I had an absolute blast in State College. I'd do that trip again in a heartbeat. Nicest fans, great atmosphere, easy to deal with parking and tailgating near the stadium, and just an altogether great place to see a game. Plus the ice cream. Only downside is that it's in the middle of nowhere, and hotels are an absolute bitch to find.
This Week's Obsession: On the Road
The question: Of those (if any) you've visited, what's your favorite road venue for a college football Saturday? I don't just mean the stadium but the whole package--the city, the burger, the rival fans, the drive, etc. Or which would you want to do first?
Ace: I'm back from Florida and have way too much nothing planned for the next couple days, so I might as well answer the question...
Between my time at school and this job, I've managed to make it to six road venues, one of which doesn't really count because it shouldn't have ever been a college football venue: Spartan Stadium (2007, '09, '13), Camp Randall ('07), Beaver Stadium ('08, '13), Notre Dame ('08, '13), Cowboys Stadium* ('12), and Ohio Stadium ('13). If you looked at that list and said I should never attend a road game again, you're quite astute, and trust me when I say I've considered it.
|Movie night, or perhaps annoying white guy tryouts.|
My favorite, despite the particular game I chose to attend, is Camp Randall. Madison is a gorgeous college town with a phenomenal bar scene—we wandered around so much the night before the game that I can't give a recommendation besides "just go to Madison already"—and while I've heard less-than-complimentary things about their fans, we were treated well despite being a crew of intoxicated students with a couple guys who didn't shy away from stirring the pot. As is the case in Ann Arbor, the campus and stadium are conveniently intertwined with the town, so getting to and from the game isn't a pain like it is in, say, South Bend, where off-campus housing tends to be a very long, boring walk away from the stadium. While the drive to and from Ann Arbor isn't a short one, having Chicago as a stopgap is a major bonus; I'll deal with some extra traffic if it gives me the chance to visit a great city with no shortage of transplanted Ann Arborites and Michigan grads.
it's impossible to take a bad picture inside Camp Randall
Since I'm not the type to be offended by profanity, I love the in-game atmosphere, as well. Our seats in the visitors' section were at the top corner of the upper deck, where visitors' sections ought to be, and feeling the mass of red-adorned fans below literally shake the stadium during "Jump Around" was outrageously cool, albeit a bit unnerving. Despite our high perch, the sight lines for viewing the game were great, thanks to the steep incline of the seats. They don't play the same two songs over and over and over again, giving Camp Randall a decided edge over Beaver Stadium, and they don't play in front of 100,000 Ohio State fans, giving it a decided edge over Ohio Stadium. Even if the drive is a bit long, the tailgating and viewing experiences alone are worth the trip.
As for my least favorite, it's Spartan Stadium, since I won't pretend that Jerryworld is a legitimate answer here. East Lansing is one of the least charming college towns I've visited, parking there is a nightmare, the stadium is a shrine to concrete insipidity, and an all-too-large portion of the fans don't grasp that trash talking shenanigans are supposed to be cheeky and fun, not cruel and tragic. It's the only place I've been where a total stranger has attempted to forcefully remove me from the sidewalk—I did nothing to provoke this aside from wearing maize—and that occurred even though I was accompanied by a green-clad Spartan grad. At least I went there last year, so I'll get a respite this seas—DAMMIT, POWERS THAT BE, YOU'VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME.
*The aforementioned "doesn't really count" venue, in case that wasn't painfully obvious.
After the jump: more things Delaney thinks we'd like to see less than New Jersey.
pro tip: several hours before the game they wheel cookies through the science building.
BiSB: My favorite would have to be Notre Dame Stadium. I've been to two Michigan games there ('08, '10), and had student season tickets in '08. As Ace noted, South Bend is a terrible "college town," but on game days that doesn't matter as much. The tailgating is great, the campus is beautiful, and the parking isn't terrible if you know where to go. The locals are friendly and football-knowledgeable, if hilariously biased. The stadium itself is fine, and the crowd flows much more smoothly than in the Big House (it's a similar design with fewer seats, so that makes sense). You don't get physically abused or unreasonably harassed, which is nice.
|Thugs wear chicken masks.|
In fact, the crowd is so docile that they think Ann Arbor is a violent, thuggish place to watch a game. Plus, there's actually some history and whatnot, and a game in that stadium should be on every football fan's proverbial bucket list. If you can put up with the fans around you complaining about EVERY. SINGLE. CALL. the overall experience is pretty nice.
The bottom of the list is easy: Spartan Stadium by a country mile. I've attended four Michigan/MSU games in East Lansing ('05, '07, '11, '13), as well as a number of non-Michigan games in neutral attire, so I'm working from a pretty good sample. Even knowing the best parking and tailgating locations, it's just a terrible day. The stadium has exactly three urinals, and they are conveniently located in the path of the heaviest traffic. The concrete-on-concrete decor reminds one of a well-defended coastal fortification. The constant ads and pump-up videos are, well, constant, and they're STILL trying to harness the power of a movie that came out in 2006. The tailgating is pretty good, but the "atmosphere" is markedly different in maize and blue. I've been knocked on my ass many times, had a beer dumped on me, and have generally been harassed by tank-bros in a manner unbefitting polite society. I nearly turned down free tickets last year, and if offered tickets again this year I'd have to think long and hard.
