2021 Year in Review

2021 is in the books. After the train wreck that was 2020, it was great to get back at it. I hit nine stadiums, but one, Texas A&M, was a repeat. I have to be honest, I don’t think I wore a mask at any game this year. It’s not that I am against mask wearing, but I was vaccinated and boosted. Plus, we were outside although it was pretty close quarters for a few of the games. I figured the occasional shot of whiskey at a tailgate would give the Corona a good run for its money. At the end of the day, I apologize to the immunocompromised (which is about 3% of the population) but as for the rest of the unvaccinated, eh. Honestly though, the impact of the virus was fairly muted until late in the season. It was not an issue anywhere I went.

I opened the season with a scintillating double header for Labor Day weekend. First stop was Ohio State at Minnesota for a rare Thursday Big 10 game. Before that though, was a stop at the state fair where I ate and drank too much. I also spent fifteen minutes on local Minneapolis sports radio at the fair. My buddy Doug joined me for the game where the Gophers hung with the Buckeyes until late in the 4th quarter. It was a great way to kick off the season. Friday was a travel day to Madison where we ended our evening looking over Lake Mendota and enjoying pitchers of Spotted Cow with our great friends Karen and Dan. Madison has a reputation as a great college town and it did not disappoint. Camp Randall was a great experience. The only downer was that Penn State pulled out the victory with an game ending end zone interception. Jump around indeed.

 

 

The following weekend was a short run up to College Station to see Texas A&M roll over New Mexico. This was more a practice tailgating run to make sure I worked out all the kinks than about the game. Luckily, I had Aggie Super Fan Kurt with me to refresh my memory of the A&M traditions of which there are many. This prep work paid dividends as the tailgating at OU the next week went off without a hitch. The game was a great one and again came down to the wire. The Sooners kicked a field goal as time expired to win it. Despite our planning, Que, another frequent somanystadiums participant, and I agreed that we botched the weekend timeline. We were both impressed with Oklahoma City enough that we regretted not arriving Friday night.

After the mad rush of games, a three weekend break wasn’t just welcomed, it was needed, especially because the next weekend was South Florida at SMU for the annual Nine O’clock Club get-together. While we weren’t willing to fork out a grand to get a tailgate spot on the Boulevard, we made the best of the weekend, partying with old and new friends. Speaking of new friends, as is the Wisconsin way, when Dane learned we were heading to ASU later in the season, he provided an immediate tailgating connection with the Sun Devils. We met Rocky and his tailgating crew in a prime spot right in front of Sun Devil Stadium. He filled us up with great food and drink and added in a ticket to boot. We had a great time watching the Sun Devils rout the Stanford Cardinal. The next day, perhaps a bit later than planned, we headed on down to Tucson to see UCLA thump Arizona. We probably didn’t give the Wildcats their full due, but it’s not like their reputation warranted it.

About a month later, I wrapped up the season with a surprise double header. I say surprise because when I scheduled a trip to El Paso to see the Miners host the Roadrunners, I knew there was also a game at New Mexico State just up the road. However, the preliminary schedule had the kickoffs only an hour apart and that wasn’t going to work. Thankfully, a red hot UTSA team made the game good enough to be switched to prime time. I was back in the double header business. Unfortunately, New Mexico State and UTEP were given the business by Utah State and UTSA respectively. What was more surprising was the level to which New Mexico exceeded expectations and UTEP did not.

 

 

 

Games and Teams

Total Games Attended: 9, up 1 from 2019

Best Team Seen: #5, Ohio State

Final AP Top Twenty-Five Teams Seen: 3  (Ohio State, Oklahoma #10, Utah State #24)

Worst Team: 1 -11 Arizona, (#4 in the Bottom 10). Also making the list: UTSA (for getting upset by North Texas State and losing a chance at a New Year’s Day bowl), South Florida and New Mexico State. I continue to excel at seeing some of the worst teams in the country.

Best Game Seen: PSU 16 – Wisconsin 10, 9/4/21. – Great finish in a great environment.

Worst Game Seen:  Texas A&M 34 – New Mexico 0 – ho-hum.

