So what makes a great road trip for a Syracuse Orange football fan? Syracuse tailgating expert TexanMark gives us his rankings of the five road trips this year.
- Fun Stuff/Food in surrounding area
- Weather (will I freeze my butt off for the date scheduled?)
- Ease and cost of travel, lodging (varied choices and reasonable costs)
- Parking ease and tailgate atmosphere (game day cash lots that have tailgating)
- Desirability of rival (excitement of a win over them)
- “Winnability” of game (Chance of a win this season)
- Stadium amenities and atmosphere (On-campus is a huge plus)
- Uniqueness (That once in a generation trip location is a plus)
What’s your top road trip pick? Read what TexanMark has to say and compare it to your rankings.
The 2021 season was so close to a winning record. The team had its’ chances. Syracuse couldn’t quite get through to earn a “coveted 6-6 bowl game” at some random eastern seaboard locale on a late December Tuesday afternoon. This road schedule isn’t nearly as good as the great 2017 for road trips, in fact this one is slightly below average. Looking ahead, I do predict the 2023 road schedule (FSU, GTech, Purdue, VTech, UNC) will rival 2017. So we have that to look forward to. However, this year offers a possibility of winning any game, yes even Clemson…well, ok maybe not. Starting in early September, if you think Elton John is washed up and overrated…then East Hartford beckons. We end the season in Boston College with a possible bowl game on the line in one of America’s historic cities and mass collector of Wegmans stores. This year as it stands Cuse will only be the favorite for the UConn road game. However, I expect the other contests will be in the 3 to 14 handicap point range (save for Clemson). I expect Dino will get us two road wins this year (he better). Ever an optimist I predict a 6 or 7 win regular season and a happy to be there bowl game this year. Please Tampa Gasparilla or whatever you are called this year…be our date.
Put that optimism aside, these trips can be expensive and time consuming. I want a memorable trip with a win, but the key is to work in other activities around the game (if time allows). All five locations have pros and cons and I rated Fun Stuff/Food as mostly a “push” this year. For travel I look at: I don’t want to spend $400 a night for an $80 basic motel room (sorry Clemson), and I want numerous and reasonable flights or an easy drive for most of our fans. Finally, I don’t want to possibly freeze my butt off (sorry BC).
I rated items that I think are important to most ‘Cuse fans. Travel ease and cost is the big “X Factor” here as everyone has a different city origination and price-point. Clemson and BC does poorly here, but if you live in upstate SC or eastern MA it should easily be the No. 1 trip for you. I looked at it primarily from an air travel perspective plus added motel costs. Finally, I didn’t rate cost of football tickets (Clemson charges quite a bit). For me, UConn and Wake Forest edges out Clemson and Pitt. However, I expect Clemson will be the most desired trip among SU fans due to the history of exciting games and their stadium being an iconic setting for college football. Cuse fans normally would represent well at UConn. Unfortunately, Elton John is playing at the same time in the JMA Wireless Dome and the Upstate contingent traveling to UConn will be greatly reduced. NYC and New England based transplants/alumni hopefully will come out.
Putting eight items into my top-secret “gonculator” we get the results (lower is better):
2022 Syracuse Football Road Game Rankings
|Travel Ease/Costs Air/Motel||1||4||1||1||3|
|Desirability of Rival (SU Big Win Factor)||5||1||2||3||3|
|“Winnability” of Game||1||4||3||2||2|
|Grand Total (Lower is Better)||16||18||18||16||23||#We can dream|
According to the numbers, UConn and Wake Forest edged out Clemson and Pittsburgh as the top road trip this fall. BC pulls up the rear for the late season date and being a hard place to tailgate. The top four all offer up a solid road trip.
Quick aside from Kevin:
Before looking at these rankings I probably would have put Wake and Clemson at the top of my list. I think the atmosphere at Clemson is something worth experiencing and Wake has a good team and what I think would be a fun, low-key environment to visit as a road fan. The timing of the UConn game makes it one that Syracuse fans in the Northeast should consider though as it’s hard to go wrong with an early Fall weekend in New England- especially with a game that the Orange should win.
I can’t speak for Pittsburgh but a game at BC in November isn’t ideal from an atmosphere standpoint. Fortunately there’s a lot of other things to do in and around town and it is easy travel and you can save money staying outside the city. Overall though this group of road games should provide an opportunity for fans that want to travel and I think you’ll find great information here from Mark. The nice thing about the ACC changing the schedule model is that Syracuse fans will get the chance to visit other schools more often...well for as long as the conference exists anyway.