My brother thought we wear blue.
Seth: I'm with BiSB in re: Notre Dame. We parked barely off campus and the walk in wasn't any different than if you approached Michigan Stadium from the south via Main. And their fans are great. They've recently added a cross street's worth of large bars and restaurants that feels too new-build to add anything more than a touch of convenience previously lacking.
There are two trips I can't separate because they're diametric but equally awesome. The first was my foray into the mass psychosis of SEC footbaw, which coincidentally happened to be the day Brian and the bloggerati were going.
|The whole thing's between the hedges.|
The football stadium isn't just woven into campus like Ann Arbor; it is the very center of the school and all meandering roads converge on it. They tailgate right on campus, which is great until you see it afterwards. Parking is impossible; on advisement from my BFF-in-law, the easiest and cheapest method was to leave the car in a metered spot downtown and pay the parking ticket after. The thing is permeated with a culture of politeness: fans to each other, fans to away fans, and the school to its fans. This polity is underlaid by an understanding between all parties that giving offense can lead to discharged firearms. Multiple Georgians let it be known that this could well be the fate of mouthy Steve Spurrier next week.
If Georgia-Tennessee was SEC football at its purest, the epitome of Big Ten may just be its oddest fit: Northwestern. If not, it's certainly the most beautiful campus.
Ace isn't totally correct about MSU: there are parts of that campus that don't intersect the athletic areas—19th century brick observatories with grass and walkways and enough trees to drop a pleasing multi-hue carpet of leaves in fall. Its problem is it went from a relatively small farmer's college to one of the country's largest undergrad universities in the mid-20th Century, i.e. the architecturally worst period in human history to embark on a massive building project. Imagine if they put the football stadium at the other side of North Campus; you'd come away with nice things to say about the Huron River and no idea there's a Law Quad. Also this part of a massive campus is so far from where most students live that they tend to skip their classes over there; this is why the TripAdvisor photos of the self-styled "most beautiful campus in America" include a modernist eyesore and somebody staving in the hood of a maize and blue painted automobile.
I've traveled to some of the great universities in Europe, studied abroad at the Sorbonne, and found excuses to visit Oxford like she was a mistress. I don't have near the natural intelligence of, say, Brian, or my dad, or most of the people I went to college with, but I like to work out my brain the way annoying people on Facebook like Yoga. So when I step onto a campus like that I get a deep longing to track down the nearest professor and argue the nature of hominid evolution over a pint of flat ale.
There's this. Also part of NW'ern's charm is you can nod at Sobocop on your way to using the Welsh-Ryan Arena's bathrooms.
This is Northwestern's campus: beautiful, natural, and totally unfeigned—a cloister tucked between the woods, the lake, and Wrigleyville—and it got me good. It's unfortunately short on apparent watering holes, but when tweedy people groan about the football team's pretensions of being more than a pleasing amphitheater among academic gardens, Evanston at least demonstrates where they're coming from. John U. Bacon used Northwestern as the exempli gratia for what college football ought to be in his book Fourth and Long, which book he happened to be promoting on campus that day.
|Pro tip: you can see the game minus the rain and the wind from the windows just outside the men's room (that's what's in those towers by the way).|
The stadium, which is buried in a residential area a goodly tree-lined march from campus proper, is the polar opposite of the severe, fascist horseshoe. It's small, barely taller than a big high school stadium, and cozy. As you have heard, away fans of proximal rivals tend to invade, and Michigan fans are the most invasive, so the away fan dynamic is nearly totally absent (hence the t-shirt). Rather it's like going to the world's largest Michigan Alumni Association event. People in rain-drenched maize didn't outnumber soaked people in purple, or at least not until after the ridiculous fire drill field goal and subsequent theft, but we were probably louder than they were.
As to worst, I discovered the nadir of Michigan enjoyability while braving a November rain (it's worse out of the press box Ace) in MSU's cement block among the trolls, though I have to give Michigan's coaches partial credit for that experience. Ace is dead-on about the total lack of fun in their trash-talking, but they're also, weirdly, pretty rough on their own; the conveyer belt of shit I've been giving Ace in re: Connor Cook in Draftogeddon comes directly from them. MSU football is the collegiate version of Silverdome-era Lions football. You're there to make people feel bad when you beat them, and make your quarterback feel bad when you get beat, and a trip without at least two fights is considered a dull affair.
|I can't believe I'm standing just a few feet from the very spot that Tressel cheated!|
I tend to give them a pass for the crappy stadium itself, since Mark Hollis, their AD, purposefully kept it simple to keep building costs, and thus ticket prices, affordable. That's not a press release; as unlikeable as we like to make their fans out to be, Hollis is earnestly devoted to them.
