Football Weekends '06
Normally, the ESPN SportsTravel Power Weekend focuses on a weekend in a particular city when the sports schedule is full of tantalizing events.
With the release of the NFL schedule last week, and based on the philosophy that it's never too early to start planning -- and dreaming about -- football weekends, this Power Weekend special edition offers an early look at weekends this fall when you can catch college and pro football in the same area.
These sample weekends were chosen based on some combination of notable traditions, rivalries, '06 matchups, and generally fun places to visit.
Enjoy. And remember: kickoff is less than five months away, baby.
1. THE MANILOW (WEEKEND IN NEW ENGLAND)
Sat., Sept. 9: Clemson at Boston College (Chestnut Hill)
This is ACC country? Any school that plays in the NCAA hockey final probably belongs in another conference, but more than a few South Carolinians will discover one of our great American cities this fall.
Driving distance: 25 miles
Sun., Sept. 10: Buffalo at New England (Foxboro)
For the first time in three years, the Patriots won't be receiving rings, ruining Marv Levy's chance to finally see a championship ceremony.
Audible: Yes, the Sox have a Saturday night home game. Don't miss it.
• ESPN SportsTravel City Guide: Boston
Boston: Plan Trip | Hotels | Flights
2. MOTOWN ROAD SHOW
Sat., Sept. 16: Michigan at Notre Dame (South Bend, Ind.)
One of football's best rivalries in one of its most historic stadiums. Lest you've forgotten, Big Blue, the Irish have won three of the last four meetings, including last year's 17-10 upset of the No. 3-ranked Wolverines.
Driving distance: 90 miles
Sun., Sept. 17: Detroit at Chicago
The last time these rivals finished 1-2 in the division, Dikta and Fontes were patrolling the sidelines and Soldier Field looked less like a UFO touching down in the middle of Chicago.
Audible: Come a day early and see the Reds and Cubs at Wrigley on Friday.
• ESPN SportsTravel City Guide: Chicago
Chicago: Plan Trip | Hotel | Flight
3. BAYOU HOMECOMING
Sat., Sept. 23: Tulane at LSU (Baton Rouge)
It's homecoming week in Baton Rouge. These in-state rivals meet for the first time since 2001.
Driving distance: 80 miles
Mon, Sept. 25: Atlanta at New Orleans
It's homecoming of a different sort down Interstate 10. The Saints begin the Drew Brees era, returning to the Superdome for the first time since Katrina's devastation.
Audible: Spend Sunday doing your little part to help rebuild the New Orleans economy... on Bourbon Street.
New Orleans: Plan Trip | Hotel | Flight
4. EMERALD CITY WEEKEND
Sat., Sept. 23: UCLA at Washington
Few college football settings are better than Husky Stadium in September (i.e., before the weather turns gloomy). Enjoy the view of Lake Washington and the Cascade Mountains.
Driving distance: 5 miles
Sun., Sept. 24: New York Giants at Seattle
Qwest Field is one of the NFL's premier venues. In 2005, when the Giants played here, the Seahawks were victimized by bad calls, foreshadowing the Super Bowl. Since Seattle prevailed in overtime, though, there was a lot less whining.
Audible: Stick around an extra day to see the M's and A's at Safeco on Monday.
• ESPN SportsTravel City Guide: Seattle
Seattle: Plan Trip | Hotel | Flight
5. INVASION OF THE CHEESEHEADS
Sat., Sept. 23: Wisconsin at Michigan (Ann Arbor)
Wisconsin's 23-20 win last year was their first over Michigan since '94. This year's meeting, though, is at the Big House, in front of 110,000 vengeful Wolverines fans. The bands can resume annual battle to determine who has catchier fight song.
Driving distance: 45 miles
Sun., Sept. 24: Green Bay at Detroit
Good Packers teams have traditionally struggled in Detroit. How will a rebuilding Packers team fare at Ford Field (last seen hosting the Bettis farewell tour)? And when was the last time the Lions had the edge at QB?
Detroit: Plan Trip | Hotel | Flight
6. SUNSHINE STATE SPECIAL
Sat., Oct. 7: LSU at Florida (Gainesville)
The highlight of this weekend trip is a visit to Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, a.k.a. The Swamp. Around 90,000 will be in attendance for this matchup of two teams who should both be in the preseason Top 10.
Driving distance: 70 miles
Sun., Oct. 8: New York Jets at Jacksonville
We're not going to lie: we checked Miami, and the 'Canes and Dolphins don't play at home in the same weekend, so this was Plan B for Florida. Still, the Jags figure to be AFC contenders after a 12-4 2005.
• ESPN SportsTravel City Guide: Jacksonville
Jacksonville: Plan Trip | Hotel | Flight
7. TEXAS TWO-STEP
Sat., Oct. 14: Baylor at Texas (Austin)
No Vince, no problem, when you're playing your in-state whipping boy in football-frenzied Austin in front of more than 80,000 crazies, still giddy from the USC win, wearing that strange color and doing odd things with their fingers.
Driving distance: 195 miles
Sun., Oct. 15: Houston at Dallas
In the first game in Texans history, Houston embarrassed its stodgy high-falutin' rival with a 19-10 win at home. This time, the man upstairs will be watching through the hole in the Texas Stadium roof. Wonder what HE thinks of T.O.?
