Flip Week: Texas

December, 24, 2013
12/24/13
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Editor's note: During Week 12, 10 ESPN.com reporters changed conferences to experience college football in unfamiliar territory. Here is what they learned from the experience.

When we got our "Flip Week” assignments, I have to admit I thought I hit the college football jackpot. Maybe I'm biased, but I think I lucked out and got the best trip of them all. I had never been to Austin before, but plenty of close friends and family members had and I always felt I was missing out. Each one raved about the city, but for different reasons. A small part of me was slightly worried that Austin would be unable to live up to its advance billing, like an overhyped movie that turns out to be so-so.

Well, those concerns faded away about an hour into my visit. All the rave reviews you hear about Austin? They are all true. All the rave reviews you hear about Texas football game-day traditions? They are all true. All the rave reviews you hear about the food? They are all true. Austin was everything I wanted it to be, and that is what makes the city so irresistible to folks who visit. The experiences are so varied, no two are ever the same.

Now, here is a quick overview of the trip. Beginning with my favorite pic.
Best meal: la Barbecue. This was not an easy choice, because every meal I had was pretty terrific. But the "El Sancho" sandwich stands out. Filled with brisket, sausage and pickled red onion on a soft bun, the meat was tender, juicy and flavorful and the barbecue sauce I chose had the right amount of sweetness. This ended up being a fork-and-knife sandwich: the meat was packed in so tight, it spilled out from all sides. My favorite part, truthfully, was the sausage. It blended the right amount of sweet and spice, with a crunchy skin that popped when chomped on a bite. I admit I could not finish the whole sandwich. But I did eat every bite of sausage.

[+] EnlargeAndrea
Courtesy Andrea AdelsonBevo has the best seat in the house for a Texas home football game, as ESPN.com's Andrea Adelson learned on her trip.
Must-see sight in Austin: College football aficionados must take in the whole game-day experience. That means having a beverage at the Scholz Garten, mooching off some delicious tailgate grub on en route to Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, attempting to get close enough to get a glimpse of at least one player walking into the stadium during the march in, enjoying the band pregame featuring Big Bertha, hearing Smokey the Cannon go off and, of course, observing the always fascinating Bevo XIV. What does he do all game, you may ask. He just stands there. That is all.

Biggest surprise: Upbeat Texas fans. I wondered what the mood would be in Austin given all the speculation and tension surrounding the program throughout the course of the season. I was there for the Oklahoma State game, with Big 12 implications on the line. Texas fans had hope headed into the game, but they all seemed to believe it was time for Mack Brown to go. Just about everybody I talked to had no hard feelings for him. They just felt he was ruining his legacy by hanging too long. Despite the tension, though, Texas fans remained resolute the program would be back on top one way or another.

Biggest difference from ACC: In the ACC, you either have programs in major cities (Boston, Miami, Pittsburgh, Atlanta) or in college towns (Clemson, Blacksburg, Charlottesville). Austin is both big city and college town rolled into one. Three ACC programs are in state capitals, like Texas is in Austin. But Tallahassee, Raleigh and Atlanta would never be described as equal parts big city and equal parts college town.

They said it: "Texas is an icon program. In football, our brand is so recognizable, we are almost like the Yankees. The fact that people hate UT solidifies how good we are. The more they hate us, the better we are." Texas fan Todd Summy, explaining why he loves the Longhorns.

If I could go back: I missed the live music. How did I go to Austin and not see any? I am kicking myself for that. But because there was also an auto race the same weekend, my hotel was 30 minutes away from the heart of town. And our schedules were so packed with work and interviews, I simply did not have the time. That is No. 1 on my list next time I go. And yes, there absolutely will be a next time.

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