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May 30, 2007

Ultimate road trip: The best games of 2007

Steve Megargee's Ultimate Schedule
Date Matchup
Sept. 1 Tennessee at Cal
Sept. 8 Va. Tech at LSU
Sept. 15 USC at Nebraska
Sept. 22 Penn State at Michigan
Sept. 29 Auburn at Florida
Oct. 6 Oklahoma vs. Texas (at Dallas)
Oct. 13 Wisconsin at Penn State
Oct. 20 Auburn at LSU
Oct. 27 Nebraska at Texas
Nov. 3 LSU at Alabama
Nov. 8 Louisville at West Virginia
Nov. 10 USC at Cal
Nov. 17 Ohio State at Michigan
Nov. 24 Alabama at Auburn
Dec. 1 UCLA at USC

Ultimate Road Trip Photo Gallery

Consider this the dream travel package for a college football fan.

We looked at the composite schedule for the 2007 season and tried to figure out the best games to attend each week.

As we put together our itinerary, we didn't make pageantry or tradition a factor - or else we would have chosen the Army-Navy game and certainly would have included at least one trip to Notre Dame Stadium.

We instead tried to decide which game each week would possess the most intriguing storylines and carry the greatest championship implications.

Although we tried to limit ourselves to one game each week, we couldn't avoid planning at least one week in which we listed a Thursday entry as well as a Saturday matchup. We also listed three other games each week that also merited special consideration.

Selecting just one game each Saturday turned into quite a challenge. Finding tickets for most of these games could prove even tougher.