Bowl Game Teams Seen: 13 but some didn’t actual end up playing thanks to Covid.

The Players

College Award winners seen: One, Wuerffel Trophy (Community Service Leadership): Isaiah Sanders, Stanford.

All Americans: 10, with 3 being consensus.

The Stadiums (of 2020 visits)

Best Stadium: Huntington Bank Stadium – University of Minnesota, Saint Paul, Minnesota. At 50K capacity, it’s a Goldilocks stadium, just the right size for the Gophers. Makes for raucous good time.

Worst Stadium: Gerald J. Ford Stadium – Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX. Really not a bad stadium, just the worst of good bunch.

Best Game Day Experience: Camp Randall Stadium – University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin. The Badger experience is everything it is billed to be.

Easiest Stadium to Get To: Sun Devil Stadium – Arizona State University, Tempe AZ. Navigating the greater Phoenix metroplex is easy, there’s great hotels and bars right around the stadium and there’s even a public transportation option.

Hardest Stadium to Get To: The Sun Bowl – UTEP, El Paso, Tx. Unless you’re a drug running mule, hard to imagine a reason to be in El Paso.

Best Concessions: Aggie Memorial Stadium – New Mexico State, Las Cruces, NM. Hard to beat a Frito Pie and a sharp looking souvenir cup.

Worst Concessions: Arizona Stadium – University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ. Worst pretzel my wife has ever had. Enough said.

Best Souvenir: Wisconsin wins a tie-breaker over UTEP, as both had nice $9.99 T-shirts, but the Badger one was easier to get, right at the bookstore. The Miner one was a Wal-Mart special. (Note, I met another guy doing the stadium challenge, and he had bought the same UTEP shirt. We both marveled at a small school being in the Wally world supply chain)

Worst Souvenir: SMU, Everything, except for tickets, is expensive at SMU from tuition to tailgating to hats and t-shirts. Ended up buying something on ebay post trip.

Best Cup: SMU, but New Mexico State was not far behind.

Worst Cup: Oklahoma for giving out the cups from the previous week. At least they had a cup. Shame on you UTEP.

 

The Costs

Total Season Spend: $4,100 ($3,300 ex mileage) with some reduction for vacations tagged onto the back end at Minn/Wisc and the AZ trip; Ave per Game: ~$459 (ex mileage ~$363) down nearly $150.

Most Expensive Ticket: Ohio State vs Wisconsin – $69 actual (Stubhub) with a $135 face

Cheapest Ticket: Arizona State – Free! THANKS ROCKY!

Average Ticket Price Paid: $31 (up $6 over 2019)

Average Savings on Tickets over Face Value: $32 saved per ticket

Miscellaneous

Miles Driven: ~1,500  vs 2,300 in 2019

Miles Flown: ~5,640 (Minnesota / Wisconsin, Phoenix, El Paso)

Two Game Weeks: Three – Minnesota / Wisconsin, Arizona State / Arizona, New Mexico State / UTEP

Best Fans: New Mexico State. Really, just about everywhere, it was good. Maybe it’s because they don’t get a lot of visitors, but the Aggies aimed to please.

Worst Fans: UTEP. The folks I met were great but the tailgate scene in the big lots was a show.

Most Pleasant Surprise: New Mexico State. Free tailgating at New Mexico State – who does that?

Most Unpleasant Surprise: El Paso, even with a good friend guiding me around, way too many negatives. It was down hill after Chico’s.

Lesson Learned / Re-affirmed: Do your research. Absolutely should have done Friday night in Oklahoma City. Would have had good time on Friday night, saved money on the tailgate spot, and it would have been in a better location.

My Regular Season Pick Record: 31-23 Not too shabby. Bowl Games: 21-15

I am not alone:

As mentioned, I met a young guy at UTEP who was at, I think 56 stadiums. A friend then sent me a link to an article on Frank Lipchick, who’s number is 124. But, the real kicker was this guy, Clark Humble, who hit all 131 in five years. Apparently, my quest is more an exhibition rather than a competition. But with JMU, Jacksonville State and Houston State joining the fold. It’s not 131 anymore. First one to 134!