Columbus on gameday is North Korea except with giants in XXXL jerseys instead of midgets in used Leave It to Beaver costumes; I've been there plenty and have yet to see something more architecturally stimulating than Twelve Oaks Mall. The city is a city, but I fail to see how it's any more charming than Grand Rapids. The oval is the only greenspace that's more thought out than a grassy patch in the middle of an onramp, and the rest is a parking lot. But then you get inside that stadium and only Yankee Stadium compares in North America for architecturally squashing the willfulness of detractors and free thinking. Between grinding down your defense and your soul with Carlos Hyde they'll hoist Jim Tressel himself on their shoulders, and you'll answer with Denard. Worst experience? Hardly. Michigan needs its antipode (and needs to beat them).
Brian: Well, yes: Notre Dame is the best place for a road game. In 2010, there was one guy who started giving us the stink-eye from a few seats away. Then seemingly the rest of the section started making fun of him and he shut up. It was amazing. It turns out it's really nice to go to a road game without the nagging possibility someone assaults you.
The biggest problem with the place is that sometimes they're just too nice and you want to yell something like "HAVE YOU ALL BEEN IN CRYOGENIC STORAGE SINCE 1948 AAAAARGH." Oh and they filled in an endzone to obscure the ol' doppelganger. Oh, and "Crazy Train." But even so it's still pretty much the best. I don't even mind their lack of jumbotrons since I'm used to Michigan's pore-o-vision, in which the replay is a tease worse than its absence.
While I'm sure that there has been some student or something who mustered up the courage to say "I hope your team loses, sir!", the rest of the experience has forcibly wiped that incident from my brain. And they've even figured out how to properly amplify a band. (You put the speakers next to it so that wherever the sound goes it arrives at the same time as the original.) Combine that with a series of soul-crushing Michigan wins and that's a recipe for general despondency that Notre Dame is being replaced by one series of even approximately equal interest three World Cups from now.
And it's only a couple hours away!
Honorable mention here goes to Kinnick, which can hold up cards with the best of 'em. This didn't seem impressive until I saw Michigan's attempt to do the same a few years ago. Iowa fans also manage to care a lot without being super mean, at least not to Michigan. Penn State is also a nice experience except for the worst-in-class stadium noise garbage. Logistically it's brilliant, especially after they finished the highway. You will be on the freeway ten minutes after reaching your car. The people are nice. There's a bit of dickishness from the NY/NJ section of the student body but overall it scores high for feeling safe. I had zero issue with my cell phone.
Both of the places I've been outside the league, Georgia and Auburn, were pretty great. Georgia has a lone trumpeter they stick in the upper deck to play the Battle Hymn of the Republic and a giant bulldog statue that looks like what happened to the Ghostbusters after the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man exploded, and exclaiming "GO DAWGS" remains terrific fun. Also, Athens is precisely Ann Arbor with a twang. Meanwhile, Auburn has an eagle they fly around the stadium. Auburn fans were unfamiliar with the idea of college football tourism, though, and we got a number of hur-hur comments about our attire when it's like... bro, I drove across most of this country just to come see this game. It's a compliment.
As for the worst, it's the obvious two: Michigan State and Ohio State. Both are incredibly nasty. There was of course the "Art Fag U" lady who turned around and screamed that slur at for about three-quarters of the Chad Henne "nails" game. After the Domata Peko fumble-type-substance in 2005, a guy who was like 60 tried to fight us because we were bitching about the call amongst ourselves. It is a clear #2 on the "are you going to get assaulted" list.
And if you're in the upper deck you should bring a parachute if you want to get out of the stadium before an hour has passed after the game. Add in the distinctive North Korean ambiance of the place—it's like the builders conferred with themselves to see if there was anything they could do to make exposed concrete uglier—and it's a decision whether to go or not despite it being only an hour away.
Ohio State is #1 because it can be scary as hell even if you're, say, a guy with cerebral palsy just walking to the game. While it doesn't have some of the drawbacks that MSU does--the stadium is gorgeous and intimidating; it was not built by monkeys on PCP--it remains a place where your best bet is to get a ticket in the student section because the students get yelled at about not being monsters a lot more than everyone else. Some of the shit you see in Columbus on gameday is just never going to happen anywhere else.
After the big two, I'll offer a demerit for Illinois, which has the same depressing architecture problem State does, an (understandably) apathetic crowd, and a completely imagined rivalry with Michigan that sees more Muck Fichigan shirts on lawyer and doctor lookin' guys than anywhere else in the country. The completely imagined rivalry thing is hilarious when Illinois undergrads become Michigan grad students and realize to their shock that Michigan barely remembers what conference Illinois is in, so they've got that going for them.
