The ultimate college football road trip

Imagine if money were no option, travel arrangements were taken care of and you simply could crisscross the country for an entire autumn to take in the best college football has to offer this season.

Oh, there are some restrictions, but that just makes it more fun to plan. Say it wasn’t possible to see a team more than twice (not counting a conference title game). Or that there was a 21-game limit over the 15-week season. And that it was a requirement to visit a campus in any league that made a BCS appearance in the last two seasons (hello, Mountain West and WAC).

One more thing: No doubling back to the same home field twice. Just one trip to the Horseshoe. One trek to the Swamp. One visit to Happy Valley (White Out, please!). Even a look at the Smurf Turf.

There will be rivalries, to be sure. The Red River Shootout (which should be the game’s name, political correctness be damned). The Backyard Brawl. The Civil War.

And Army-Navy. There’s no leaving out Army-Navy. It should be on any college football fan’s bucket list and certainly is a fitting final leg to this journey.

Yes, some incredible matchups were left on the cutting room floor. But it’s still a gaudy schedule, one any fan (or in the spirit of full disclosure) any reporter would happily sign on for just once.

The ride is going to be wild this fall. These just happen to be 21 games completely worth any fan’s while this season:

Sept. 3: Oregon at Boise State

Consider this the first of many national-title eliminator games. More importantly, the season starts on Boise’s blue surface. The Broncos rarely lure high-profile opponents into Idaho, so this is an immediate statement game.

Sept. 5: Alabama vs. Virginia Tech in Atlanta

It’ll take a cross-country flight to make it to the Georgia Dome in time, but it’s worth seeing whether the Crimson Tide can eviscerate an ACC favorite to start a second straight year. It’s the first chance to see whether the Hokies’ offense really is improved or just its usual muddled self.

Sept. 12: Southern California at Ohio State

The Trojans have a way of thrashing nonconference opponents when they change time zones, and it’s precisely the last thing the Buckeyes need in such a high-profile showdown. Ohio State should do better at the Horseshoe than last year’s 35-3 loss, but the advantage still belongs to Southern Cal.

Sept. 19: Tennessee at Florida

Off to the Swamp, where Tim Tebow might receive the first challenge of his senior year. Or the Gators simply could toss up another rout to quiet new Volunteers coach Lane Kiffin — who could use some silencing after a chirpy offseason.

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