 

Yeah, we told you so.

Sometimes, I hate being right. The playoff selection process is so laden with bias and status quo that here at Somanystadiums we were able to fully predict the playoff field with all the “championship games” yet to be played.

Some things we knew right off the bat:

  • Alabama was in, win or lose. Even if the Tide had lost by 35, they were in under the “We want the four best teams” sentiment. The premise is fine if you have an eight field team where you can give a Power Five team a break for the one-off loss. However, it makes conference championship games meaningless. Bama has looked great all year so they were automatically in, win or lose.
  • Notre Dame was in, win or lose. This is all about the national team / east coast bias for the Irish. They are a good team, and at times, a great team. I would have given this spot to Texas A&M.  But, I have seen A&M play a few times this year and their case is only a little bit stronger. We are talking feet, not yards if you are looking for a football analogy. Nonetheless, I’d rather see the Aggies than the Irish. I think ND is going to get crushed by the Tide. Having already played them once, I give A&M a better shot.
  • Clemson had to win to get in. I think everyone knows they are heads and shoulders better than ND, but they had to prove it. They don’t get the old school, east-coast bias benefit that ND does today so a win was a must.
  • Ohio State was in the same boat, but only because they had played six games. To be fair, the Buckeyes have been winning with a lot of backups thanks to Covid-19 precautions. If Ohio State had rolled into the Big Ten championship 11-0, they would have gotten the east coast bias, beauty contest playoff bid. Of course, you could argue the Big Ten already gave them that gift when they changed the conference requirement rules. Like it or not, the Buckeyes did take care of business.
  • This left Texas A&M hoping for some upsets. None of which happened. Gig’ em next year.

As Bruce Hornsby sings, “Did you really think about it before you made the rules?” This is not the way it should be. The playoffs should be an eight team field team with the following fully transparent rules.

1) Power Five conference winners get an automatic bid.

2) Undefeated Group of Five conference winners get an automatic bid.

3) Remaining slots filled by Selection Committee ranking.

With that in mind, this is what it should look like.

  • Bama is still the number one seed and they get the Oregon Ducks, as PAC 12 champions. I hate that the Ducks get in over say a Florida or Coastal Carolina, but by virtue of winning their conference, they are in. If Florida had beaten Texas A&M, they would have been in a much different spot. Plus, this season is different and giving a PAC 12 team a shot would be a lot more inclusive. The PAC 12 winner would not be nearly as problematic if the USC Trojans had taken care of business in the first place.
  • Notre Dame still gets in with an at-large bid and the four seed based on the selection committee ranking (thank you very much east coast bias). Texas A&M gets the other at-large bid and comes in at five. Honestly, isn’t this the game you wanted to see anyway? It allows the arguments to be settled on the field instead of in a hotel conference room.
  • Clemson rightly gets the number two seed and would play the Bearcats of Cincinnati. The Bearcats are undefeated and won the American Athletic Conference. Congrats Group of Five, you wanted it, you got it.
  • Ohio State gets the third seed and will play Oklahoma, the Big 12 Champion. Is Florida better than Oklahoma? The selection committee didn’t think so, having put the Sooners one spot ahead of the Gators.

The big losers in my eight game scenario are the following:

  • Florida. The Gators looked awfully good on offense against Bama. It feels like they could keep up with anyone in a shoot-out. Again though, when a team loses three games, it is hard to feel too badly for them.
  • Coastal Carolina. Let me be clear, had the Chanticleers beaten Louisiana (Lafayette) in the now cancelled Sunbelt Championship, they would have rightfully knocked out Texas A&M, only because the committee rated ND ahead of them. However, since this is a purely hypothetical bracket. I would suggest the Committee put A&M above Notre Dame. This way, you would get some great regional games that feel very much like first round playoffs.  Coastal would play Clemson, OU would take on Texas A&M, and Cincinnati would play the Buckeyes. Plus, college football fans get the added bonus of watching Irish fans go apoplectic and wail at the injustice of it all. My work here is done.