Of the B1G teams, I really enjoyed Wisconsin and Camp Randall. Even though the stadium is very chopped up so entering can be difficult - only being able to get in certain gates and unable to walk the stadium inside the fence - the town and the people are amazing. There is a mutual respect where people are nice. There also are many great restaurants and bars in the Madison area. I mean, who can beat cheese curds and microbrew?!
Some of the contenders, in my opinion . . .
Iowa (Kinnick) - The additional press boxes are cool. The people are generally nice. But, it is so far away from the cool campus. The view is nice, though, because it sits on the only hill in Iowa. As a plus, you can stop at the I80 truck stop for one awesome breakfast buffet on the way into town.
Northwestern - I have no idea what the name of the stadium is, but it is sooooo cool to see that much Michigan at an away game. While it is stupid to have to park and ride buses to the stadium, you are so close to Chicago afterwards that it is all worth it.
Outside of the B1G, I would say Oregon. While my own trip was the soul-crushing two point defeat, the stadium was very cool. The duck on a motorcycle was cheesy. The band decked out in sky-jumper outfits was strange. Even all of the crazy Nike advertising was a little off-putting. But all of these, when combined with the beautiful press-box, nice stadium seating, game time atmosphere, and awesome wooden overhang casting a slight shadow onto the field was something to experience. Plus, you can stay in the super cool town of Portland - and, yes, it is very much like a Portlandia sketch.
I don't know if anyone on the board has ever been to a game at Michie Stadium at West Point, but it's well worth the trip. Pick a game in October, when the leaves are turning. The stadium has an upper deck on the west sideline only, so patrons in the upper deck get arguably the best view in the nation (lauded by Sports Illustrated and The Sporting News). The fans are EXTREMELY polite, which is probably because West Point is about service to the country, not about being a football factory. Tickets are inexpesnive, and plentiful, and the atmosphere is enhanced by Cadets skydiving into the stadium with the game ball, a tradition that originated at West Point, which has now become commonplace at many venues.
I know a lot of people will poo-poo the fact that it's not big-time college football, and that it's so close to New York City, but here's the thing. 1. The fact that it's not big-time gives the game a 1950s feel, something the ESPN generation should actually experience. 2. Despite West Point's proximity to NYC, the environment there is remarkably bucolic, and you'd never imagine that a major city was less than 50 miles away.
True, the stadium rarely fills up, but it's a wonderful experience nonetheless.
I taught at USMA for a few years in the 90's. What a joy the football scene was there. It was all the more enjoyable because the players were actually in your classes and you knew them -- even when you taught normally difficult college classes. The plus was that back then Army was actually pretty good. The Black Knights ran the triple option for about 400 yards every game. There was something appropriate about Army running a great ground attack.
Great weekend. Went with my son in law and grandson a few years back and saw a great game. Nothern Illinois 42 Army 40. Jordan Lynch must have ran and passed for almost 500 yards. And Army s triple option must have gained nearly 400. I ll check later. Army had a 2 point conversion to tie late but missed. That was the year NIU was undefeated and went to the Orange Bowl, I think, and lost.
Campus is gorgeous, corps of cadets great. Take the 2 hour tour if you can. A must see for any college football fan within 100 or so miles.
A good football team + great college down usually = great weekend. State sucks.
Austin is a great town, of course. But when I went to a Texas game it seemed that everyone was on a date. The whole student section was prepped out and paying no attention. I had recently graduated from the semi-barbaric beauty of the Michigan student section and was horrified by UT.
I've been to all the stadiums you mention, except for OSU's. And I've been to most of the others. Without question, the best in-game experience is at PSU. The atmosphere in and around the place is truly electric. The fans, while feisty, drunken, and occasionally rednecky -- for one thing, shouted gay slurs are commonplace and unchecked -- rarely are truly mean. Most comments directed at M fans are playful, and PSU fans are uncommonly gracious at tailgates.
After Madison, which is pretty great, the best campus is Iowa's. Iowa City is a friendly and surprisingly sophisticated (for, you know, Iowa) little town with plenty of good food, bars, and hotels. The people are friendly. The in-game experience is very good. It definitely feels as if the entire state is there.
Indiana's campus is lovely but rather small and quiet. The stadium is nice in a "Hoosiers" kind of way. It's small and old. But it's permanently open to everyone. You can enter the place whenever you like, day or night. And they have a large play area for young folks who don't want to sit inside for four hours. The fans are friendly and largely indifferent to the game. They do not expect victory. One strange drawback: While students get too drunk at many campus, especially during night games, I've never seen a more hammered student-body than the one in Bloomington. Before a noon start, the student tailgates were borderline scary.
ND is fun in an experiential sort of way. But the fans are surprisingly tepid, and the "town" is virtually non-existent. There's nothing to do there. And, although I won't get into politics, I think most visiting fans will agree that all the abortion-related signage and sloganeering (which is all over town) feels a tad inappropriate.
Illinois and Purdue are toilets.
