College football greatest games come from its rivalries, and its greatest rivalries come from short distances between two schools. So it makes tons of sense that week one features some of the longest-distance games in recent memory. You thought the four-hour trip to Athens was tedious? Or the eight-hour trip to Nashville? Go ahead an complain to the fans who have to make these brutal trips to start their college football season.
10. Texas Christian University at University of Minnesota
Distance: 990 miles
Grounds for Rivalry: We reach another match in the never-ending “dumbest mascot” tournament: Golden Gopher or Horned Frog? Both of these mascots are kings of their tiny worlds: golden gophers are superior to regular or silver gophers, and horned frogs have a lot more horns than any other frog. Even those poisonous frogs in the Amazon.
Likely Victor: TCU was a heartbeat away from being a part of college football’s first Final Four. Minnesota’s head coach Jerry Kill was a heartbeat away from filling up the “Little Brown Jug” trophy with baked beans, then smashing it on the ground in effigy, as a gift to the Sun God. He didn’t, though, and I think the world’s a little worse for it. Anyways, Minnesota has been a nice team on a nice rebound looking for some nice respect, and they have it… in the Big Ten. This is the conference where people are starting to get excited about Purdue. Ooh, Boilermaker is definitely in the tournament for worst mascot.
9. Mississippi Valley State University at University of New Mexico
Distance: 1,068 miles
Grounds for Rivalry: The previous game was a competition between teams with two of the worst mascots. Between these two teams, it’s the exact opposite. MVSU are the Delta Devils, and New Mexico has claim to the Lobos. Either one of those names would make for a great pro wrestler. I guarantee you there’s a backyard promotion featuring the Delta Devil versus the Lobo.
Likely Victor: The Lobos may have gone 4-8 last season, but the Delta Devils were 2-9, and in FCS play no less! Their two wins came against Jackson State and a school called the University of Faith, which has no Wikipedia page. That’s tough competition right there. Lobos will open the season on a soft note at home, no question.
8. Florida Atlantic University at University of Tulsa
Distance: 1,402 miles
Grounds for Rivalry: A battle between two teams that WISH they would be thought of as “the little brother” to their big-school rivals. Florida Atlantic University has only faced Florida twice in its history, once in 2007 and again in 2011. Both, unsurprisingly, were losses. Tulsa, meanwhile, can’t get the Sooners to go further than a trip to Stillwater to face Oklahoma State. I think of Tulsa as the distant younger brother to Oklahoma, like an eight year-old brother to a 29 year-old. As for FAU, they’re more like a half-brother whose parents kicked out before Florida was even born.
Likely Victor: FAU is located in Boca Raton, best known as a beautiful Northern Miami suburb and as a mecca for old people. Being in that kind of environment is a double whammy: either you spend all your time on the beach in the sun or your will to live is sapped by the evil senior citizens who feed on your lifeforce to continue to survive. Tulsa’s only danger is having too-delicious BBQ. Tulsa gets the duke.
7. University of Michigan at University of Utah
Distance: 1,620 miles
Grounds for Rivalry: Jim Harbaugh is back for revenge on the Pac-12! He may have left Stanford and San Francisco for his alma mater, but that doesn’t mean all is forgotten or forgiven. Harbaugh remembers watching Michigan get danced all over by Utah last season, when the “Big House” was flooded, forcing the game to be delayed even further. Harbaugh’s blood is boiling, and he will show no mercy.
Likely Victor: I don’t think the NCAA will allow Jimmy to lose his first game after all the hubub over the few months. Utah is a great opponent to have a win over: they always put up a fight, they’re pretty good, and it’ll prove Michigan is improving over last year, even if it’s only by inches instead of miles.
6. New Mexico State University at University of Florida
Distance: 1,644 miles
Grounds for Rivalry: Where is it more unpleasantly hot to live: central Florida or Southern New Mexico? Mexican immigrants or Cuban immigrants? Desert rednecks or swamp rednecks? These are the debates that shape our human experience.