Week 1: Saturday, Sept. 1
Tennessee at Cal: We expected this game to be a toss-up last year, and Tennessee instead scored the game's first 35 points on its way to a 35-18 triumph. California should put up much more of a fight at home. Both programs could start the season ranked among the top 15 teams in the nation, which makes this the most attractive game in a relatively lackluster opening weekend.
Florida State at Clemson (Sept. 3): We're guessing this Labor Day ACC showdown features more scoring than those FSU-Miami defensive struggles.
Georgia Tech at Notre Dame: The post-Calvin Johnson and post-Brady Quinn eras begin.
Wake Forest at Boston College: The FSU-Clemson game and this one could sort out the ACC Atlantic Division in a hurry.
Week 2: Saturday, Sept. 8
Virginia Tech at LSU: Under ordinary circumstances, this heavyweight matchup would have been one of the most intriguing non-conference games of the season. The fact that this will be only Virginia Tech's second game since last spring's tragic shooting will cause this game to receive even more national attention. Although Virginia Tech opens the season at home against East Carolina a week earlier, this may offer the first true indication of how the Hokies will perform under such devastating conditions. They'd do well to follow the lead of LSU, which went 11-2 two years ago while dealing with the effects of Hurricane Katrina.
Miami at Oklahoma: Randy Shannon doesn't get much of a chance to ease into his new job.
Notre Dame at Penn State: How will that young Irish offense fare in a night game on the road?
Texas Christian at Texas: TCU stunned Oklahoma two years ago and knocked off Texas Tech last season. Can the Frogs knock off another Big 12 heavyweight?
Week 3: Saturday, Sept. 15
Southern California at Nebraska: This game gives new Huskers quarterback Sam Keller a chance to make a statement. It could also provide a clue of where Nebraska stands in its fourth year under Bill Callahan. Zac Taylor completed only eight passes for 115 yards in a 28-10 loss at Southern California last year. Might Keller fare better? The Arizona State transfer threw for 347 yards and five interceptions in the Sun Devils' 38-28 loss to the Trojans two years ago.
West Virginia at Maryland (Sept. 13): West Virginia's national title hopes could be doomed by mid-September if the Terps pull the upset.
Notre Dame at Michigan: The road team has won this game each of the last two years.
Tennessee at Florida: This is the first big game of the Tim Tebow era.
Week 4: Saturday, Sept. 22
Penn State at Michigan: Think Ohio State has Michigan's number? This Big Ten rivalry has become even more one-sided. Michigan has won its last eight meetings with Penn State. The last time Penn State visited Michigan, Mario Manningham caught a touchdown pass as time expired to hand Penn State its only loss of the 2005 season. This should be a matchup of unbeatens as long as both teams get past Notre Dame.
Texas A&M at Miami (Sept. 20): The Aggies' outstanding rushing attack faces one of the nation's stiffest defenses.
Georgia at Alabama: Alabama hasn't beaten Georgia since 1995, though the two teams have only faced each other twice since then.
South Carolina at LSU: The Gamecocks were oh-so-close to pulling off quite a few upsets last year. Can they tame the Tigers on the road?
Week 5: Saturday, Sept. 29
Auburn at Florida: Defending national champions rarely have revenge motives, but this game gives the Gators a chance to make amends after falling apart down the stretch at Auburn last season. Will Tim Tebow avoid the mistakes that haunted Chris Leak against Auburn a year ago? This game likely will pit two unbeaten teams against each other, assuming Florida beats Tennessee at home two weeks earlier.
West Virginia at South Florida (Sept. 28): Can the Bulls stop Steve Slaton and Pat White again?
Alabama vs. Florida State at Jacksonville: This game could feature two of the nation's most improved teams this year.
Clemson at Georgia Tech: The Jackets will try to do a better job of slowing down James Davis and C.J. Spiller this time.
Week 6: Saturday, Oct. 6
Oklahoma vs. Texas (at Dallas): You could make a pretty good argument that the Florida-LSU game is just as big if not bigger but why watch the same team two weeks in a row when you have your pick of any game in the nation? Either Oklahoma or Texas has won the Big 12 South each of the last eight years. Critics can point out that this game hasn't been decided by less than 10 points since 1997, but we're guessing this rivalry is finally ready for another close game.
Florida at LSU: Don't be surprised if they meet again in the SEC championship game.
Georgia at Tennessee: These two teams will try their best to prevent a Florida-LSU title game.
Virginia Tech at Clemson: Clemson's late-season slide last year began with a loss to the Hokies.
Week 7: Saturday, Oct. 13
Wisconsin at Penn State: This week doesn't have nearly as many attractive games as the previous week, but this matchup could offer the biggest championship implications. This will be Wisconsin's first game against a team that had a winning record last year, so the Badgers ought to enter Happy Valley undefeated. Penn State will be more battle tested after facing Notre Dame and Michigan in September.
Boston College at Notre Dame: Boston College has beaten the Irish four consecutive times, but they haven't met during the Charlie Weis era.
Auburn at Arkansas: After losing to Arkansas at home last year, the Tigers attempt to return the favor.
LSU at Kentucky: This could be a major trap for the Tigers, who head to Lexington in between home games with Florida and Auburn.
Week 8: Saturday, Oct. 20
Auburn at LSU: This annual SEC Western Division showdown might not feature much offense Auburn won last year's game 7-3 - but it sure provides plenty of drama. The last three meetings between these teams have been decided by a total of eight points. The winner of this game likely will have the inside track to the Western Division championship. That makes this the biggest game in one of the season's most attractive college football weekends.
