I’m a sports nerd. I take no shame in stating that fact, and I’ll carry it with me until they bury me six feet underground with my Terrible Towel draped over my coffin. Both team and individual sports are the ultimate tests of determination, consistency, and passion, but it’s the hometown teams and the fans that transcend sports and truly makes the game for everyone.
If you’re like me—itching to take your fandom to the next level—I’ve mapped out the ultimate road trip to see every destination in college football’s Southeastern Conference. There are 100-year-old stadiums, multi-million renovations taking place, and enough history to give you bragging rights at every tailgate for the rest of your life.
It’s a trip that should be on every SEC fan’s bucket list.
College Football Road Trip
Truthfully, you can start anywhere on this map, but we’ll begin at the largest SEC stadium, which you’ll find in College Station, Texas.
The first stop on this tour is the “Home of the 12th Man” where a tradition known as The Midnight Yell gives the Texas A&M Aggies one of the greatest home field advantages in the country. While you’re there, you can even check out the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum.
But if presidents aren’t your favorite people these days, let’s head north through Dallas, Texas (feel free to stop at the Cotton Bowl) before we reach our next location.
The Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium is home to the Arkansas Razorbacks. While recent fortune hasn’t favored the Hogs, you’ll likely never find a better college chant anywhere in the United States than when 75,000 Arkansas faithful start yelling, “Woooo! Pig Souie!”
After leaving Fayetteville, we’re continuing north and passing through Springfield, Missouri where the NRA National Sporting Arms Museum awaits all outdoor enthusiasts, but don’t stay too long. Columbia, Missouri awaits us.
Faurot Field at Memorial Stadium
The University of Missouri falls smack in the middle of Kansas City and St. Louis, and there’s never a shortage of activities up here. The Rock Bridge Memorial State Park is one of the area’s greatest treasures. Just make sure you stop over and see 70,000 fans cheer on the Tigers, too.
The northern-most part of the tour ends here. Next, we’re heading east through St. Louis and Louisville until we arrive at a place where college basketball may be bigger, but college football is starting to gain momentum.
The Kentucky Wildcats completed their best season in over 40 years by winning 10 games and the Citrus Bowl in 2018, and Mark Stoops’ program is now on the rise. Kroger Field is a growing destination, but make sure you take time to visit Keeneland, ranked as the No. 1 destination for Thoroughbred horse racing in the country.
It’s south we go! You’ll pass through the Daniel Boone National Forest and pass over Rocky Top before reaching the fifth-largest college football stadium in the country.
Knoxville is home to the Tennessee Volunteers and one of the oldest and largest stadiums in the country. There’s truly nothing like seeing the Vols’ electric entrance into Neyland Stadium, which houses over 100,000 fans.
You have one more stop in Tennessee before you leave The Volunteer State, but Nashville isn’t too fond of hearing that nickname on campus over there.
While the Vanderbilt Commodores might be one of the SEC’s least-popular teams, you’re not going to find a stop on this trip filled with more music and nightlife than Nashville. After checking out one of the top universities in the country, slide on over to Broadway where a ton of bars and 365 days of live music earned this area the nickname “Honky Tonk Highway.”
You’ll head back west toward Memphis, but you won’t get there (unless you want to, I guess?) before heading south for one of the nation’s most underrated stadiums.
The Ole Miss Rebels have played in their 60,000-plus seat stadium since 1915, but the bigger surprise is what happens outside prior to games. The Grove at Ole Miss is THE destination for college football tailgates, and you’ll likely not find a better tailgating atmosphere for Southern hospitality and good food than with the Rebel faithful.
Hear that? Sounds like cowbells. We must be headed for Starkville, Mississippi next.
Davis Wade Stadium
The Mississippi State Bulldogs began playing here in 1914, and this place holds a ton of memories. Bully I — the school’s original mascot — is actually buried at the 50-yard line under the players’ bench. Mississippi State is on the rise thanks to new coach Joe Moorhead, and this is one of the must-see stadiums on your tour.
However, the crown jewel of the SEC is up next, and you might need an extra day to take in the pageantry and history located in Tuscaloosa.
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The Alabama Crimson Tide are the winningest college football program of this century, and it’s all thanks to future Hall of Fame head coach Nick Saban. The Tide already pack 100,000 people into the stadium with ease, but multi-million renovations have given the stadium a state-of-the-art upgrade.
Still not satisfied? Maybe Alabama’s arch rival to the East will help curb your appetite.
When 85,000-plus fans file in to see an Auburn Tigers football game, you better bring your A-game as an opponent because this is one of the nation’s toughest atmospheres. Pat Dye Field at Jordan-Hare Stadium opened in 1939 and has seen millions of dollars in renovations and upgrades that make it must-see territory on this trip.
We’re heading through Atlanta on Interstate 85 as we make our way “Between the Hedges.”
The Georgia Bulldogs have a rich history of live mascots and all-time great running backs, but they all converged at Sanford Stadium. There’s even a mausoleum housing former UGA mascots behind one end zone. Not only is football played here, but the final rounds of the 1996 Summer Olympics’ soccer tournament were held here where the U.S. women’s team defeated China to claim the gold medal.
My personal favorite stop on this tour is next, where another of college football’s most electric entrances awaits you.
When the theme song to 2001: A Space Odyssey begins to blare through speakers and subwoofers around the stadium, you know the South Carolina Gamecocks football team is ready for action. This stadium is so loud, the east side’s upper deck actually sways from fans causing an absolute riot during home games.
South Carolina is still looking for their first SEC title since joining the conference, but your next stop has no shortage of titles for you to gawk at.
Ben Hill Griffin Stadium
The Swamp has seen three national championships, eight SEC titles and hundreds of wins since being built in 1930. There are few places like it in the country, but don’t expect Florida Gator fans to rush the field down there any time soon.
If you’re a Gator-bred fan, you probably won’t stop in Tallahassee to see Doak Campbell Stadium, but it’s on the way to your last destination, which also happens to be the SEC’s best stadium, hands down.
The debate over the real Death Valley rages on, but if you are ever inside Tiger Stadium at night, chances are you’re going to find you favorite place to see college football right in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The LSU Tigers always bring over 100,000 screaming fans into the sixth largest stadium in the world. It’s loud, it’s large, and as a former Ole Miss quarterback once said, “This is the craziest place I’ve ever played.”
It’ll take you 3,500 miles of driving lasting roughly two days and 13 hours, so this ultimate college football road trip is not for the faint of heart. Then again, how many people can say they’ve seen all 14 SEC football stadiums in their lifetime?
The south is loaded with historic landmarks, quality food and even better people, making this one of the coolest road trips you’ll ever take!
This article was originally published March 26, 2019.