My son is a UM grad (93) as is my daughter (96). Back then, especially late summer before the season when we were on campus, the gates were open and we had access to the field. As did many others. We threw a football around, imagined we were Desmond Howard and had a great time. One time, the M locker room was open and we checked that out as we ran down the tunnel.
Hard to believed things were so different as little as 20 years ago.
This is why we need to put an end to their minor run of success vs decades of long-term prominence.
Seth, what do you have against Grand Rapids?
If you haven't been to a Longhorns game, I highly recommend it. One of the best college towns in America, fantastic crowd, great traditions, good tailgating, passionate fans, pretty cool stadium, and typically great weather (especially later in the season).
I've been to a number of games in the south (lived in Texas for 10 years, Georgia for the past 6) including SEC, ACC and Big 12 matchups and this is my favorite all-around experience outside Michigan Stadium.
The only problem is that they play their biggest game of the year (vs. OK) at a neutral city. But if you ever get a chance to go to that, wow... what a great experience.
Mizzou is the only out of conference stadium I've attended and that was a pretty good time. There wasn't anything special about it, it just felt homey to me.
It probably felt like home because of that giant Michigan block "M" made out of rocks.
I'm convinced a good portion is derived from those Illinois folk who did not get into Michigan, which creates the same level of jealously that insecure people get after being dumped by a hotter person.
I will say that this "rivalry" has definitely cooled in the eyes of Illinois faithful over the past 5-10 years. The harassment has certainly subsided and we (Michigan) are becoming just another school in the big ten in their eyes.
The closest I've come to being in an actual fight since I was 12 (short maybe of the time when I got in a scuffle with a German ex-con in a Strasbourg bar) was walking into the Horseshoe in 2002 when a drunk Ohio fan in a mesh jersey over his camo overalls took offense to my good-natured trash talking with some OSU sorority girls and took a wild, drunken swing at me. To their credit, the other OSU fans in the line shoved him away and I was able to watch that heartbreaking game physically unscathed.
For the record, the line that really pissed him off was when the girls asked what I thought of the Horseshoe and my response was, "It's like a real stadium, only smaller."
MSU was terrible. Notre Dame was pleasant. Honorable mention to going to see Syracuse at Toledo, most Texas high school games have more pomp and organization.
I actually think the Glass Bowl is a nice small venue to watch a game in. I went to a Toledo-Marshall MAC championship game there once and it was actually great, both in game and (with at least 5000 Marshall fans traveling there) atmosphere.
Was at OSU v PSU last year (I live in Columbus and a buddy from out of town was offered tix). Watched as 3 Ohio state fans (2 in their twenties, 1 in his 60's) argued because the old man wouldnt scoot over because the younger men were not in their seats before Kickoff. A woman next to me plead, "WE'RE ALL BUCKEYES HERE, JUST SCOOT OVER!". Even as Ohio State clubbed PSU like baby seals and the fans stood and clapped this old man would not budge (wouldnt stand, barely clapped) because he wasnt giving up an inch of space to the younger fans.
That was the last time I'll spend more than $20 on a ticket during a Wolverine Bye week.
For a Michigan game, I've went to Purdue and to the Sugar Bowl. I'm only 23, and trips coming from Tennessee are much tougher to make, especially in my younger days when I had football and baseball going on all through October.
Purdue wasn't great, but they had cheap seats in the bleachers that were just demolished. Huge Michigan crowd generally. Tailgating (where I parked) was non-existent. Campus seemed decent. Could definitely tell they were an academic focused school.
The Sugar Bowl ended up being one of the best nights of my life. A BCS win despite playing poorly, OT game, and Bourbon Street after the game was an incredible atmosphere with GO BLUE chants reigning down from every balcony. It didn't hurt that the Virginia Tech fans we did hang out with were classy and had nothing but great things to say about Michigan.
Other college venues I've attended include: Michigan Stadium (of course), Dudley Stadium at Vanderbilt University, Rynearson Stadium at Eastern Michigan, Floyd Stadium at Middle Tennessee State University, and Neyland Stadium in Knoxville for a spring game.
I'd really love to get to Notre Dame this year, but I doubt that will happen with ticket prices so high on stubhub. I might try to make the trip to Northwestern this year. I was going to go last year, but I was so pissed off about the previous two weeks at State and vs Nebraska that I talked myself out of it.
For dinner/fancier bar, go to the Old Fashioned. It is right on capital square. It will be packed, but it is great. Get there early. If you like the recent grad with good job (read: works at Epic) crowd, Merchant is just off the square and is a pretty good bar/club atmosphere. If you are still in the college mindset, you will get your Rick's type of atmosphere at State Street Brats or Whiskey River. Other food reccomendaitons: Graze (expensive, on the square), Roast (upscale sandwhiches, on State St), and Dotty's Dumpling Dowery (Burgers). Finally, going to the piano bar on State St. is a good time - but order a drink at Buck & Badger first to have your cover waived.