Those are my two cents so now let’s get to Mark’s explanation for his choices:
1. UConn, Saturday, September 10th, 7PM CBS Sports Network
This is actually a great road game for tailgating ease. The game gets the highest marks for weather with it being a night game and an expected win against an old Big East rival. If I had to guess I’d expect a Cuse crowd of 1500 (thanks Elton). This is actually the closest drivable trip for CNY’ers at 3.5 hours with limited stops. The game is at Rentschler Field (35 mins west of campus) in East Hartford. This game makes a great overnight or day trip for most in the Northeast. The weather should be outstanding with game temps in upper 60s. East Hartford does have some restaurants worth a look. If you want a classic drive-in try Augie & Ray’s. If you want a greater selection of restaurants look to West Hartford or other nearby towns. If you want to spend some money, Cabela’s is located next to the stadium. Be aware that motels in East Hartford are limited. You might have to look in Hartford. Travel by air is through Bradley International (BDL). It is about 20 mins away. Travel by car is another story. It allows you many different opportunities to take side trips. Connecticut offers everything from high end casinos to quaint seaside and hill country towns.
Rentschler Field is a fairly basic mid-sized stadium located on an old airfield. However, this allows great tailgating and easy parking for even RVs in a special lot. For Syracuse fans you can park at the stadium for $20. However, a better option is available at the Aircraft Club (Pratt and Whitney Aero Club) for $20. It is located across the street from the stadium at approximately 550 Silver Lane, East Hartford and officially opens 4 hours prior to kickoff. Look for a large fenced in lot with softball fields. I always use this lot and will be there 100 strong on game day. Grassy fields, easy going staff and air conditioned indoor bathrooms create a tailgate environment hard to beat. The rules are more relaxed here but the jerky UConn fans aren’t usually here in big numbers. There is a back entrance too (200 Clement Rd) which comes in handy for quick escapes. I figure Cuse will be a 14 point favorite for the game. The students party err tailgate hard (usually far away from the Aero Club) but tailgating among the adults (Blue Lots) is not on the level of most B1G and ACC teams. However, the Blue Lots offer the best spreads. I expect 20K at the game which will be one of their best crowds of the year.
1. Wake Forest, Saturday, November 19th, TBA
Ahh Wake Forest, it has been our most competitive series in the Atlantic. Wake gets high marks for ease of parking, good tailgating and overall low costs. I expect only 750-1000 Cuse fans to show though due to being a late season game and our mediocre to bad seasons which have killed most casual NC based Cuse fans from attending. Note: Wake Forest isn’t located in Wake Forest, NC. It moved from there about 70 years ago to Winston-Salem (90 miles west). So don’t be that idiot who drives to the wrong city.
Winston-Salem is the most boring city in the ACC but there are some things to do. For pure kitsch and a quick stop take your picture in front of the only remaining Shell Service Station from the 1930’s. For food, W-S offers some good cuisine besides Denny’s. However, for BBQ fans a short side trip to Lexington is a must! I plan to hit up Lexington for some Que after the game if it allows. IMHO, Dinosaur BBQ in Syracuse is still better and I won’t even mention Texas. The biggest wild card will be the game weather. It should be pretty good and you can expect a daytime high in the high 50s. However, there is a chance of the first significant cold front coming through for the season about then. For CNY fans, driving to Wake Forest is actually the easiest trip of all the NC schools. It can be done in about 10-11 hours (with limited stops) and no real major cities to slow you down. Of course $5.00 a gallon gas might give you pause. Flying gives you three choices. The closest is Piedmont Triad (PTI) about 20 miles east. It is fairly small but it is the closest. I have used both Charlotte (CLT) and Raleigh Durham (RDU) in the past. You have a much greater chance of getting a non-stop flight into both airports. I have stayed in both cities for a Wake game and actually drove over on gameday. Each are about 90 mins away. Yes, you are driving longer but there is a much reduced chance of an air travel issue.
Truist Field (nee BB&T) is the smallest stadium in the ACC. However, it is one of the easiest stadiums to watch a game. Wake Forest gets high marks for close in and cheap parking. I have always parked in the yellow lots next to the Basketball Coliseum. Parking is about $10. I expect to be there with 1000 or so Cuse fans in November. I expect Cuse will be an underdog in this game. Unless the team is decimated for injury it should still be very competitive and winnable.
3. Clemson, Saturday, October 22nd, TBA
Clemson, SC is a small college town located in Upstate SC. This is a beautiful part of the country. Clemson gets high marks for a great opponent and game day atmosphere. The Clemson Memorial Stadium is a bucket list item for most College Football fans. I expect about 1500 Cuse fans there. The problem is Clemson is tough to get in and out on game day and the chance of winning is low. If you can even find a room in Clemson it’ll be very expensive. So I suggest staying in Greenville-Spartanburg, NE of Atlanta, SW of Charlotte, or smaller towns like Anderson, SC. If you do this, part of the deal will be to arrive about four hours early and hangout tailgating or walking around downtown. If you fly in try the Greenville-Spartanburg Int’l Airport (GSP) first. It is roughly the same size as Syracuse’s airport. Another viable option is to fly into Charlotte (CLT) or Atlanta (ATL). The problem with ATL though is it is on the SW side of Atlanta and traffic is usually hideous. Charlotte is my preference.