Southern California at Notre Dame: Their last meeting in South Bend was one of the most exciting regular-season games of the 21st century.
Miami at Florida State: The move from Labor Day to midseason should allow this game to have a little more offense than usual.
Tennessee at Alabama: Nick Saban's arrival ought to add some juice to this rivalry.
Week 9: Saturday, Oct. 27
Nebraska at Texas: The Florida-Georgia showdown is equally compelling, but we didn't want to schedule three SEC games in a row. Besides, the Nebraska-Texas showdown offers its own intrigue after the Huskers suffered such a heartbreaking loss to the Longhorns last year. Nebraska fumbled away a chance for a victory over Texas in the last couple of minutes a year ago. If they get an early lead this time, can the Huskers close the deal?
Florida vs. Georgia (at Jacksonville): Florida has won eight of the last nine games in this rivalry.
Ohio State at Penn State: This game opens a tough late-season schedule for the Buckeyes that also includes dates with Wisconsin and Michigan.
West Virginia at Rutgers: Can they match the thrills of that triple-overtime game that determined last year's Big East champion?
Week 10: Saturday, Nov. 3
LSU at Alabama: This matchup between Nick Saban's current team and his former one offers perhaps the most intriguing off-field plotlines of the entire regular-season schedule. Saban could make quite the statement if Alabama found a way to knock LSU out of national title contention. This annual matchup may be even more interesting next season, when Saban returns to Baton Rouge to coach on the visitors' sideline.
Wisconsin at Ohio State: We would have loved to see this game last year, but better late than never.
Texas A&M at Oklahoma: The Aggies will try to avoid any ill-timed penalties this year.
Florida State at Boston College: This game could go a long way toward determining the ACC Atlantic Division champion.
Week 11: Thursday, Nov. 8
Louisville at West Virginia: We decided to make room for at least one week in which we squeezed in a Thursday night game as well as a Saturday contest. In reality, I don't want to imagine the layovers involved in flying from Morgantown to the Bay Area on a Friday. But in our dream world, there's no reason we can't fit in the Louisville-West Virginia Big East showdown before flying across the country. Rutgers and South Florida fans might argue, but we're guessing this game once again will determine the Big East champion.
Week 11: Saturday, Nov. 10
Southern California at Cal: Southern California's chances of winning a sixth consecutive Pac-10 title and playing for the national championship could depend on whether the Trojans can pull off this road victory. California will need a big performance from Nate Longshore, who completed less than half his passes and threw two interceptions last season in a 23-9 loss to USC.
Florida at South Carolina: Steve Spurrier is a blocked field-goal attempt away from having swept his two previous meetings with Urban Meyer.
Michigan at Wisconsin: Michigan handed Wisconsin its only loss of the season last year.
Auburn at Georgia: Brandon Cox seeks redemption after throwing four interceptions in a loss to the Bulldogs a year ago.
Week 12: Saturday, Nov. 17
Ohio State at Michigan: It wouldn't be a complete surprise if both teams again enter this showdown with perfect records. Ohio State has to replace plenty of guys on offense, but the Buckeyes' early-season schedule is easy enough to keep them afloat as they learn on the job. Michigan might have the most talented offense in the nation. Michigan's home-field advantage and experience could help the Wolverines end their three-game losing streak to the Buckeyes.
Miami at Virginia Tech: This game likely will decide who represents the ACC Coastal Division in the conference championship game.
Boston College at Clemson: And this game could determine who joins Miami or Virginia Tech in Jacksonville.
Louisville at South Florida: The Cardinals lost 45-14 two years ago - the last time they played at South Florida.
Week 13: Saturday, Nov. 24
Alabama at Auburn: We didn't feel very comfortable including three Auburn games on our schedule, but we had to make room for Nick Saban's first appearance in the Iron Bowl. Auburn's fifth consecutive victory over its in-state rival last year probably cost Mike Shula his job. Will the coaching change end Auburn's mastery of the nation's most heated rivalry?
Boise State at Hawaii (Nov. 23): There's a good chance both teams will be undefeated. If that's the case, the winner just might earn a BCS bid.
Arkansas at LSU (Nov. 23): This game could determine the SEC West champion. Or it could decide whether Houston Nutt keeps his job. In the soap opera that is Arkansas football, it's hard to predict anything.
Florida State at Florida: The Seminoles will try to end a three-game losing streak to the Gators.
Week 14: Saturday, Dec. 1
UCLA at Southern California: We didn't want to put a conference championship game in this spot when we didn't even know who'd be playing, so we instead had to choose from a short list of regular-season games. The best choice was this rematch of the most meaningful upset of the 2006 season. This UCLA team should have more talent than the squad that knocked USC out of national title contention last year, but USC also figures to be better.
Rutgers at Louisville (Nov. 29): This game could have Big East championship implications if West Virginia hasn't already wrapped it up by then.
Pittsburgh at West Virginia: Don't be surprised if West Virginia is playing for a spot in the national championship game.
Oregon State at Oregon: Oregon State beat the Ducks a year ago on a late field goal by Alexis Serna.

Ultimate Road Trip Photo Gallery

Steve Megargee is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at smegargee@rivals.com.

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