Most importantly, go to the farmer's market on the capital square Saturday morning before the game. I like to do a lap of the market for the free cheese samples.
During road games, it is remarkable how many fan-bases consider M their arch-rival. Several fans told me that at Iowa and PSU -- two schools I've never considered true rivals.
PSU fans hate Michigan because they didn't beat us for 12 years !!! And thanks to AB they've now won the last 3 (I think) .... ugh.
My record for attending Michigan football road games is actually kind of poor by my standards, but I have an excuse: In my football attendance heyday, Michigan home games were of course must-attends, but I needed a few Saturdays each fall just to sit at home and watch every football game played on my four televisions (I got the ESPN package back when you needed it, and no I am not kidding at all even about the number of televisions).
The "other road trips" were trips to other terrific football venues. I'll get to that.
I attended the '99 and '01 MSU games and the '00, '02, and '04 OSU games. And, now that I live up here, 2012 Minnesota with my oldest daughter. Not much to say that hasn't been said, except that the atmosphere at Minnesota felt more like a mid-summer baseball game given how beaten down by life the fans were. A trip to OSU in Michigan gear would make Quentin Tarantino Blush; Minnesota fans were offering to take my picture. The only upside I have is that back then, Michigan was the better program during most of those trips even if we didn't win on that day.
I also made early 00s trips to Tennessee, LSU, Texas A&M, and Nebraska. In my early 20s, I had money and time and I used it to watch lots of sports live, obviously. I should probably start by saying that Nebraska was the least impressive of these, though still a nice place.
Tennessee and Texas A&M are fantastic venues. A&M of course has the yells and the organized fanbase (and yes, I did go to yell practice). Neyland Stadium is actually a wonderful facility with steep seating bowls and jaw-dropping noise acoustics.
But the best non-Michigan place I ever went to was Death Valley in Baton Rouge. The Stadium itself is wonderful--built in sections over time, with each section having its own character and quirks. Like most SEC venues, it has a steep grandstand angle, which afford fantastic sightlines.
The traditions there aren't anything unique--the band plays the same, repetitive music on first, second, and third down, and knows about two other songs. They have a live Tiger they parade around in a cage. The only words of the fight song anyone actually sings are the spelled out "Tigers" at the end.
But the place is absolutely zany. A night game there (my trip was for a 2001 game against Eli Manning's Ole Miss) is three hours of unrestrained madness. When LSU scored touchdowns, the place went bananas. Fans threw whatever was in their hands in the air--the student section became a cloud of coke, popcorn, newspapers, small change. On defense you feel weird if you are not yelling, because every person in the Stadium is full-throated. The noise was incredible. The feeling electric. It was marvelous.
I'm glad I got to go.
I know the argument put forth by Hollis is that they built that stadium so cheaply to "save money" for students, but they still can't sell it out except for the massive rivalry games, and the overall experience in EL (as a guy who lived there on that campus for 3 years) is one of unrefined sadness sandwiched between two guys from Novi who "totally" could have gotten into UM had they gave a shit in high school and want to talk about all of the tail they are running through at the Landshark or whatever crappy bar they have there now.
And though I've said it many times before, my then-fiancee (now wife) had food thrown at her twice by bros on that campus simply because she was wearing a UM shirt. So yeah, shitty stadium (and game experience overall) in a VERY overrated campus (its big and green - that's about it. It has the same architectural aspirations as Columbia University, which basically has to crowd a whole campus of buildings in about 6 NY blocks).
As for best experience on the road, I've heard nothing but good things about NW, and I'll agree ND is somewhere you need to go at least once, just to experience how cool it feels to be in the stands on a crisp fall day.
Is about 10 miles from Wrigley. It's in Evanston, not Chicago, and as any Michigan fan who has been to a game there will tell you the stadium gets awfully maize-and-blue for Chicago's Big Ten Team.
That said, it is really easy to do a weekend in Chicago and hit a game in Evanston. The El train drops you off about 2 blocks from the stadium, there will be about 25,000 other Michigan fans, and no one at Northwestern takes themselvs too seriously about sports.
10 miles from Wrigley to a huge baseball fan is worth mentioning.
And you can take one train line from one to the other.
However I doubt the Cubs will be in town on November 11th when Michigan plays NW... even if the called up kids do well.
One note about Ace's bad record attending road games: don't be so hard on yourself, man. Michigan just plain stinks on the road, anyone who goes to any plurality of road games is going to attend some real disasters.
I've been to two games at Nebraska, and the fans were extremely polite. I have been to two games there. The stadium is old, and at the 2012 Michigan game, the seats were way up high (row 90 something) and the only way to and from the seats were to go down about 60 rows or so. They sucked, and so did the game. The only annoying fan I encountered was some drunk sorority girl who kept saying stupid things in a loud voice, but nothing too objectionable. I was thanked by at least two Nebraska fans for making the trip. The campus is on the edge of downtown Lincoln, so there were plenty of places to park, eat, and drink.
