Good Hands Roadside Rivalry Road Trip: Five College Football Stadiums Every Fan Must Visit

Everyone's been asked to name the handful of possessions they'd wish to have were they ever to find themselves stranded on a deserted island. Which as an exercise in armchair psychology is kinda fun, and can be quite instructive (You'd bring your curling iron? Really?).

But more fun to me are hypotheticals about things that might actually happen. Things within your control. Like, at which film or TV set would stalking Yvonne Strahovski be most productive?

Uh... Or... which five college football stadiums should you go out of your way to visit sometime in your life?

While contemplating these hypotheticals on these here intertubes is fun, here's a protip for you, dear reader: Actually do this. I mean get a group of friends together and take a football trip every year. (Stalking is illegal.) Pull together a group of old buddies you don't get to see as often as you'd like and commit to traveling together to check out great football games at amazing stadiums. 

And make sure you see these five stadiums when you do:

THE ROSE BOWL * PASADENA, CALIFORNIA

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Nestled in the hills of Pasadena, for my money the Rose Bowl is  the purest and most beautiful of all the big stadiums, rich with tradition and history, and ideally set up to accommodate an epic Saturday of tailgating and football. As a Texas fan, I've had the good fortune to attend this majestic masterpiece three times in the past six years, and though the last one didn't quite turn out as we hoped, each was an unforgettable experience.

It starts with the tailgating, which takes place on the golf course adjacent to the stadium -- acres of plush, spacious greenery ideal for endless tailgating. The surrounding scenery is breathtaking, and the weather is almost guaranteed to be sublime.

And then there's the stadium itself, a beautiful structure ideally designed for taking in a football game en masse. It's one of those stadiums in which virtually all of the roughly 90,000 seats are excellent (the exception being seats in the first couple rows, which lack the elevation to see as well as you'd like). The Rose Bowl is at its best for its showcase games in January, but a UCLA home game ain't too shabby either.

TIGER STADIUM * BATON ROUGE, LOUISIANA

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Seating 92,400, there are a handful of bigger stadiums, but there may not be any that get louder. Just ask the seismologists at LSU who in 1988 registered a reading on their Richter Scale when LSU scored a late touchdown to beat Auburn in what is now known as the Earthquake Game. The crowd's roar was that powerful.

That kind of insanity extends well beyond the walls of the stadium, into the surrounding tailgates, which are reason enough to road trip to Baton Rouge for a game. In fact, the tailgating is so unique, and so uniquely spectacular, that you should go even if you don't have tickets to an LSU game and don't like your chances to get them once you're there. Just go. The experience is worth it. 

Just read this....

NOTRE DAME STADIUM * SOUTH BEND, IN

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I see you there, snickering about Notre Dame's recent struggles, but count your own national titles and all-time All Americans, compare to those of Notre Dame, and bow your head. Even if Notre Dame never regains its seat as a national powerhouse, no program has as rich and storied history in the annals of college football. A fact which you quickly appreciate with a visit to Notre Dame Stadium. The insides of the stadium are replete with monuments to Fighting Irish glory, providing a spectacular look back at the history of what was for decades the sport's most important program.

Equally impressive is the tailgating scene, which isn't spectacular in the same sense as LSU's, or Texas' or Georgia's, where tens of thousands of fans from across the entire state descend upon the college for Saturday's festivities, but rather tens of thousands of fans from across the entire country descend upon this small town in the middle of nowhere Indiana. It's a remarkably dedicated, spirited fan base.

MEMORIAL STADIUM * LINCOLN, NEBRASKA

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I visited Lincoln for the Texas-Nebraska game this year, and while I was disappointed in the fans for that particular game (their obsession with beating Texas causing them to act unbecomingly), my overall experience was a fantastic one. The stadium itself is a monument to the program's rich tradition, the crowds are legendary and provide a visually spectacular sea of red that is awesome to behold. They are loud, passionate, and knowledgeable fans, and they've sold out an obscene number of consecutive games.

There's not a whole lot to Lincoln, but on Saturday morning the town explodes to life, with some of the friendliest, most fun tailgating you can find.

AUTZEN STADIUM * EUGENE, OREGON

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The seats at Autzen Stadium, home of the Oregon Ducks, are steep. It is the opposite of the Rose Bowl, eschewing the better views of gradual elevation for the audio advantages of 60,000 fans standing right on top of the field, screaming like banshees for three straight hours. It's a party in the stands, and intimidating as hell for opponents.

It is also funded largely by Phil Knight and the fortune of Nike, which is to say that it's nice and modern in all the right ways, with interesting aesthetics and first-rate facilities. And any time someone tries to tell me that Pac 10 fans aren't all that, I laugh and point northwesterly towards Eugene.

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