Commentary

Last chance for first look at football

Don't let spring slip away without taking in one of these final scrimmage games

Updated: April 21, 2011, 4:39 PM ET
By Tony Guadagnoli | Special to ESPN SportsTravel

Chase Parker and B.J. Cunningham AP Photo/Al GoldisMichigan State is among the final hosts of spring football games on campuses across the country.
• Photo gallery: Spring forward with a tour of scrimmage games Photo Gallery

The NFL lockout has made the upcoming draft one of the most low-key in recent memory. College basketball courts are dark. Baseball is just starting its season.

So a young man's fancy naturally turns to spring football. Although most of the games are nothing more than scrimmages, fans can't seem to get enough of seeing the new players and position battles, new schemes that coaches have put in and some festivities that give a feeling that football is not far away.

Here is a last fling of spring games from the BCS conferences to check out before the teams break until late summer.

Most of these late-spring games are from within the Pac-10 (soon to be Pac-12) and Big Ten, and nearly all will have some kind of radio, TV or streaming video coverage.

Friday

(All times local)

  Navy
7 p.m., Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, Annapolis, Md.

The game will be televised nationally for the first time on CBS Sports Network. CBS will have an all-access look at the game with cameras in both locker rooms. Players will be miked. And reporters will be able to interview players live during the game.

None of the normal game-day traditions will be conducted, but admission is free.

The players will sign autographs after the game. The superintendent of the Naval Academy (the president) will coach one team, while the commandant of Midshipmen (basically the dean of students) will coach the other team. The two coaching staffs will then be split between the two squads.

Saturday


  Arizona State
10 a.m., Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, Ariz.

The Sun Devils have just undergone a rebranding with a new logo and new color schemes for their uniforms, so fans will get their first look at the "new" Sun Devils.

As far as Tempe bars and restaurants go, fans will want to check out Four Peaks Microbrewery (1340 E. Eighth St.), Barney's Boathouse (216 E. University Drive), The Chuck Box (202 E. University Drive) and Casey Moore's Oyster House (850 S. Ash Ave.).

  Georgia Tech
Noon, Bobby Dodd Stadium, Atlanta

Festivities for the free T-Day game begin at 11 a.m. on Callaway Plaza with family activities, inflatable games, music and food.

The Georgia Tech cheerleaders will be on site, as will the Georgia Tech mascot, Buzz.

After the football game, the Yellow Jackets baseball team will play Boston College at 3 p.m. at Russ Chandler Stadium.

And you may just want to stay in Atlanta overnight and take in Sunday's Game 4 of the NBA Eastern Conference first-round playoff series between the Hawks and Magic at 7 p.m. at Philips Arena.

  Illinois
2 p.m., Memorial Stadium, Champaign, Ill.

Admission is free, and inflatables will be available for children inside the stadium.

While visiting Champaign, a must-stop is Papa Del's Pizza (206 E. Green St.) for deep-dish pie. Jarling's Custard Cup (309 W. Kirby Ave.), down the street from Memorial Stadium, also is a popular stop.

The athletic department has an annual merchandise sale the day of the spring game, when many team-worn uniforms, warm-ups, shoes and other gear, including new articles, are offered at discounted prices.

  Kentucky
3 p.m., Commonwealth Stadium, Lexington, Ky.

Kentucky fans see the Blue-White Game as an excellent opportunity for spring practice for the popular fan activity of pregame tailgating in the parking lots.

Keeneland Race Course in Lexington will be in high gear for its 75th season of thoroughbred racing and will feature two Grade 3 stakes races on Saturday -- the Coolmore Lexington Stakes for 3-year-olds and the Ben Ali Stakes for 4-year-olds and older.

Kentucky sophomore Brian Adams will play wide receiver in the spring game, then take to the outfield for the Wildcats baseball team against Arkansas on Saturday night.

  Minnesota
1 p.m., TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis

In addition to their first glance at new coach Jerry Kill, a big attraction for Golden Gophers fans will be TCF Bank Stadium itself. After all, this is only the second spring game in the downtown Minneapolis facility.

While visiting Stadium Village on the east bank of the UM campus, be sure to check out Campus Pizza (825 Washington Ave. SE, Suite 101). Then venture over to Dinkytown on the north side of campus and have a huge burrito and free pitcher of chicken wings with each pitcher of beer purchased at Burrito Loco (418 13th Ave. SE) or get breakfast served with a dash of attitude at Al's Breakfast (414 14th Ave.). Al's has just 14 seats, and you can expect to be shuffled to a new seat a couple of times.

  Ohio State
1:30 p.m., Ohio Stadium, Columbus, Ohio

The spring game in the Horseshoe is always a treat, and this year's should not disappoint, as it revolves around an entire weekend devoted to the 75th anniversary of Jesse Owens competing in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Owens' family members will be present, and a statue of the Buckeyes' record-setting sprinter will be unveiled on campus. Tickets are $7 in advance and $15 the day of the game.