I am not alone in my assessment of the challenges facing the current system. You know there are problems when even the NCAA poster boys at ESPN’s Game Day are bad mouthing the college playoff system. As an aside, it was not exactly a great year for Game Day. From the forced and tenuous connection between The Masters and college football to backdrops with no audiences, the show really never caught its stride this year. The Bear’s Bank segments feel like they have run their course. When your picks are hitting only half the time, it’s the equivalent of a Christmas Club savings account – a feel good endeavor at best, and wasting away money at the worst.

But it wasn’t just ESPN that struggled. Some of the weekends, let alone games, were unwatchable this year. I am not sure that is the fault of anyone, it was just the way Covid-19 impacted the season. Thankfully, the precautions, by and large, kept most everyone safe. Sadly, though, there were some outliers. With that in mind, please celebrate the holidays with as much care and responsibility as possible. Let’s make 2021 a better year in every sense of the word.

Tree

 

 

 

That kid, Sermon,  from Ohio State is a beast

 

Rivalry Week 2020

If there was ever a year that you’d say a Hokie is a Turkey, it would be 2020. The only thing the Hokies have to be thankful for is that they don’t have to play Clemson until next week.

This week is normally one of the best weeks in college football. There’s nothing like rivalry week to bring out the best in teams. Alas, Covid-19 has claimed this weekend, with several traditional rivalry games not being played.

Typically, Thursday is for the NFL. Unfortunately, we’re getting the brussels sprouts (Houston versus Detroit) and lima bean casserole (Washington versus Dallas) of Thanksgiving games, with the stuffing (Ravens versus Steelers) relegated to Sunday leftovers. Thankfully, the NCAA has responded with University of New Mexico (0-4) versus Utah State University (0-4). Mmmm, creamed onions anyone?

Friday’s slate improves if you were looking for an excuse for not putting up the Christmas lights. ISU at Texas and ND at UNC should prove to be watchable. If you must get out of the house, there’s still tickets available for UMass at Liberty, although they are bit pricey.

Liberty is a dry campus but I hear that Falwell’s tailgate is jumping. Just ask for the signature drink, “The Pool Boy”.

ABC’s big game on noon EST is PSU at Michigan. Hmm, anyone up for Maryland versus Indiana? The Iron Bowl is still a thing this year, but does it count with Saban watching from his den? Well, maybe he can catch up on his Aflac paperwork. If your family Thanksgiving was cancelled, you still have a chance to get Covid-19 . There’s going to be a super spreader event at College Station this weekend as the Texas A&M hosts LSU. Wear those masks Aggie faithful.

 

Source as of 11/25, 4pm CST: Time.com

Enjoy the dark meat,

Tree

 

 

Week 7 Gig’d ‘Em

Last week’s games were pretty good, but it is clear that College Football is better with the BIG 10 and PAC 12 than without. Thankfully, there’s only one week to go until the BIG 10 season kicks off. It is hard to believe the PAC 12 doesn’t kick off until November 7. From the polls to the playoffs, this whole season should just carry a big asterisk. Look, this season is a welcome diversion but it is hard to consider it a valid one. The inconsistency in schedules and the high number of cancellations make it even more difficult to assess who the best teams are. It doesn’t make the eventual national championship meaningless, just diminished. With that, some random thoughts on last week games before I weigh in on this week’s slate.

Last week’s games:

  • I still don’t know if the Aggies are for real, but upsetting Florida is a step in the right direction.
  • I find Gus Johnson hard to listen to. He is constantly shouting, often trying to make drama where there is none. He also has a tendency latch on to one theme throughout the game. For a minute during the OU Texas game, Johnson almost had me convinced Ehlinger could walk on water. Look, Ehlinger had an inspired game, but the fairy tale ending that Johnson was crafting was ruined when the QB threw a game ending pick. And for once, Johnson was speechless. 
  • VT – UNC game mildly entertaining. Not sure how good UNC’s offense really is. Beating up 3rd string walk-on DBs isn’t exactly impressive. I should known since I was one.
  • You have to wonder if Orgeron at LSU is distracted with personal issues. The Tigers don’t look like themselves. Missouri beating LSU was certainly a surprise.
  • I have been keeping a close eye on the stands because I still hope to catch at least one game this year. In general, the adults have been social distancing but not the students. I wonder what that is going to look like in three weeks
  • Auburn got a gift on the fumble call on the clocking of the ball. Felipe Franks was something else for the Hogs. The Tigers were very lucky to win that game.
  • The rockhead move of the week was George Pickens from Georgia spraying water on the Tennessee QB on the sidelines. It wasn’t malevolent but it was stupid. 
  • And no, Miami is not back. They are better, but Clemson still handled them.

