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Get ready to tailgate: A dream road trip to see every AP Top 25 team this season

by Staff

AP’s dream college football road trip is back, starting earlier than ever before.

To recap: The goal here is to map out a schedule of games worth traveling to during the upcoming season — with only two rules. First, we must see every team in the AP’s preseason Top 25 at least once. And second, the travel between games must be reasonable in the time available. Long drives are OK, but if you’re at a night game in Oregon, you’re not getting to SEC country for an 11 a.m. kickoff the next day.

Safe travels!

GAME 1: No. 13 Notre Dame vs. Navy (Aug. 26)

Might as well start at the very beginning with the first FBS game of the entire season — in Dublin, Ireland. Brian Newberry coaches his first game after taking over at Navy following the firing of Ken Niumatalolo.

GAME 2: No. 17 TCU vs. Colorado (Sept. 2)

Hopefully the jet lag has worn off because Week 1 will be the toughest travel schedule of the trip. It begins with Deion Sanders’ debut as Colorado’s coach — on the road against a TCU team that played for the national title last season.

GAME 3: No. 5 LSU vs. No. 8 Florida State (Sept. 3)

With the TCU-Colorado game starting at 11 a.m. CT — apparently even Deion has to wait a bit before appearing in Prime Time — it’s possible to make the drive from Texas to Florida for LSU-Florida State in Orlando the following night. It’ll be worth it to see the weekend’s biggest game.

GAME 4: No. 9 Clemson at Duke (Sept. 4)

Another long drive, but it’s doable with Clemson and Duke playing at night. We’ll see if the Tigers seem ready to contend for a playoff spot behind sophomore quarterback Cade Klubnik. Duke is not generally where you look for a big game, but the Blue Devils have potential and received votes in the preseason Top 25.

GAME 5: No. 4 Alabama vs. No. 11 Texas (Sept. 9)

This will be a conference game soon enough, and maybe then it won’t stand out as much. But as a non-league matchup, the novelty here is still enticing. Alabama has hosted Texas exactly one time — a 10-0 loss to the Longhorns in 1902.

GAME 6: No. 21 North Carolina vs. Minnesota (Sept. 16)

Drake Maye and the Tar Heels have an interesting early schedule that includes South Carolina, Appalachian State and then this clash with the Golden Gophers.

GAME 7: No. 19 Wisconsin at Purdue (Sept. 22)

Time to check in on Luke Fickell’s first season at Wisconsin — and see how Purdue looks with Texas transfer Hudson Card at quarterback.

GAME 8: No. 7 Penn State vs. No. 25 Iowa (Sept. 23)

It’s a night game in Happy Valley, so we can pull off the long drive from Purdue. And yes, this is Penn State’s whiteout game.

GAME 9: No. 24 Tulane vs. UAB (Sept. 30)

After going 12-2 with a Cotton Bowl victory over Southern California, Tulane begins this season in the Top 25. Is it time for ESPN’s “College Gameday” to pay the Green Wave a visit? (Imagine if the set were on Bourbon Street.) Tulane will probably have to get through a Week 2 matchup with Mississippi to stay in the rankings, but if that happens, Yulman Stadium could be rocking for this one.

GAME 10: No. 4 Alabama at No. 23 Texas A&M (Oct. 7)

After the little spat between these two coaches before the 2022 season, the thought was that Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide might unleash all sorts of fury on Jimbo Fisher and the Aggies. Instead, Texas A&M made a game of it before losing 24-20.

GAME 11: No. 10 Washington vs. No. 15 Oregon (Oct. 14)

Prediction: Big Ten fans won’t mind making road trips to Washington in the years to come, if only to argue about how Puget Sound compares to the Great Lakes. Located next to Union Bay, the setting at Husky Stadium is also lovely — and that stadium is older than both the Big House and the Horseshoe.

GAME 12: No. 6 USC vs. No. 14 Utah (Oct. 21)

The Trojans have some scores to settle with Utah this year. Utah’s 43-42 win last October prevented USC from going unbeaten in the regular season. Then the teams met again in the Pac-12 title game and the Utes rolled, 47-24.

GAME 13: No. 16 Kansas State vs. Houston (Oct. 28)

Houston will face some familiar opponents this year after joining the Big 12 — but the Cougars have actually never played Kansas State in football.

GAME 14: No. 20 Oklahoma at Oklahoma State (Nov. 4)

There will be a lot of awkwardness (and that’s putting it gently) this year as teams play in conferences they’re about to depart. Bedlam might be the epitome of that. The Sooners and Cowboys have met every year since 1910, a streak that is on the verge of ending next season when Oklahoma moves to the SEC.

GAME 15: No. 18 Oregon State vs. Stanford (Nov. 11)

Speaking of realignment, these are two of the schools being left behind as the Pac-12 crumbles. Oregon State could contend for the league title this year — and what a message that would send to the college football world. But it’s anyone’s guess what Stanford’s future will look like when we get to mid-November.

GAME 16: No. 1 Georgia at No. 12 Tennessee (Nov. 18)

This trip to Neyland Stadium figures to be the toughest game on Georgia’s regular-season schedule as the Bulldogs pursue a third straight national title. Tennessee has to replace quarterback Hendon Hooker, but by this point, the Volunteers will have had plenty of time to refine their high-octane offense.

GAME 17: No. 22 Mississippi at Mississippi State (Nov. 23)

The Egg Bowl on Thanksgiving night offers a chance to see what could be an offensive showcase for Mississippi running back Quinshon Judkins and Mississippi State quarterback Will Rogers.

GAME 18: No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 3 Ohio State (Nov. 25)

Michigan-Ohio State will always be big, given the history and the quality of both programs. But when the playoff goes to 12 teams, will there be the same urgency when the Wolverines and Buckeyes meet in the regular season? If the Wolverines and Buckeyes can hold off a strong Penn State team, this should again be the Big Ten’s most anticipated game in the final year before the playoff — and the league — expand.

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AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll

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