Ranking the 2013 road trips

by - Staff Writer -

Both Clemson fans and the fans of the opposition know what to expect when they show up on Saturday morning to the parking lots that surround Death Valley. They know they will be treated to hours of tailgating and good old southern hospitality, but the minute the cannon fires and the Tigers run down the hill, that all changes.

There aren’t many places in the country that can live up to the excitement and overall experience of Clemson football, but this season Clemson fans will have the chance to make a few exciting road trips.

Let’s rank Clemson’s road trips, from the perspective of which will be most fun for the fans.

*Must Go: Syracuse
Syracuse is the only new trip on the slate of road games and from what I can tell it is truly the one must go road trip for Clemson fans. At first glance, Syracuse doesn’t sound like an extremely exciting place, but after doing a little research you realize that Cooperstown- home to the Baseball Hall of Fame-is less than 100 miles away; Niagara Falls is less than two hours away; and, if you have time for an extended weekend, a quick jaunt to New York City is just over four hours away. Also, according to folks in Upstate New York the fall colors are beautiful at the beginning of October. There is just so much to do before you ever step foot in the Carrier Dome for a football game. Oh, and make sure to find Syracuse basketball head coach Jim Boeheim at a local Denny’s.

*Best atmosphere: South Carolina
Columbia definitely isn’t a glamorous road trip, but it’s close by and there’s always a lot on the line when these two teams meet, and with expectations through the roof for both teams a lot more than bragging rights might be at stake in late November. Williams-Brice isn’t the best facility that the Tigers will visit this season, but the atmosphere when the Tigers and Gamecocks meet will be second to none. And, as much as Clemson fans hate to admit it- and some probably won’t admit it- when Sandstorm plays before kickoff and Williams Brice starts swaying, it’s electrifying. If the tide finally turns in the rivalry, Clemson fans will be able to move out of the rafters by the end of the third quarter.

*Best surroundings: Maryland
Maryland definitely does not rank in the top half of the ACC as far as facilities on campus; however, it is worth the trip to see the Tigers and Terps play. And, if you’ve never been, 2013 may be your last chance as Maryland is off to the Big Ten after this season. It’s worth the time and money to take a couple of extra days to explore Washington, D.C. and see the monuments, museums, and of course the White House. If you make the trip to Byrd Stadium, you may see members of the press running up and down the steps for food since they only supply bagged popcorn and bottled water to those poor wretches.

*Best Facility: N.C. State
Carter-Finley Stadium is by far one of the nicest facilities in the ACC, and on a Thursday night you can bet that Wolfpack fans will have it rocking. Thursday night games are always tough for the away team and I don’t expect this one to be any different. Raleigh is only four hours away from the Upstate of South Carolina and if you can get off work for half of Thursday and Friday, it would be worth the trip to explore N.C. State’s outstanding facilities and watch the Tigers in a shootout with the Wolfpack. If you’re lucky, you may be able to spot the “slightly hefty” guy who likes to swing on the pole without a shirt.

*History in the making: Virginia
If you are a history buff, the trip to Virginia is a can’t miss trip. Take the time to meander through the Shenandoah Valley and make sure to stop along the way at the Natural Bridge- a geological formation referenced throughout history and even in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick- as well as battle sites of the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. Also, I’ve been told to make sure to eat a Gus Burger at the White Spot. With the pieces slowly starting to fall into place for head coach Mike London, maybe the guys in ties and girls in pearls will elect to attend a football game instead of going to lacrosse practice.

So, if you decided that you only had the time to make it to one road trip, which one would be the best one to take? Here is my ranking of the trips, with the must-go at the top.

1. Syracuse – It’s the first trip to the Carrier Dome and has Niagra Falls and Cooperstown. Enough said.
2. N.C. State – The Thursday night game promises to be a sell-out. There is the excitement of a new head coach and this will be an early-season test for the Wolfies.
3. South Carolina – It’s the rivalry game, even if it is in the same state and features a trip to “lovely” Columbia.
4. Maryland – The long-time series comes to an end. And hey, the ticket stub might be worth a few bucks one day.
5. Virginia – Nothing exciting about the stadium or the atmosphere, and the two teams don’t play a lot. But if you like history, you can explore some of the surrounding areas.

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