to the OSU-UM game, it might be worth it just to be in town and around campus on Saturday and then attend the Browns game on Sunday. I would imagine Lions tickets will be available in November. Do I need to go on?
I know the economy is rough and some of these “fantasy” trips may not be appealing or realistic. You may think I am being over-enthusiastic about some of these college games but I really do think there is nothing better than going to a new college campus for a gameday experience even if you have no rooting interest. I have been to most of the above colleges and I am honestly recommending each one. Football is football and Ohioans love it in any setting, especially in a new setting and experience. As I stated above, it is also a really cool experience to see a Browns game in enemy territory. Do you guys have classic fall football road trip stories from the past or plans for the future? These are just some of the options I have seen as I try to plan a fall journey.