Column

No Offseason: My college football bucket list

Here are some experiences that every college football fan should see at least once in their lifetime.

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“No Offseason” is a column by Adam Bradford discussing college football developments during the winter and spring months.

Nothing sets college football apart from other sports more than its unique traditions and venues.

In the NFL, attending a game at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts, is fairly similar to attending a game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California — 3,000 miles away.

In college football, however, this is not at all the case. Going to a Florida game in Gainesville, a Michigan game in Ann Arbor and a USC game in Los Angeles are three completely different experiences. Hence, many die-hard college football fans spend each fall traveling around the country to take in as many of these experiences as possible.

Hence, today I will give my bucket list of college football environments that I would like to experience in-person at least once in my lifetime.

Penn State White Out

State College, Pennsylvania, is infamously hard to get to. But for the Penn State whiteout game, it’s 100% worth the trip.

Imagine a scene of more than 100,000 fans decked out in all white, cheering in cohesion each and every play. Imagine a stadium so raucous that the visiting team has to call a timeout on their first offensive snap of the game. Imagine a place where dream seasons and trips to the College Football Playoff come to die, crushed by a sea of white.

You don’t have to imagine. That’s the Penn State whiteout.

Saturday Night in Death Valley

Even during day games, LSU’s Tiger Stadium is one of the most intimidating atmospheres in the country for visiting teams. But LSU fans take things to another level after the sun sets.

Affectionately known as “Saturday Night in Death Valley,” night games in Baton Rouge — especially against marquee opponents — offer one of the craziest scenes in the entire sport. Need proof? Just rewatch last year’s LSU upset of No. 6 Alabama and the subsequent storming of the field by the Tigers fans.

In fact, during a 1988 victory over Auburn, LSU fans shook Tiger Stadium so hard that it caused an earthquake. They still talk about “the earthquake game” in Baton Rouge today, a legendary moment that continues to inspire future generations of Tigers.

The Red River Showdown

First of all, don’t let the official name fool you. The Texas-Oklahoma rivalry, formerly known as the Red River Shootout, is just that.

Played inside the Cotton Bowl at the State Fair of Texas, this is one of the only big-time college football games where an 11 a.m. local time kickoff works. With the Texas sun beating down on the Cotton Bowl, the stadium is split down the middle, with one half decked out in Texas burnt orange and the other half in Oklahoma crimson.

In recent years, the two teams have produced several instant classic contests. From Texas’ game-winning field goal in 2018, to a quadruple-overtime thriller in 2020 to Oklahoma’s stunning comeback led by freshman backup quarterback Caleb Williams in 2021, this series rarely disappoints.

Checkered Neyland

For one home game a year, Tennessee fans turn the iconic Neyland Stadium into a giant checkerboard. With fans wearing either orange or white based on what section of the stadium they are sitting in, it truly is one of the most aesthetically pleasing sights in all of sports.

Unfortunately for Tennessee fans, their football team struggled for the past 15 years, including a 1-4 mark in “Checkered Neyland” games prior to this past season. But with the Vols finally on the come-up after an 11-win season, Neyland Stadium should be rocking like it hasn’t in a long time.

If Tennessee fans break out the checkerboard for their November 18 showdown with two-time defending national champion Georgia, it should easily be one of the best atmospheres in the sport this season.

The Rose Bowl

Let me clarify that by the Rose Bowl, I don’t mean the stadium itself. While that is historic in its own right, it isn’t quite the same if you attend a UCLA game there with 30,000 fans in attendance.

No, I am referring to the Rose Bowl Game, aka “The Granddaddy of Them All.” Played every January in Pasadena since 1916 (except for two times that it was moved to other locations due to World War II and the COVID-19 Pandemic), the Rose Bowl is a New Year’s Day tradition unlike any other. Watching 90,000 fans pack the sport’s most historic venue while the sun shines on the San Gabriel Mountains in the background is a sight for sore eyes.

In recent years, college football has seen an increasing amount of change. Between conference realignment, the transfer portal and an expanded playoff, bowl games do not carry the same significance that they did even a decade ago.

However, the Rose Bowl is the exception to this. Despite moving from the poll era to the BCS to the College Football Playoff, The Granddaddy of Them All continues to deliver year after year. As we move into the sport’s new era, come 2024, expect this to continue to be the case.

“No Offseason” runs every other Thursday.