At last year's MSU game, we sat in the new part of the stadium (completed in 2013), and it was like night and day from the previous year. It was easy to get to and from the seats. I'm kind of sad that we won't be playing Nebraska again for awhile, because it's the only Big 10 campus less than a 10 hour drive for me.
If you do make it to a game there, be sure to try one of the runzas they serve in the stadium. In Michigan we call them pasties--they're essentially the same thing-- but it's kind of cool to get something a bit different from the usual stadium fare.
For me it was the 2007 Rose Bowl that is both the best and second worst visit I've made. The good reasons are simple, it's the Rose Bowl. Even as a consolation prize for the 2006 season it's still a cool sight to behold as it sits in a valley/ravine of a really nice town. At the same time the USC fans were almost Buckeye nasty. Between the Brody Jenner frat boys, bratty girls and the fans that are seemingly left over from the LA Raider "Blackhole" days it's hard to say it was a pleasant experience as we left and then waited for a ride back. It's the only time I've ever been spat on and had the fight or flight sensation come over me for a sports event.
I've been to Spartan Stadium a few times and only had a problem when passing by the tennis courts on Chestnut, behind their football building. That area is the native habitat of the "bro" on Saturdays and if you time it wrong you will not just pass, you will swim upstream with them to the stadium which is a bad time. Last year year we came in from the old campus side and sat lower bowl in the north endzone and it was fine aside from what took place on the field. It's almost better to be harassed than pitied by surrounding fans. If you go this year try your best to sit in the north side of Spartan Stadium which has added a new endzone complex with better amenities for fans and players.
I do love the Rose Bowl ... While it is a trek to get there the view and history are worth it. Especially in the second half when the sun is setting and you can see the majestic mountains in the background.
I went to the 2004 Rose Bowl alone in M gear. Almost all the USC fans I encountered were polite, and none of them were threatening.
Madison or Penn State are my favorite environments (and yes, i've been to Notre Dame).
Worst I've been to was UVA. (Never attempted Sparty or Ohio.) Lamest crowd, completely not into the game. Auld Lang Syne is their fight song or something. Crowd signals and yells FIRST DOWN for every first down, including the one they get to start a drive after the opponent scores a TD and kicks off. Lamest lame that ever lamed.
is not getting enough credit for being a terrible experience.
Indiana is also a nice trip.
Games at Illinois have always been sad, but now the school is a reflection of its corrupt, near-bankrupt state. While most colleges are using all that student loan money to live extra large, Illinois' campus looks rundown and dated.
I've lived in Illinois most of my life, but fortunately, grew up in the era when it was still relatively affordable for the non-rich to attend Michigan out of state.
Ugh...I went to the 1999 Michigan State game (AKA The Plaxico Eruption) with three friends. We were all in high school at the time. The game itself wasn't that bad...some stuff was yelled at us but none of it was threatening. However, after the game was horrendous and I've mentioned it on here before. Anyway, we had to walk through the frat house part of EL back to the card and the Sparty Frat Boys were throwing full cans of beer at us. One guy I was with is 6'9 and another one is 6'7 (I'm 6'1 and shop in the husky dept). It didn't matter...at times it was a bit terrifying.
I will never go to another game in East Lansing again.
I'll ask my brother's roommate Post if it was him. I don't know how many six-foot nine frat dudes who throw beer cans of Michigan fans there would be. It's probably Post.
I took most of my road trips when the B1G 10 still had, you know, ten teams. I never got to Evanston for a game, but saw the rest. From best to worst, I'd rank them thusly:
1. Madison, made that trip four times. Their band is great and the students really get into the games. The city is really nice to walk around.
2. Indiana. That was always a guaranteed win. Sort of a low-stress, relaxing weekend trip. You get to chill out and watch Michigan win a football game. What's not to like?
3. Iowa. Flew there in a four-seater, and took a photo with their mascot. Cool dude.
(would slot Notre Dame in here.)
4. Minnesota. I went when they were playing outside, a couple stadiums ago. I had my first Whopper on a trip to Minnesota. It's really cold there, though, and the drive takes forever.
5. Purdue. Just really dirty, what with all that train smoke and proximity to Gary, Indiana.
6. Illinois. The whole place smells like shit, and you have to deal with them thinking we're rivals.
7. MSU. I grew up in East Lansing, so reading the MGoBloggers bash my former hometown was tough to take, but they are right.
8. Ohio State. I'll admit, that's a scary trip. You are basically on edge the whole time wondering which psychopath is going to notice your Michigan items and go full metal jacket on you.
Love the Purdue comment!! If it weren't for that nasty carbon dioxide and the dirt from 90 miles away, West Lafayette would be a lovely place.