Likely Victor: As hilarious of a car crash as Florida’s been the past couple of years, New Mexico State was born a car crash, exists to serve as a car crash, and will never be anything more than a car crash. Born to lose. Florida doesn’t schedule these games for excitement purposes, or to take on a real challenge. This game is to wake up the football team after the big kegger the previous night. Is there a Waffle House anywhere in the state of New Mexico?
5. University of Nevada-Las Vegas at Northern Illinois University
Distance: 1,693 miles
Grounds for Rivalry: No really, who scheduled this game? What athletic director put on a blindfold, threw a dart at a map of the US, and said “wherever it lands, that’s who we play”? I imagine it has to be Northern Illinois, simply because they’re the home team. But why not schedule the game in Las Vegas? VEGAS BABY! That’s where every midwestern white guy from the middle of nowhere wants to go!
Likely Victor: The Huskies are one of the best teams in the MAC, and UNLV is one of the worst in the MWC. So… y’know.
4. Savannah State University at Colorado State University
Distance: 1,707 miles
Grounds for Rivalry: Well, I guess you can say it’s a ____ State vs. _____State rivalry. Let’s take it to the judges… and the judges agree. They will allow it.
Likely Victor: Come on, guy. I know you have family in Savannah, but they’re Dawgs fans. They couldn’t point you in the right direction of the team’s stadium from their own house. Colorado State is going to win, and you know that.
3. Arkansas State University at University of Southern California
Distance: 1,770 miles
Grounds for Rivalry: A tale as old as time! Or as old as the concept of ownership and the invention of currency dictated who or what could be called “rich”. It’s the lights of Hollywood against the other lights of Jonesboro, Arkansas! What, you think people in rural Arkansas don’t have lights? Do you think they live in eternal darkness, or use have to make fire with sticks? That’s, um, whatever the word for hating poor people is. Do poor people have their own “racist” or “sexist” group of haters like people of color and women do? What about “poorophobia”? Let’s use it as a placeholder for the time being.
Likely Victor: The Other USC will win handedly, especially since they’re being rumored to be in the running for a playoff bid. The last thing they’ll want is a loss to start their season, but I’ll be rooting for the Red Wolves in this one, though not that terrible beer “Red Wolf” from the 90s. Do you remember when that came out to compete with Red Dog beer? Hell, do you even remember Red Dog beer? What a strange war that was.
2. Stanford University at Northwestern University
Distance: 2,181 miles
Grounds for Rivalry: Hold on, Stanford is going TO Northwestern? My god, how the mighty have fallen! Stanford certainly underperformed last year, but to punish them by making them go to “Chicago” (Northwestern is like an hour north of the city with traffic) to face a team that can’t decide between being decent or a tire fire. For an unimpressive Big Ten team to bully around a team that won its second Pac-12 title in a row less than two years ago is something of an achievement, at least by the soulless unofficial NCAA power rankings the media recognizes with unspoken devotion.
Likely Victor: I actually have Northwestern winning this game, since they often have a tendency to play up to their opponent’s quality. Which means they’ll lose the next week’s game against Eastern Illinois for sure. Daddy’s got a gambling problem, and I’m taking that line to the bank, daddy-o!
1. University of Virginia at University of California-Los Angeles
Distance: 2,562 miles
Grounds for Rivalry: Actually, these guys faced off in last year’s opener too! It was a hideous affair, littered with defensive touchdowns, two of which were thrown by future Georgia QB Grayson Lambert. Fun fact: Virginia actually faced Oregon early in the 2013 season, but were annihilated, 59-10. Guess they traded in for an easier Pac-12 opponent.
Likely Victor: I’m picking Virginia, only because it’ll be hilarious if the visiting team in this matchup always wins. Hey, in college football, anybody would travel 2,500 miles to get a win. Maybe not by foot, or even by car, but definitely by plane and probably by train. I took a train trip from Chicago to LA once, and it was gorgeous. If you’re in the Virginia area, why not make the trip for this game? This has been Aaron, your friendly travel guide, signing off.