The football team will wear custom-painted helmets with commemorative decals saluting Owens' Olympic achievements and paying tribute to military members.

The Buckeyes will be looking at players to fill in for quarterback Terrelle Pryor, wide receiver DeVier Posey, running back Daniel "Boom" Herron and tackle Mike Adams -- all returning starters -- and reserve defensive end Solomon Thomas, who have been suspended for the first five games of the season after selling gifts, awards and sports apparel and receiving other benefits.

The Ohio State lacrosse game, Showdown in the Shoe, will be played at 11 a.m. against Fairfield University.

The Jesse Owens Track and Field Classic will be run from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Sunday.

  Oregon State
12:15 p.m., Reser Stadium, Corvallis, Ore.

The Corvallis campus should be busy with the game in the middle of the annual Mom's Weekend, a festival with several events for students and their parents.

Among the planned events are the 5K Fun Run on Friday at 11 a.m., a volunteer fire department pancake feed on Saturday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., and an art festival from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday on the Brick Mall.

  UCLA
5 p.m., Drake Stadium, Los Angeles

The spring game is played on the Westwood campus and admission is free, but parking costs $10 on campus. Drake Stadium seats about 12,000.

A Lady Bruins Football 101 clinic will begin at 1:30 p.m. at Drake Stadium. Participants meet with coach Rick Neuheisel for a class on the game strategies and an on-the-field demonstration. Registration is $25 and includes a T-shirt and group photo.

The UCLA Hall of Fame will be open to the public from 4 to 5 p.m. and fans can meet the team and coaches for autographs and photos after the game.

People going to Westwood for the game should not miss In-N-Out Burger (922 Gayley Ave.) for burgers, fries and shakes and Diddy Riese Cookies (926 Broxton Ave.) for inexpensive and tasty ice cream sandwiches.

  USC
1 p.m., Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum

USC has no real traditions around the game, but fans can see progress on the $70 million John McKay Center, which will replace the famed Heritage Hall. The McKay Center, scheduled for completion in fall 2012, will feature state-of-the-art facilities for football and other sports. Tickets are $10 for the spring game played at the Coliseum. On Saturday night, the Los Angeles Galaxy of Major League Soccer will host the Portland Timbers at 8 p.m. at the Home Depot Center in Carson on USC Night.

  Virginia Tech
2 p.m., Lane Stadium, Blacksburg, Va.

The Maroon vs. White game will take on special meaning this season.

On April 8, two tornadoes struck Pulaski County, damaging more than 400 homes and causing property damage estimated at almost $8.5 million.

Fans attending the spring game can drop off donations in collection buckets at Lane Stadium. All money collected will be donated to the Pulaski County Tornado Relief Fund to assist impacted families with their cleanup and rebuilding efforts.

Fans unable to attend the game can donate by mailing a check made payable to Pulaski County Tornado Relief Drive and sent to: Virginia Tech Sports Marketing, Tornado Relief Drive, 366 Jamerson Athletic Center, Blacksburg, VA 24061.

Held in conjunction with the game, the HokieBird Spring Festival will be staged at the turf practice field across from Lane Stadium from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The event has several activities for children, including inflatables, interactive games, face painting and a visit from the HokieBird itself.

Back in the stadium, many eyes will be on quarterback Logan Thomas, who will be replacing the multitalented Tyrod Taylor.

  Wisconsin
1 p.m., Camp Randall Stadium, Madison, Wis.

During the game, expect to see the "Jump Around" in the student section between the third and fourth quarters. Wisconsin is charging a $5 admission to help benefit the new UW School of Nursing.

Before the game, the Badgers will host a kids fair in the McClain Center (11 a.m. to 1 p.m.) featuring interactive displays and a meet-and-greet event with players and coaches from several sports.

Fans also can check out the Dane County Farmers' Market on the Capitol Square, an event that runs every Saturday through November. The shops and sights on State Street also are a must.

Memorial Union along Lake Mendota is the only student union in the country to serve beer.

April 29


  West Virginia
7 p.m., Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium, Morgantown, W.Va.

The annual Gold-Blue scrimmage will be accented by an old-timers' game.

The Mountaineers are transitioning from coach Bill Stewart to Dana Holgorsen. Holgorsen was hired away from Oklahoma State in December and will serve as offensive coordinator this season. He will be the head coach in 2012.

Admission is $10, and all proceeds from the game help benefit WVU Children's Hospital. Last year, West Virginia donated $37,047.21 to the hospital with proceeds from the game. That brought WVU's total donations in the past 27 years to $634,080.

Fans also can attend a free concert starting at 5:30 p.m. featuring the Davisson Brothers Band's blend of country, Southern and bluegrass in the K4 parking lot on the west side of the stadium. Former Mountaineers player Owen Schmitt is scheduled to appear with the band.

April 30


  California
10 a.m., San Ramon Valley High School, Danville, Calif.

California will not have a spring game this year, as Memorial Stadium undergoes a $300 million-plus renovation. The final practice will be at San Ramon Valley High School in Danville (501 Danville Blvd.).