- Notre Dame - although it was almost creepy how nice their fans were. One guy all day said something to us that was semi-negative on the golf course and 5 groups of fans felt obligated to apologize for him
- Northwestern - Chicago plus a reunion of all your college friends is great
- Sugar Bowl - one of the best 4 days of my life
PSU - it wasn't bad but felt like a cheap NFL atmosphere
State- I have been to EL for three awful games and every time I promise myself I won't go back. I hope I keep my word this year (Side note: I have gone to non Michigan games there with high school buddies who attended state and had a decent but not stellar time)
New Mexico - my first every college football game was at my father's school. The adobe buildings throughout campus are cool and Albuquerque is awesome in its own right. I was to young to remember much else but I enjoyed it
Rose Bowl - Win or lose (and I'm 1-2) the atmosphere, especially entering the fourth quarter with the sun setting behind the mountains, makes me believe that God must like football. The trip home after losses (86 & 04) can be awfully long though. 97 more than made up for it though. Pro-tip: always find a landmark to find your car on the unlighted golf course after the game.
Wisconsin: Party town, great venue and a TON of fun.
Notre Dame: Great fans, historic stadium and always a clutch game
OSU: Violent, ugly, obsessed fans who forgot a long time ago this is just a game and not an actual war between the states.
MSU: Stadium sucks, fans suck and atmosphere around the stadium sucks.
Purdue: Boring game, horrible stadium and not much to do before or afterwards.
It's weird how the Penn State stadium is pretty much a giant set of bleachers.
for the great state of OHIO!
TCF Bank is awesome. I went the game there back in '12 and it was very nice. Great sightlines, a decent amount of bars within easy walking distance. College aged kids might get harrassed a little walking down frat row but for the most part the students and fans are very respectful. Downtown is a very short cab ride away, although you can walk if you feel like freezing your toes off. Speaking of which the view of downtown, Williams Arena, and Mariucci Arean surounding the stadium are a very nice backdrop...Oh and you can buy beer there.
Camp Randall and Madison are also awesome for all the reasons others have listed.
Another random selection - Morgantown is a great place to watch a game - beautiful setting, especially in the fall, excellent tailgate with lots of friendly people with whom you can dine on animals you had never imagined eating before, and some great rivalries. The tailgates start very early (Friday night) and don't end until everyone sings "Country Road" at whatever bar they're at sometime Sunday afternoon.
In college, I attended a game at West Virginia in 2005 vs. a nobody (I looked it up - Wofford!). I recall it being about half full, even though it was a nice September afternoon. Otherwise, there wasn't much to say about it. It was early in Pat White's freshman year, so he wasn't even a big deal yet. They did love them some PacMan Jones at the time, though.
I attended the 1980 Ohio State game -- Bob Ufer's last Ohio broadcast and an epic old-school UM victory. Before the game we went to a bar (I think it was Moe's), where we were drenched with beers thrown at us from above. During the game we thought our lives were in serious jeopardy (and there were about 12 of us). As soon as Bobby Thompson sacked Art Schlichter (with Ufer going bonkers on the radio), we bolted for the exits in order to get to the parking lot ahead of the main crowd. Later we heard that they were turning over cars with Michigan plates. I've been in war zones, and the toilet bowl had pretty much that same feel. In my view as an adult who flies up with his boys to the Big House now and then, Michigan stadium has a fun, festive feel to the crowd. Ohio State was like the barbarian horde in the Capital One commercials.
Living in South Carolina now, we go to a Clemson home game pretty much once a year. Death Valley is a pretty great place to see a college game, even though the stadium is very tiny to a Michigan fan (a point I often make to my Clemson friends). The student body is going berzerk the entire game and it is unbelievably loud. The whole "rub the rock" routine is not that impressive to a non-Clemson grad, but it is still pretty epic college football pageantry. Of course, here in the South college football is a surrogate for redoing the Civil War, so it is completely out of control and therefore a lot of fun. And of course, people are very polite, even when drunk.
I got hit in the face with a full roll of toilet paper at OSU, but was asking for it.
Indiana was a good trip but it took forever to leave the parking lot.
Northwestern was also good. We where able to park for free. It's cool to hear them comment on how many M fans they see.
My visits have been:
Notre dame: Against stanford and purdue. It was an ok experience, nothing great, then again michigan wasn't there. Nice stadium.
Ohio State: Great experience, good fan interest. It was vs. Navy, so no Michigan again. Plus they almost lost, which was nice.
Purdue: Lost cause
Indiana: See above
Minnesota: You can drink beers which is cool. There weren't a bunch of minnesota fans to be sure, but wasn't an overall great exerience. Minneapolis is alright.
Vanderbilt: See peoples take on northwestern, but the girls are better looking.
Tennessee: Great big stadium experience, although the stadium looks like a cheap roller coaster with scaffolding everywhere. Rocky top is a very annoying 'fight song'.
Wisconsin: My favorite gameday experience outside of michigan, and only second to michigan because I'm a michigan fan. Great bars, tailgating, game experience. I just wish Michigan had won one of those games.