Week 7 Games

  • There’s already been two great Sun Belt games. The locations of the schools may not always be easy to get to, but the teams are entertaining. Trust me, I have been to both Arkansas State (pre Waterfall) and Troy. Still, the Sun Belt is the Fun Belt.
  • Even with Saban out with Covid-19, Georgia at Alabama should still be a great game. Finally a prime time game worth its slot.
  • Don’t complain LSU and Florida for having your game postponed. Houston plays BYU this weekend. It is their second game of the season.
  • The best game of the day may be Army at UTSA. If not for Covid, I would have strongly considered driving over to San Antonio to watch that game live.

Again, not the meatiest tray of games this weekend. Still, it is better than nothing.

2019 Year in Review

2019 is in the books. It was a good year despite some personal challenges. I hit eight stadiums with a couple doubles helping to smooth out the schedule. I had originally planed to hit ten, even possibly eleven games. Not unlike other seasons, by the time November came around I was running out of gas. Accordingly, I cancelled the last trip of the year to Chicago. It did not take much to convince me not to go. I mean Wisconsin in November is not exactly a big draw, walleye and cheese curds notwithstanding.

With Hawaii being one of the two opening games of the season, I convinced my wife this was the year for an island vacation. We were off to Hawaii for a week where she grudgingly agreed to go to the Arizona v. Hawaii game. Little did she know it would turn out to be one of the highlights of week. It was a 45 – 38 win for the Rainbow Warriors that came right down to the wire. It was one of the best games I have seen live. The good times continued up until a stringy haired surfer dude busted the window of our rental car in search of my wallet. Mahalo brah?!?

A couple weeks later, it was the Illinois – UConn game for Labor Day weekend. It was a sloppy game but it was still very entertaining. I was visiting my great friend Bob so I knew I was going to have good time regardless of the game. However, the UConn experience was just about right. The only downer of the weekend was a dismal experience at Gillette Stadium where the Steelers suffered a beating at the hands of the Patriots. I take solace in the fact that it was probably the highlight of the Patriots season. A loss in the Wildcard round? How do you like those apples?

But, I digress. After a couple of weeks off, it was time to see the number two team in the country. Alabama was playing host to Ole Miss in what was sure to be a blowout. It was close for about a quarter before Alabama opened it up and started scoring at will. The only consolation was that we had great seats in the shade (thanks Morgan). With all the history at Alabama, a visit to Tuscaloosa should be on your list, but with lowered expectations. The hallowed SEC has more than its share of dogs. This, along with Saban’s complaint that “no one will play us”, means Bama’s home schedule has more cupcakes than a 3rd grader’s birthday party. Early the next morning, I left my car at the Atlanta airport and flew home. The following Thursday night, I flew back to Atlanta and then made the long drive down to Mobile to see the South Alabama Jaguars host the Georgia Southern Eagles. To say I was not excited about this match up would be an understatement. I was dreading this game. I could not get anyone to go with me and I was going to Mobile. To my surprise, I couldn’t have been more wrong. The game was great, going two overtimes before Georgia Southern pulled out the win. And, Mobile had a great laid back vibe, almost like a chill New Orleans.

After such a great experience, I was looking forward to visiting UAB. The program had made great progress coming back from the dead. It was a feel good story I was looking forward to participating in. Instead, it was a debacle of epic proportions, from terrible tailgating, to weak play by the Blazers, finished by a soul crushing hour and half weather delay. I had had my fill of jorts and with my mandatory half of a game in the books, I was happy to put Birmingham in the rear view mirror.