• ESPN SportsTravel City Guide: Dallas
Austin: Plan Trip | Hotel | Flight
Dallas: Plan Trip | Hotel | Flight
8. ROCKY MOUNTAIN HIGH
Sat., Oct. 14: Texas Tech at Colorado (Boulder)
Mike Leach's Red Raiders averaged 39.4 ppg last year. New Buffs coach Dan Hawkins led his Boise State offense to 36.1 ppg... in an off year. Take the over, and take a minute to enjoy the splendor of the football in the Rockies.
Driving distance: 30 miles
Sun., Oct. 15: Oakland at Denver
One of the NFL's great rivalries is a Sunday night matchup. If you're keeping score, Mike Shanahan is now 17-5 against Al Davis since he was fired by the man in white. Oops.
• ESPN SportsTravel City Guide: Denver
Denver: Plan Trip | Hotel | Flight
9. THE BULLDOG SPECIAL
Sat., Oct. 21: Mississippi State at Georgia (Athens)
A classic SEC atmosphere between the hedges at Sanford Stadium. Don't bet against the Bulldogs! But seriously folks, the last time Uga's 'dogs lost to Bully's team in Athens was in 1956.
Driving distance: 70 miles
Sun., Oct. 22: Pittsburgh at Atlanta
Former Georgia Bulldog Hines Ward, the reigning Super Bowl MVP, leads the World Champs in this inter-conference battle with Michael Vick (assuming he's not injured) and company.
Audible: Perhaps the Braves will oblige, and add a World Series to your itinerary. Probably not.
• ESPN SportsTravel City Guide: Atlanta
Atlanta: Plan Trip | Hotel | Flight
10. ESCAPE TO THE VALLEY OF THE SUN
Sat., Nov. 11: Washington State at Arizona State (Tempe)
The Sun Devils could be stacked in 2006, but even if they aren't, you'll still be in perfect weather watching the unpredictable Pac-10 and wishing you were back in college.
Driving distance: 30 miles
Sun., Nov. 12: Dallas at Arizona (Glendale)
Cardinals fans might start coming out of the woodwork with a spectacular new stadium and new running back Edgerrin James to ease the suffering. The Bill Parcells/Denny Green matchup is a toss up... on the scale, that is.
Audible: Check the NBA schedule: you might get to see the most entertaining team in the league -- the Phoenix Suns -- on Friday night.
• ESPN SportsTravel City Guide: Phoenix
Phoenix: Plan Trip | Hotel | Flight
11. PHILLY'S PHINEST
Sat., Nov. 11: Harvard at Penn (Philadelphia)
If you're a sports historian, you know Franklin Field is the nation's first two-tiered stadium and the site of Vince Lombardi's only playoff loss (1950). It is the oldest stadium still in operation for NCAA football, dating back to 1895.
Driving distance: 5 miles
Sun., Nov. 12: Washington at Philadelphia
A much newer venue, Lincoln Financial Field, plays host to this NFC East rivalry. Note to 'Skins fans: wear the Portis jersey at your own risk.
Audible: Undoubtedly, the Sixers or Flyers will have a Saturday night home date to complete your sports trifecta.
• ESPN SportsTravel City Guide: Philadelphia
Philadelphia: Plan Trip | Hotel | Flight
12. RIVALRY WEEKEND, BUCKEYE STYLE
Sat., Nov. 18: Michigan at Ohio State (Columbus)
College football's most enduring rivalry has gone the Buckeyes' way four of the last five times. Maybe the Wolverines should invite John Cooper to the Horseshoe. His mere presence usually ensures a Michigan win.
Driving distance: 140 miles
Sun., Nov. 19: Pittsburgh at Cleveland
So, this rivalry has gone south since the Bernie Kosar era, but that could be changing under the guidance of Romeo Crennel. The Super Bowl champs provide a litmus test.
Audible: Stay an extra day and make the pilgrimage to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton.
Columbus: Plan Trip | Hotel | Flight
Cleveland: Plan Trip | Hotel | Flight
13. LOVE 'EM OR HATE 'EM
Sat., Nov. 25: Notre Dame at USC (Los Angeles)
The Coliseum hosts the rematch of last year's most memorable regular-season game... minus Leinart and Bush, who tag-teamed for the winning one-yard plunge a year ago. Bring your binoculars and behold the grandest cheerleading student-athletes in sports history.
Driving distance: 120 miles
Sun., Nov. 26: Oakland at San Diego
The league's most raucous fans migrate south to co-mingle with some of the mildest in a divisional battle at the Murph, or whatever they're calling it these days, that conjures up images of Air Coryell and the Holy Roller.
Audible: Spend the day at the beach!
• ESPN SportsTravel City Guide: Los Angeles
• ESPN SportsTravel City Guide: San Diego
Los Angeles: Plan Trip | Hotel | Flight
San Diego: Plan Trip | Hotel | Flight
14. EAST BAY FUNK JUNKET
Sat., Dec. 2: Stanford at California (Berkeley)
It's been 24 years since Memorial Stadium was the site of the greatest play in college football history... "the band is out on the field!" Cal has won the last four Big Game meetings by a combined score of 126-32, but it's never over until the trombone player lies in a lifeless heap.
Driving distance: 12 miles
Sun., Dec. 3: Houston at Oakland
The mercurial Randy Moss gives this game star power even if neither team sniffs the postseason. And it's a rare opportunity to wear your spiked, skull-emblazoned armor around like-minded "people".
• ESPN SportsTravel City Guide: San Francisco
Oakland: Plan Trip | Hotel | Flight
Bill Evans is a freelance writer based in Milwaukee.