Oct. 13 at Alabama
Given the historic success of the Alabama program, the current run of dominance under coach Nick Saban and the frenzied passion of Crimson Tide fans, this is the Missouri road game to attend this fall. Given the ridiculous SEC schedule, under which Mizzou plays at some teams in its conference less frequently than the United States of America endeavors to count every person in the country, this is a once-in-12-years chance to see the Tigers play at Alabama.
It’s also a chance to see the massive Bryant-Denny Stadium, one of the 10 biggest stadiums in the world, where legends like Joe Namath, Derrick Thomas, and Forrest Gump have played.
Of course, for decades Alabama played many big games in Birmingham, until they came to their senses and realized college football on campus is the way to go. (Looking right at ya, Arkansas, and that small old stadium in Little Rock that’s apparently going to host Battle Line Rivalry games whether Mizzou likes it or not.)
The game itself at Alabama could be a bloodbath, but there’s fun to be had in Tuscaloosa, and on the off chance Missouri pulls an upset for the ages, wouldn’t it be cool to say you were there?
Oct. 6 at South Carolina
Williams-Brice Stadium is perhaps an underrated venue in the SEC. A child of the Great Depression, built as a Works Progress Administration project, it rises above a pretty good tailgate scene at the South Carolina State Fairgrounds.
Before kickoffs, fans whip themselves into a frenzy waving white towels while “Sandstorm” plays. Just watch out if you’re sitting in the east upper deck. It sways and moves when the crowd gets going, prompting one former South Carolina coach to say, “If it ain’t swayin’, we ain’t playin’” after a big win.
This is also a good road trip because Missouri could use a win over South Carolina to move up in the SEC East standings this year. Georgia is the clear favorite, but getting past the Gamecocks would at least be another rung higher.
It’s also worthwhile to explore the other Columbia, including the Five Points region where I first realized you can have steak and cornbread in the same meal.
Nov. 17 at Tennessee
If you like enormous stadiums, scenic Appalachian vistas, and hearing “Rocky Top” played relentlessly, this is the road trip for you. Nestled by the Tennessee River, Neyland Stadium can be electric when the Vols are playing well, and the fanbase has a boost of momentum with a new head coach, Jeremy Pruitt.
It’s certainly a passionate fanbase, and after Mizzou won their game there in 2014 I saw two fans brawling in the bleachers. But it wasn’t opposing fans, it was two Tennessee fans fighting it out.
Even if this road trip isn’t necessarily a marquee game this year, Knoxville is still a fun town, it’s not too terrible of a drive, and Tiger fans who make the trek will probably still have a lot of fun.
Nov. 3 at Florida
The Swamp, officially known on its drivers license as Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, is a storied SEC venue. It’s also a long way from Columbia. That’s part of why it ranks down here, along with the current state of Florida’s program.
The Gators weren’t good last year, but they made an exciting hire in Dan Mullen, formerly the coach at Mississippi State. This game probably won’t have any ramifications on the SEC East race, but who knows how the teams will look by November.
Despite the distance, this is one to check off the list at some point. Thousands of people doing the Gator Chomp is a sight to see. Plus Florida is just a bizarre, well-tanned state, so there are all manner of curiosities to take in. This one could easily rank higher, and it’s a great reminder that pretty much every SEC road trip destination is fantastic.
Sept. 15 at Purdue
To watch a game at Ross-Ade Stadium on television, seemingly always an 11 a.m. kickoff, sparse but hardy crowds, steel gray skies above, announcers trying to muster enthusiasm, grass seemingly cut too high, teams punting on 4th-and-1 from the 39, is to stare into the Abyss and wonder at the meaning of things.
But things are different now! Purdue has an exciting second-year head coach, Jeff Brohm! They have lights now! Big Ten fans are sensible people who drive the speed limit, show up to movies on time, and for a long time rarely engaged in morally loose frivolities like football after dark. But Purdue finally installed permanent lights in 2017, and this will be a night game. It’ll be just the 12th night game Purdue has hosted, and just the fourth under the permanent lights.
It’s a fairly short drive for Missouri fans, which helps, but lacks the appeal of some of the SEC road trips this season. Then again, I just checked the Mizzou ticket website and they’ve sold out of their visiting team ticket allotment for this game, so clearly Tiger fans are ready for the takeover of West Lafayette, Indiana.