Fans also can take in the Farmers' Market in downtown Danville (400 Hartz Ave.) between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m.

  Kansas
1 p.m., Memorial Stadium, Lawrence, Kan.

It is always a treat to hear the fabled "Rock Chalk Jayhawk" chant -- a staple at basketball games that is also done at football tilts. Admission is free to the spring game.

Fans must experience the shops, restaurants and bars on famed Mass Street (short for Massachusetts Street) during the daylight hours or after dark.

  Kansas State
1:10 p.m., Bill Snyder Family Stadium, Manhattan, Kan.

Tickets for the Purple-White Game are $5.

Fans can visit popular downtown Manhattan and eat at local joints such as CoCo Bolos (227 Bluemont Ave.) and Cox Bros. BBQ (223 McCall Road) or the oldest continuously operating Pizza Hut in the world (1121 Moro St.), which opened in 1960. Cap your day with a visit to Call Hall and the dairy bar on the campus of K-State to enjoy homemade ice cream and other frozen treats.

The annual Powercat Auction and golf tournament will begin at 9 a.m. April 29 at Colbert Hills Golf Course. The auction, featuring a Western theme, will begin at 6 p.m. at Bramlage Coliseum.

  Maryland
3:30 p.m., Capital One Field at Byrd Stadium, College Park, Md.

The Red-White Game will give fans a chance to meet new coach Randy Edsall and the Terrapins. Before the game, the entire team will be available for autographs and pictures. Gates open at noon, and the autograph session is from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.

The Maryland men's and women's basketball teams also will have autograph and photo sessions, from noon to 1 p.m. at the Comcast Center.

All events are part of Maryland Day, a campuswide open house and family celebration.

  Michigan State
1:30 p.m., Spartan Stadium, East Lansing, Mich.

Michigan State's spring football games have attracted crowds in excess of 20,000 each of the past four years, with estimated attendance totals of 25,000 in 2007, 27,000 in 2008, 26,000 in 2009 and 30,000 in 2010.

Before the free spring game, Michigan State's coaching staff and players will conduct a free youth football clinic. (No registration required.) Children ages 8 to 12 can attend the youth clinic from 10 to 11:30 a.m. on the grass practice fields behind the Duffy Daugherty Football Building.

Clinic participants and their parents are requested to enter the practice fields through the gate on Shaw Lane. In the past eight years, approximately 3,800 children have taken part in the annual youth football clinic.

  Oregon
1 p.m., Autzen Stadium, Eugene, Ore.

The Ducks' final spring scrimmage will serve as a backdrop to honor the country's armed services and will be televised by ESPN2.

Fans will get a chance to see Heisman Trophy candidate LaMichael James and a host of returnees from the Ducks team that played in January's BCS National Championship Game against Auburn.

The festivities will include a two-hour Fan Fest at the Ed Moshofsky Sports Center starting at 11 a.m. Expect live music, interactive games and representatives of each branch of the armed forces, the Oregon National Guard and the Coast Guard.

The Ducks drew a record attendance of 25,211 at last year's spring game.

Admission for the tilt is three nonperishable food items, which will be donated to Food for Lane County. The local food bank has benefited from the donation of more than 20,000 pounds of food from the final spring scrimmage each of the past two years.

  Rutgers
3 p.m., Rutgers Stadium, Piscataway, N.J.

The activities surrounding the Scarlet-White Game will showcase several former Rutgers standouts. Scarlet Knights now in the NFL will sign autographs from noon to 12:45 p.m., including Gary Brackett and Eric Foster of the Colts, Kevin Haslam and Tiquan Underwood of the Jaguars, Ray Rice (Ravens), Brian Leonard (Bengals), Jamaal Westerman (Jets), Devin McCourty (Patriots), Jason McCourty (Titans), Jeremy Zuttah (Buccaneers), Ryan D'Imperio (Vikings) and Kevin Brock (Raiders).

The Believe Bowl, a flag football game with former RU letter winners, begins at 1 p.m. at Rutgers Stadium.

The spring game itself will raise awareness for spinal cord research and Eric LeGrand, a Rutgers defensive tackle who was paralyzed from the neck down in a collision against Army in October. He regained movement in his shoulders and sensation throughout his body earlier this year.

  Washington
11 a.m., Husky Stadium, Seattle

Admission is free to the spring game, and fans can get a look at available season-ticket locations starting at 10 a.m. Seats will be marked and available for purchase on the spot.

The game is more low-key -- in contrast to last year's Friday Night Lights -- with kickoff at 11 a.m. The Huskies will be trying to replace quarterback Jake Locker, and young guns Keith Price and Nick Montana figure to battle into the fall.

On Saturday night, fans can attend a concert by George Lopez at 8 p.m. at the Paramount Theatre or a Major League Soccer game between Toronto FC and Sounders FC at 7 p.m. at Qwest Field.

Tony Guadagnoli, a freelance writer from western Washington, may be reached at tonyguad@yahoo.com

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