After another break, it was time for a great northwest doubleheader. It was not my first time to Oregon, but it was my first time in the fall and I was impressed with the beauty of the state. I would say I had a good time everywhere but inside the stadiums I visited. It is always hard to blame the home team for a blowout win, but watching the Ducks run all over the Buffs (final score 45-3) got old after awhile. Of course, I did blame the Oregon State Beavers for laying an egg (final score 52-7) when the fifteenth ranked Utes came to town. But that weather – wow, what great fall scenery.

The year was wrapped up with a visit to South Bend to see the Hokies take on the Fighting Irish. Often held up as a must see destination for college football, Notre Dame did not disappoint. It was a weekend’s worth of fun with nary a drunk frat boy killing the buzz. Had the Hokies not choked away their seventeen point underdog upset, it would have been a perfect weekend. It marked the fourth game this season that came down to the wire. I couldn’t ask for much more.

And with that, here are the 2019 Stats:

Games and Teams

Total Games Attended: 8, up 2 from 2018

Best Team Seen: # 5, Oregon, far better then prior year’s Michigan (#14).

Final AP Top Twenty-Five Teams Seen: 4 versus 3 in 2018 (Oregon, Alabama, Notre Dame, Utah)

Worst Team: 4 – 8 Ole Miss, (#5 in the Bottom 10). Also making the list: UConn and South Alabama. I continue to excel at seeing some of the worst teams in the country.

Best Game Seen: Notre Dame 21 (#20) – Virginia Tech 20, 9/2/18. – Maybe not an Instant classic, but close.

Worst Game Seen:  Utah 52 – Oregon State 7 – Absolute blowout.

Bowl Game Teams Seen: 8 ( and 4 won their bowls). It was much better than last year where only 2 won.

The Players

College Award winners seen: One, Outland Trophy (Best Interior Lineman): Penei Sewell, Oregon, one more than 2018.

All Americans: 11  A great year with plenty of help from Alabama.

The Stadiums (of 2019 visits)

Best Stadium: Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, Indiana. A must on any college football fan’s bucket list.

Worst Stadium: Legion Field, UAB, Birmingham, AL. – Thank god they are building one on campus, because it was a dump with lousy customer service as well.

Best Game Day Experience: Notre Dame (but we had a suprisingly good time at UConn as well). Pricey for sure, but the tradition, ohh the tradition.

Easiest Stadium to Get To: Reser Stadium, Oregon State. Navigating Corvallis was easy and there are multiple tailgating options along the way.

Hardest Stadium to Get To: Aloha Stadium, Hawaii – I mean it isn’t exactly a quick trip from anywhere.

Best Concessions: Aloha Stadium, Hawaii. Plenty of variety from local vendors.

Worst Concessions: Ladd Peebles, South Alabama. No souvenir cup.

Best Souvenir: Oregon, A ton of free little flashlights

Worst Souvenir: UConn, $31 for a hat? I think not.

Best Cup: Oregon, but Notre Dame was not far behind

Worst Cup: UAB, but at least they had a cup. Shame on you Hawaii and South Alabama.

The Costs

Total Season Spend: $4,800 ($3,500 ex mileage) not including Hawaii which was really a vacation as well; Ave per Game: ~$600 (ex mileage ~$433) down nearly $100

Most Expensive Ticket: Colorado vs Oregon – $50 actual (Stubhub) with a $80 face

Cheapest Ticket: Alabama – Free!

Average Ticket Price Paid: $25 (up $8 over previous year)

Average Savings on Tickets over face: $14 saved per ticket

Miscellaneous

Miles Driven: ~2,300  vs prior year 2,400

Miles Flown: ~16,000 (Hawaii, Albany (to UConn), Atlanta, Oregon, Chicago)

Two Game Weeks: Two – South Alabama / UAB; Oregon / Oregon State

Best Fans: Oregon. The guys around me were a lot of fun.

Worst Fans: UAB, but to be fair, they weren’t too bad.

Most Pleasant Surprise: South Alabama- Mobile was really pretty cool.

Most Unpleasant Surprise: UAB, I now have a new worst stadium.

2019 was also the year of AirBnb.