Game day parking is not impossible but planning is essential. For $30 you can pre-buy a parking in Lot C-1. This guide is mainly designed for donors but it is still useful. If you happen to buy a parking pass online for a donor lot. You better get there early. You’ll see SEC level tailgating. Walk around in your Cuse gear and act friendly and you’ll be treated well and offered food and beer. Other parking options are to arrive really early and try some of the local churches. Expect to pay $40 or so but you should have better rest rooms and more room to spread out. I will be hosting 75 or so at a Church near downtown. Bottom line: unless you buy a donor pass expect to walk ½ to 1 mile to the stadium. Weather should be near perfect though.
Clemson, SC is all about the Tigers. A few things to check out are listed here. Game day might be tough but a visit to the Esso Club is cool. If you get into town early you might try it for lunch on Friday. I went there for a basketball game and it was still a great atmosphere. For those staying around Greenville a trip downtown is a must. It is a really neat environment. There is enough to keep you busy for a weekend around football. The leaves should be approaching near peak in the area so another option is to drive in the nearby mountains for leaf peeping.
3. Pitt, November 5th, TBD
Pittsburgh is a really underrated fun trip. If you can take Friday off this can be an easy 3 day trip. For some reason Cuse fans do not usually travel well to Pitt. I think it is just far enough it is tough to be an overnight trip for most CNY’ers. I only expect about 500 Syracuse fans at the game. Weather will be a crapshoot (average high near 55). Pitt has been on a roll lately and will probably be around a 14 point favorite (assuming their new QB does well). Flying into Pittsburgh (PIT) is pretty easy and the airport has a lot of direct flights. The great news is the Steelers are off this weekend so hotels should be easy to get. Look at the Northshore Area or downtown. You can stay downtown and actually walk to the game over a bridge. The Gateway Clipper offers a unique way to get to the game. There is some great food in Pittsburgh like a Wholey Fish Sammich. If you want to gain a few more pounds head over to a Primanti Brothers in the close by “Strip District” for one of their famous “sammiches”. Yinz goin to Primanny’s after the Pitt game? If I were going to Pittsburgh I would really save some time for riding one or both of the inclines and also head out to a museum near the stadium.
Heinz Field is the home of the Pittsburgh Steelers and also the Panthers. Pitt rarely sells out the stadium save for Penn State/WVU and a random Power Team showing up. I expect about 30-35000 at our game. Sadly the game isn’t on campus but a couple miles away. I think this really hurts the college atmosphere but at least you are in very nice stadium. Parking is fairly straight forward but Pitt is a really hilly city. It isn’t the easiest city to drive around for visitors. If you just show up on game day without a plan you can always find private parking options in small lots in the Northshore. If you have several carloads of folks coming to a tailgate you need to do some research on finding your best parking lot. One other option for parking is using Spot Hero for the game. Pitt can also be a pregame at a bar type of game at a bar near the stadium. Yes, you can tailgate for a Pitt game but this might be a good option to if you are visiting with a small group.
If I was the ACC Football Scheduler this game would be no later than Halloween annually and it would become a much better road trip. Same thing for our next school, which is our last place finisher for 2022.
5. BC: Saturday, November 26th, TBA
The game is drivable (4-5 hrs) for many CNY Cuse fans so that might make this trip a must-do despite the very real possibility of chilly weather (daytime highs in mid/upper 40s). Air travel is easy into Boston (BOS) but will be outrageous if you travel on peak days due to being Thanksgiving weekend. CNY fans should expect about a 4-6 hour drive. I have no idea on how well we’ll travel. In the past we have brought 5K+ during mid-season games when Cuse was a Top 25 team but I’m thinking closer to 1K.
A trip to see The Orange play BC means it is a great chance to visit Boston for a couple nights. A trip to Quincy Market is great anytime of the year. The Freedom Trail is a nice “off day” diversion if the weather is good. Driving around Boston can be a royal PITA due to crazy street layout, narrow roads and something called a “Masshole”. One suggestion is to park your car at a hotel near the subway line and take mass transit. The MBTA Green Subway Lines B, C and D will all get you close to the stadium. (Ed. note: Driving in Boston has challenges but weekends aren’t nearly as bad as the weekday commute. It’s also pretty easy to use the transit options from even further outside Boston if you want to save on hotels)
The biggest knock against BC is the lack of space and parking for tailgating. If you aren’t connected pretty much forget about doing anything bigger than you and a couple friends eating subs at your car. BC will be glad to sell you a one-time permit to tailgate at a garage for $250. Hey don’t bitch; they want $400 for Clemson. Alumni stadium itself is a pretty nice mid-sized stadium. Sightlines look good but the stadium is nothing special but it is on campus (a plus). If you decide tailgating is too much effort and expense (probably true) then you might get off the Green line and wander into the Cleveland Circle neighborhood before the game. Check out the Eagle’s Deli or the other restaurants and bars there. Johnny’s is a classic diner with great reviews. Hillside Café might be open (check hours) on campus for coffee and sandwiches. Little Big Diner looks like an interesting Asian Fusion restaurant in Newton. A few subway stops away at the Green C line, Tappan St station is The Abbey in Brookline. They are open late.
Thanks to TexanMark for putting this together. Got any recommendations to add to his list? Which road game are you excited for this Fall?