Utah going to the Pac-12 and BYU going independent means a major football upgrade for both schools, but for you, the fan, it also means you get to plan much better road trips. Instead of Laramie, Wyo., or Fort Collins, Colo., Ute fans can visit Los Angeles and San Francisco. Since the Cougars are independent, they can theoretically play anywhere they want from Maine to Hawaii, and December will find the Y “hanging 10” in Honolulu.
Here’s a list of road games for both teams, along with some tips on what to do when you get there.
Sept. 3: BYU at Ole Miss (Oxford, Miss.)
“The Grove,” in Oxford, is 10 acres of oak, elm and magnolia trees that has been ranked the No. 1 tailgating spot in America by Sports Illustrated and No. 2 by ESPN. Otherwise, Oxford is noted for being home to Nobel Prize-winning writer William Faulkner. The literary connection is found at Courthouse Square, home to one of the top independent bookstores in America, Square Books (160 Courthouse Square, 662-236-2262, SquareBooks.com) and its offshoots, Off Square Books and Square Books Jr.
Sept. 10: Utah at USC (Los Angeles)
Despite the hubbub over Reggie Bush’s attempt to give back his Heisman Trophy, USC still has six other Heismans, some of which can be viewed on game day at Heritage Hall on the USC campus, just across the street from the Coliseum. The campus also turns into a de facto tailgating area for pretty much anybody with a cooler, some lawn chairs and a patch of grass. After the game, head a little north of the Coliseum to Hollywood for Pink’s Hot Dogs (709 N. LaBrea Ave., 323-931-4223, PinksHollywood.com), where there’s always a line going down the street, or find out why chicken and waffles go better together than you ever could have imagined at Roscoe’s House of Chicken ‘n Waffles (5006 W. Pico Blvd., 323-934-4405, RoscoesChickenAndWaffles.com).
Sept. 10: BYU at Texas (Austin)
With nearly 200 live-music venues, the host town for the South by Southwest festival calls itself the “Live Music Capital of the World.” Music can be heard coming through the doors of scores of clubs located up and down the famed 6th Street. (Get info on various gigs at 6Street.com.) Austin is also the perfect place to find good barbecue, and one of the best is The Salt Lick Bar-B-Que (1826 Driftwood, 512-858-4959, SaltLickBBQ.com), which is a cash-only operation that allows you to BYOB.
Oct. 15: Utah at Pittsburgh
No visit to the Steel City is complete without a visit to Primanti Brothers (PrimantiBros.com), where coleslaw and fries come on every sandwich, not as sides, making it a meal you can eat with one hand. The good news for Ute fans is that there is a Primanti Brothers stand inside Heinz Field, also home to the NFL’s Steelers. Before or after the game, Clark Bar & Grill (503 Martindale St., 412-231-5720, ThePipaGroup.com/ClarkBar) is a popular hangout.
Oct. 15: BYU at Oregon State (Corvallis, Ore.)
Corvallis may not be a hot spot on the BYU travel itinerary this season, but for Cougar fans, it’s the closest drive at 14 hours, and if you don’t mind two more hours in the car, you can stay overnight in Portland. Or follow City Weekly’s Dan Nailen’s lead and head to Newport on the central Oregon coast and check out the Rogue Ales Public House (748 SW Bay Blvd., Newport, 541-265-3188, Rogue.com). Damn fine beer.
Oct. 22: Utah at California (San Francisco)
There is nothing better than a game-day dim sum brunch at Good Luck Dim Sum (736 Clement St., 415-368-3388, GoodLuckDimSum.com), or a picnic before at McCovey Point at China Basin Park, which sits just minutes away from AT&T Park (usually home to baseball’s Giants, it’s where this football game will be played) overlooking beautiful McCovey Cove, where home runs from a juiced-up Barry Bonds used to splash down.
Oct. 28: BYU at TCU (Arlington, Texas)
The most notable thing about this game is when it’s played—Friday night—and where—Cowboys Stadium. This football palace is so huge there are four different tours, including one that covers just the art hanging around the place. Texas is the perfect place to enjoy country music and watch the pros ride bulls at Billy Bob’s Texas (2520 Rodeo Plaza, Fort Worth, 817-624-7117, BillyBobsTexas.com), which claims to be “The World’s Largest Honky Tonk.”
Nov. 5: Utah at Arizona (Tucson, Ariz.)
Average temperature in Salt Lake City on Nov. 5: 47 degrees. Average daily high in Tucson for the same date: 77 degrees. If those 30 degrees aren’t enough to get you to go, how about the promise of “Sonora Dogs”—a bacon-wrapped hot dog placed in a soft Mexican roll and topped with everything you’d typically put in a burrito and on a hot dog! Try one at El Guero Canelo (5201 S. 12th Ave., 520-295-9005, ElgueroCanelo.com) located, of all places, just off Utah Street.
Nov. 19: Utah at Washington State (Pullman, Wash.)
We’re not going to kid you—Pullman is probably the least glamorous place in the Pac-12. On the plus side, it’s less than a 12-hour drive, and since the Cougars are 5-32 over the last three seasons, there should be plenty of seats available. And there is nothing wrong with Swilly’s Restaurant (200 NE Kamiaken, Pullman, 509-334-3395, Swillys.com) for killer sandwiches, salads and pre-/post-game dinner entrees.
Dec. 3: BYU at Hawaii (Honolulu)
Who can forget the iconic Brady Brunch Hawaiian vacation episode that’s still in reruns? Avoid the urge to pick up cursed tikis by keeping yourself busy snorkeling at Hanauma Bay Nature Park (7455 Kalaniana’ole Highway, Oahu, 808-396-4229), a protected marine life conservation area just outside Honolulu. For a more rural part of the island, head to the North Shore, where the hotels are few but there are plenty of food trucks on the side of the road serving delicious Hawaiian mixed plates. For the best shaved ice, go to Matsumoto Shave Ice (66-087 Kamehameha Highway, Haleiwa, 808-637-4827, MatsumotoShaveIce.com).
For those who can’t make a road trip or have trouble getting tickets to home games thanks to the increased fan interest both programs will get from their newfound status, there will be good options for seeing the teams on the tube. Ten of BYU’s 12 games will be on the ESPN family of networks (sometimes that might mean free streaming online at ESPN3.com instead of being on one of the broadcast stations). As for Ute fans, the Pac-12 network won’t start up until the 2012 season, so this year, the Utes will appear on a patchwork of stations including KJZZ, ESPN, Versus and Root Sports.
When it comes to BYU fans getting together, it's often a case of whose house has a freezer that can hold the most ice cream. However, Bleachers Sports Grill (2255 N. University Parkway, Provo, 801-373-3203) is a nonalcholic, sports-themed establishment where the Cougar faithful can gather on Saturdays.