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Home Road Trip What are the best Big 12 road trips for Utah Utes football fans? – Deseret News

What are the best Big 12 road trips for Utah Utes football fans? – Deseret News

by Staff

During its time in the Pac-12, Utah always had good fan support at road football games.

Aside from alumni living nearby in Pac-12 country, the conference’s member schools were all located on the West Coast and were all technically drivable in a day, and all flights to opposing schools were under three hours, leading to solid showings of red-clad fans at away games.

Road travel is going to change in a big way this season as Utah enters the Big 12.

The Utes will still keep some fairly close road trip options in BYU, Arizona, Arizona State and Colorado, but the majority of Big 12 country resides in the Midwest, with West Virginia and UCF in the East.

Utah fans flooded Las Vegas — less than a six-hour drive from Salt Lake City — for back-to-back Pac-12 championships, but should the Utes advance to the Big 12 championship game, a trip to Dallas and AT&T Stadium awaits.

The Big 12 road experience has some positives and negatives when compared to the Pac-12.

Flights are going to be longer and more expensive — with poor direct flight options for some cities — and driving to most Big 12 cities on a weekend trip is out of the question. Cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle and Portland are more desirable to visit (for some) than Stillwater, Oklahoma, Waco, Texas, Lubbock, Texas, and Ames, Iowa.

But if you’re a dedicated enough fan to spend the time and money to hit the road to see the Utes play, the most important part of the trip — by far — is the actual game. Most Big 12 fanbases should be an upgrade from the sleepy crowds at some Pac-12 stadiums — see UCLA and Cal for example. There’s some great game-day experiences and atmospheres at places like Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Iowa State and West Virginia, to name a few.

Here are three of the best Big 12 road trips for Utah fans in 2024.

Sept. 21: Oklahoma State (Stillwater, Oklahoma)

Fans fill the seats at Oklahoma State Boone Pickens Stadium during a game between Pittsburgh and Oklahoma State in Stillwater, Okla., Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016. The Utes play their first game ever in the Big 12 on Sept. 21. | Brody Schmidt, Associated Press

Utah plays its first-ever Big 12 Conference game in Stillwater in what could be its toughest road test of the season. Boone Pickens Stadium holds 53,885 fans, and like Rice-Eccles Stadium, looks to be a great atmosphere for football. The Cowboys have dedicated fans, and Oklahoma State sold out all of their home games last season en route to the Big 12 championship game.

The Cowboys and Utes are among the favorites to win the new-look Big 12 in 2024, and even though it’s a late September game, it could have huge implications on the Big 12 championship race.

Stillwater doesn’t have a ton of things for tourists to do — the college town is centered around Oklahoma State University — but there is the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, if you’re into that.

But you’re going to be in town for football, and Stillwater will deliver one of the best game-day experiences in the Big 12. The tailgating outside of Boone Pickens Stadium is expansive, with tens of thousands of tailgaters reveling hours before kickoff, and once inside, the fans should be raring to go in what could be a top-25 matchup.

The Utes won’t play here again for at least another three years — the next time they play Oklahoma State is at Rice-Eccles Stadium in 2027 — so if you want to experience Boone Pickens Stadium, it’s your only chance for a while.

Nov. 16: Colorado (Boulder, Colorado)

An eight-hour drive from Salt Lake City, this is the closest road trip of the Big 12 schedule for the Utes, against their old Pac-12 foe Colorado.

Nestled on a hill with a spectacular view of the mountains in the background, 50,183-seat Folsom Field is one of the oldest stadiums in college football, opening in 1924. It has an old-school vibe and is a beautiful place to watch a football game.

Deion Sanders’ arrival has reinvigorated the fanbase, and all of Colorado’s home games were sold out last season. Even after a rough ending to the season — the Buffaloes lost their last six games — season tickets for 2024 are sold out. If Colorado is competitive late into the season, we could see a rocking atmosphere in Boulder.

Colorado and Utah share many similarities, and one is outdoor activities — though in Denver, you have to travel farther to get to the mountains. There’s plenty of hikes, but if that’s not your thing, Denver still has plenty to offer. There are lots of museums, like the excellent Denver Museum of Nature & Science and the Denver Art Museum. There’s plenty of places to eat, shop and see downtown as well.

Depending on the NFL schedule, you could make it a football weekend and catch a Broncos game on Sunday at Empower Field at Mile High.

Nov. 29: UCF (Orlando, Florida)

Normally, there would be plenty of families that would jump at a trip to Orlando. If you’re a theme park and Utah football fan, what could be better than combining the two in a weekend?

The Utes likely won’t be playing in Orlando often — the Knights visit Salt Lake City in 2027 in the next meeting between the two teams — adding to the allure of a trip. And what better way to escape dreary late November in Salt Lake City than a trip to the Sunshine State?

The wrinkle is that the game falls on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. But if you’re willing to spend Turkey Day in Orlando — or grab an early-morning flight on Friday, depending on the game time — it could be a fun (albeit expensive) trip, especially if theme parks are in the plans.

There’s no shortage of activities in Orlando, which is why it constantly ranks as one of the most visited cities in the United States year after year. From Disney World to Universal Studios to SeaWorld and much more, Orlando is theme park central. If theme parks aren’t your speed, there’s the Kennedy Space Center, among other attractions. Cocoa Beach is near the Kennedy Space Center for some rest and relaxation while watching the waves roll in.

Sadly, UCF’s football stadium — which was officially called the Bounce House from 2020-22, due to the stadium’s propensity to shaking when fans jump up and down — has been renamed to FBC Mortgage Stadium, but the experience inside looks to be great.

Like Stillwater, UCF has a reputation for tailgating, and it’ll be a pregame party before the Knights take on Utah, then 45,301 will pack FBC Mortgage Stadium for the final game of the regular season, which could have a big impact on Utah’s overall year.

A statue of Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse appears in front of the Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom theme park at Walt Disney World, Jan. 15, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The Utes will visit Central Florida for a Nov. 29 contest. | John Raoux, Associated Press

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