This list is going to be a bit unorthodox, but rather than give you an objective look at which games are most likely to be competitive, I've decided to write this piece based largely on the games and venues which I'm most excited to visit this year. You're welcome to disagree and tell me I'm crazy in the comments section below.
1. Friday, October 7th at Boston College
How could I put a Friday night game in New England anywhere near the top of this list? Well, if you've been a Tiger fan since 2010, it's likely you've already been to the four other road venues the Tigers visit this year (three Atlantic division foes, the permanent Coastal rival, and an Auburn team we've played much too often).
While we play at Boston College every other year, the short trip to Bobby Dodd in Atlanta and the road trip to a major non-conference opponent fall on the same year. Those typically make a road trip to Boston College an afterthought. This year if different because we recently played at Auburn and the Georgia Tech game falls on a Thursday.
Secondly, for such a long road trip, playing the game on Friday actually opens up a long weekend to explore Boston or even New York City if your heart so desires. Fly into Boston late Thursday or early Friday. Spend a day in Chestnut Hill and enjoy a Tiger victory. Then spend a day exploring Boston following by a drive to NYC to explore for a day before heading home on Monday.
The game is early enough in October that it won't be cold quite yet, tickets are affordable, and Alumni Stadium is another check on the box of ACC stadiums to visit.
2. Thursday, September 22nd, at Georgia Tech
Many of you likely live somewhere between Atlanta and Charlotte (the greatest span of land in the world), If so, Atlanta is a easy road trip. The Tigers haven't won in Bobby Dodd since 2003, a five game losing streak. This very well may be the year the Tigers break that ugly streak and I don't want to miss it. My first Clemson game was the 2006 College Gameday battle between the Tigers and Yellow Jackets. You remember, the one where Spiller did this! After that game I knew where I'd be attending college, and I have not missed a Clemson/GT game since!
The Thursday kickoff can be a problem, especially with Atlanta traffic (traffic heading south begins to jam up around 2:00pm and will only be worse with a game). If you're from Atlanta though, this is a no-brainer. If not, there is enough in Atlanta to make it worthwhile for a long weekend. Brewery trips (Red Brick, Monday Night, and if you like hoppy beer then Sweet Water) are easy uber rides from Georgia Tech's campus. The Braves and Falcons are out of town the weekend of 9/22, but the Chattahoochee is still flowing so why not "shoot the hooch" in a inner tube? The College Football Hall of Fame will be open as will the GA Aquarium. Atlanta also has some of the best restaurants in the region - many with outdoor patios to take in the beautiful autumn weather.
3. Saturday, October 29th, at Florida State
After a bad experience with the folks in Tallahassee I haven't been back. Walking through campus, a random man in a Seminole shirt yelled curse words towards me. Another FSU fan littered his own campus by our tailgate. The Marching Chiefs band gave me an icee as I was walking by that morning (it was an interesting yellow flavor, is that ok?), but after scoring the game-winning touchdown turned around to face the Clemson student section and taunted us with yet another rendition of the War Chant. Two years later my (now) fiancé had a very similar experience.
Still, I'm itching for a triumphant return. The Florida heat will be calm by late October. The nation will be watching as as this one constitutes one of the biggest games of the season, not just for Clemson or the ACC, but across the nation. This is the biggest true Clemson road game I can remember. We'll see if the fiancé allows my triumphant return after she was berated in her visit.
4. Saturday, November 19th, at Wake Forest
Wake Forest is bad at football. I'm not going to lie to you. You probably expected them to be dead last on the list. Here's why they're not. The road trip follows two home games and is the last true road game the Tigers will have. If you don't go to Tallahassee it's also the first road trip since Boston College on September 7th.
Tickets will be affordable and there isn't a bad seat in BB&T. One entire side of the stadium will be orange clad making for a interesting mini-bowl game type atmosphere. If you live in Charlotte or Greenville the drive is easy and the win is sure.
As for non-football things to do in Winston-Salem, it's slim-pickin's, but the suburb of Clemmons has my favorite public park called Tanglewood. It has which has three golf courses you can play at an amazing value, horse backing riding, and other fun outdoor activities.
5. Saturday September 3rd, at Auburn
Obviously this is an extremely appealing opponent to go visit. They have a beautiful stadium, passionate (and respectful) fans, and the road trip is reasonably close. Ticket prices however aren't reasonable. Prices between $110-200 are looking to be the norm. If you were in Auburn in 2010, you know it is FLAT and HOT. The biggest problem though is the kickoff time at 9pm EST. With the game ending after midnight, a hotel room is necessary making this a rather pricey road trip for such as short, football-only venture.
If you've never been before, I'd highly recommend it, but if you went in 2010 it's not a must repeat road trip given the heat, kickoff time, price, and lack of non-football attractions that a city like Boston offers as a complement to a bigger weekend vacation. Tickets to the much bigger Clemson at FSU game are currently running cheaper.
With all that said, I'd be excited to attend all of these road trips and plan to do three or four of them. If you'd like to find us at a tailgate, tweet me at @Ryan_Kantor.