With the NFL releasing its 2014 regular season schedule on Wednesday, football fans can start to make vacation preparations for the upcoming season.
If you are looking to cash in on a football-rich weekend this fall involving both college and NFL games, there are several weekends where BYU, Utah and Utah State fans can watch their local teams and enjoy an NFL game just hours apart.
Here's a look at trips local fans can take this season to see their beloved team as well as catch some NFL action:
Ultimate Utes football weekend
Oct. 4: Utah at UCLA
Oct. 5: Kansas City Chiefs at San Francisco 49ers
This may be the ultimate trip of any that local college fans could take in the 2014 season. On Saturday, Oct. 4, the Utes face UCLA at the Rose Bowl. That same day, while game times haven't been set yet, USC hosts Arizona State at Memorial Coliseum. There is the potential to catch two college football games at two of the sport's most tradition-rich homes, which sit just 14 miles apart.
The next day, former Utah quarterback Alex Smith will return to the bay to face his former team, the 49ers, in San Francisco's new digs: Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, about an hour's drive from San Francisco. This game is set to start at 2:25 p.m. MST. Fans could jump on a flight that morning from Los Angeles to San Francisco, a flight that is normally about an hour and a half, and still have plenty of time to grab lunch and catch the game.
In addition, there is the potential to catch a Major League Baseball playoff game the day before or the day after the football games — either in the Los Angeles area or in San Francisco or Oakland — with the regular season ending on Sept. 28. Former Ute pitcher Stephen Fife is currently in Triple-A ball with the Albuquerque Isotopes, but he has played in seven games the past three seasons for the Dodgers, including two starts in 2013.
Alternate trip: The Utes' trip to face Michigan in September also provides fans a chance see Utah play and attend an NFL game. After the Utes play in Ann Arbor on Saturday, Sept. 20, the Detroit Lions host the Green Bay Packers at 11 a.m. MST in Detroit the next day, less than an hour's drive away. This game pits two longtime NFC North rivals looking to make an early splash after disappointing 2013 seasons.
Utah fans remember that the last time the Utes went to Ann Arbor, they upset the Wolverines and started their second run to a BCS game in 2008. Could there be a sequel?
Ultimate Cougars football weekend
Oct. 9: BYU at Central Florida
Oct. 12: Baltimore Ravens at Tampa Bay Buccaneers or Green Bay Packers at Miami Dolphins
There is more time in between games in this ultimate football weekend, with the Cougars facing the Knights on Thursday, Oct. 9, in Orlando. That allows for more vacation time in between, a good solution with Disney World in the same city as the game. After Central Florida won the Fiesta Bowl last season, this is seen as a key road game for BYU in 2014, even with the departure of Knights quarterback Blake Bortles.
On Saturday, travelers can catch another college game if they choose about two hours away from Orlando in Gainesville when Florida hosts LSU.
As for Sunday's NFL action, the Ravens, with former BYU tight end Dennis Pitta, visit the Buccaneers at 11 a.m. MST in Tampa Bay, about an hour and a half drive from Orlando and around two hours from Gainesville. It's expected that Pitta, under first-year offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak, will have expanded his role in the Baltimore offense this year after missing most of last season with a hip injury.
The other NFL game, the Packers visiting the Dolphins, would likely require flying or advanced planning for sight-seeing, as the drive from Orlando to Miami is nearly four hours. The longest-tenured Dolphin continues to be former BYU defensive lineman John Denney, Miami's long snapper.
Alternate trip: BYU heads to Texas on Saturday, Sept. 6, for its second game at the Longhorns' stadium since 2011. The following day, the 49ers travel to Dallas to play at AT&T Stadium with a 2:25 p.m. MST kickoff, a matchup of two teams with plenty of history.
While this trip may require taking a flight from Austin to Dallas — it takes more than three hours to drive — this could be a sweet reunion for Cougar fans who had the opportunity to attend BYU's 2009 win over Oklahoma at Jerry's World. Plus, the Cougars will have the chance to beat Texas for a second straight season.
Ultimate Aggies football weekend
Nov. 27: Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers
Nov. 29: Utah State at Boise State
The only downside to this ultimate weekend is that it overlaps with Thanksgiving. Then again, football has become a standard Thanksgiving tradition, and what better way to spend family time together than taking a vacation?
The Seahawks visit the 49ers' new stadium on Thursday, Nov. 27, in the final matchup on Thanksgiving Day. With a kickoff time of 6:30 p.m. MST, that allows time for the turkey to settle. Plus, this will be the first matchup between these two NFC West rivals since their meeting in the NFC Championship last year, which Seattle won on its way to earning the Super Bowl title. Former Aggie Bobby Wagner plays a key role on the Seahawks' defense, and Robert Turbin has earned a fair share of time as Marshawn Lynch's backup.
With a day in between games, fans can either see the sights in San Francisco or take a flight up to Boise and prepare for the trip's second contest. Last year, Utah State edged Boise State for the Mountain West Conference Mountain Division title, and this game is likely to have similar stakes. The Broncos will be seeking to earn their way into the league's championship game, while the Aggies will be hoping to avenge a loss to Boise State in Logan last season.
For Aggie fans, there's a lot to like about a trip like this, where there's the potential to have much on the line.
Alternate trip: Utah State travels to Colorado State to face the Rams on Saturday, Oct. 18. The following day, the Denver Broncos host the San Francisco 49ers in the Sunday night matchup with a 6:30 p.m. MST start. The Aggies blanked Colorado State last season and could use a win in Colorado to spur another run at a conference title. As for the Broncos and 49ers, two teams with Super Bowl aspirations match up in what could be a pivotal game in terms of playoff seeding. Plus, there's the added bonus of seeing Peyton Manning in person.
Road-tripping time is minimal on this trip considering Fort Collins, Colo., is only an hour or so drive from Denver, and this trip would only require a flight to and from Colorado's state capital.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @brandonljudd
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