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Monday, June 17, 2013
Katz: Ranking the road trips

By Greg Katz

So you’re a USC Trojans fan, and you are gushing with enthusiasm to travel to one or more road games this season but can’t decide which one to attend. Well, as a public service and your personal travel agent, here are our recommendations. With six road games on the schedule, we'll rank them from 1 (lowest priority) to 6 (a can't miss).

Aug. 29 at Hawaii
Pro: Really? How much motivation do you need to see a Trojans game and vacation in Oahu at the same time? It’s Waikiki, Diamond Head, the North Shore, shaved ice and the Banzai Pipeline. The game is being played on a Thursday, and there is still the weekend to dance the night away with the locals.

Con: Well, it’s summer and it’s bound to be hot and humid. The game kicks off at 4:30 local time, so by the time you finish tailgating you may have melted quicker than the Wicked Witch, and you can bet your ukulele on it.

Aloha Stadium: The Polynesian Cultural Center of football still has its appeal, as the old stadium will also host the 2014 NFL Pro Bowl, so it still has its royalty. Sight lines are good and one can see Pearl Harbor from a distance if you sit high enough.

Rating: 5

Sept. 28 at Arizona State
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
A road trip to South Bend to watch USC play Notre Dame should be on the bucket list of every Trojans fan.
Pro: Just minutes from Phoenix and Sky Harbor Airport, this can be a day trip depending on the kickoff time. Tempe is a happening place the night before a game and comes alive on game day. The party action is along Mill Avenue, which is just blocks from Sun Devils Stadium.

Con: It depends, naturally, on the weather -- like hot, hot, hot. Some seasons back during the Pete Carroll era, the Trojans played a mid-day game and a number of Trojans fans said they felt like they were melting on the metal benches. Ugh. If you have to survive a game rather than enjoy it, what’s the point of attending?

Sun Devil Stadium: Viewing a game at Sun Devil Stadium is excellent. The concession stands are nothing to get excited about, but there are enough sweets to make it tolerable. The ASU fans are really into it, so don’t be shocked if they comment on your cardinal-and-gold attire.

Ranking: 3

Oct. 19 at Notre Dame
Pro: The gold standard. There is nothing that rivals or compares with the Notre Dame weekender. Staying in Chicago is a party, the noon Friday rally at the Navy Pier on Friday is the best of the best, and there are great eating spots, comedy clubs, theaters and shopping options. Staying in South Bend is an option, but the city doesn’t exactly rock with excitement unless one attends the Friday night football rally on the ND campus.

Con: It’s the traffic in and, especially, out of Notre Dame Stadium. Imagine just one off-ramp to the Coliseum. The “Coli” has Martin Luther King Blvd. and Exposition Blvd; ND has the infamous Exit 77. Since this season’s game will kick off at 7:30 p.m. local time, you can figure you’ll get back to your Chicago hotel around 2 a.m. if you’re lucky.

Notre Dame Stadium: Game day on campus is a spectacle with the Golden Dome, the Grotto, tailgating and the imposing figure of Touchdown Jesus. As far as the stadium, it's a football fan’s dream. Close to the field and with the ghosts of Rockne everywhere, a night game becomes a surreal experience if the weather cooperates.

Ranking: 6

Nov. 1 at Oregon State
Pro: Well, Corvallis is a nice little village about four miles toward the Oregon coast from the main freeway. It’s quiet, the people are friendly and there isn’t a heck of a lot going on. Oregon State does have a pretty campus, and it very much reminds one of Ivy League schools on the East Coast.

Con: Getting out of the area and back to the freeway can test one’s patience. There isn’t much of a pregame atmosphere. If you’re staying in Portland, it’s a healthy drive and mighty dark at night, and if you’re staying in the Corvallis area, well, it’s not exactly Times Square in the Big Apple.

Reser Stadium: The viewing is very good, but the second deck is pretty high. If the weather is cold and windy, it’s all about survival. With a 6 p.m. Friday kickoff, its’ a roll of the thermometer dice. The visitor’s locker room is literally located across the street from little Reser Stadium, so you can get an up-close look at the Trojans before they enter the stadium and at halftime.

Ranking: 2

Nov. 9 at California
Pro: If you’re into San Francisco and love the city’s romance with such attractions as the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, Golden Gate Park, Alcatraz and the iconic cable cars, you can’t miss on this trip. The annual Friday night pep rally at Union Square in downtown SF is dynamic and invigorating. It’s a true happening, and there are Trojans fans everywhere.

Con: Finding a cheap hotel in downtown San Fran isn’t easy, and the good hotels within the city are reserved well in advance. Traveling to Berkeley can be stressful if the traffic going over the Bay Bridge has issues, and then there are the surface streets to navigate. The Cal campus resides on hills and your heart better be in good shape for walking. Parking for the game is atrocious.

Matt Barkley
The Trojans have fond memories of Folsom Field, where Matt Barkley threw six touchdown passes in a 42-17 win back in 2011.
Memorial Stadium: The remodeled venue is now fan friendly, and it still has a gorgeous view of San Francisco Bay at one end and the gathering of freebee fans sitting in beach chairs up on Tightwad Hill. It’s a miniature Rose Bowl inside the stadium and just a wonderful place to watch a game. Although there is a fan fest outside the stadium before the game, the food is average at best.

Ranking: 4

Nov. 23 at Colorado
Pro: The university seems to be nestled right up against the mountains and when it snows, it’s about as picturesque as it gets. It’s not your typical Pac-12 campus; it has a distinct flavor all its own. Most visiting folks stay in Denver, and there are lots of fine food choices and sports bars in the Mile High City. Because it’s a sports town, so you can easily get into college and pro sports conversations with the locals.

Con: The Denver Airport is quite a distance from the CU campus, and traffic to and from the game is a factor even when driving in from Denver to Boulder. On game day, things can get rather sticky, especially if snow is falling, which is a distinct possibility, so this turns into a National Geographic expedition of sorts. It figures to be mighty cold with a late November kickoff and the time of kickoff will make a difference, so it may be more survival than enjoyment.

Folsom Field: There is a lot of tradition at Folsom Field, and there’s nothing like watching Ralphie the Buffalo run onto the field followed by the home team. The facility wasn’t originally built for expansion of seats, but the university has done a credible job of increasing the capacity.

Ranking: 1