ILLINOIS – MEMORIAL STADIUM

Somewhere amid the cornfields of the midwest lies Champaign, Illinois. It’s a great college town with mounds of enthusiasm and passion for their team. On gameday, tailgating takes place in open fields where music blasts, games are played, and footballs are tossed.  You might even catch the band performing a quick drumline or “Oskee Wow Wow” before they make their march into Memorial Stadium.

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Game 289: Miami (OH) @ #5 Ohio State

A tremendous defensive play resulting in a safety followed by an impressive field goal ending drive gave Miami (Ohio) a 5-0 lead over Ohio State early in the first quarter.
“We’re winning!” exclaimed a dumbfounded Redhawk fan.
Someone nearby echoed, “you better take a picture of the scoreboard now!”
That turned out to be good advice.
Ohio State won 76-5.
That early safety was one of two times that the Buckeye offense was truly stopped.
The other was the lightning storm that swept over Ohio Stadium, thus ending the game with just under three minutes to go.

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NORTHWESTERN – RYAN FIELD

Ryan Field in Evanston, Illinois is known as the “Wrigley Field” of college football. It doesn’t quite have the history of the Cubs, but boasts a very classic and old school stadium atmosphere. For a while now, NU has been calling themselves Chicago’s Big Ten Team. Attempts to market this slogan are popping up around the city, and the evidence is beginning to show with more rumps in the seats in Evanston.  Perhaps because Chicagoans are slowly realizing that Northwestern is no longer The Big Ten’s little brother.

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Game 288: UNLV @ Northwestern

Two quick-strike rushing touchdowns from Charles Williams and a Chucky doll were the highlights for UNLV on Saturday. It was Northwestern’s moment to bounce back from a lackluster loss at Stanford two weeks ago. Clemson transfer QB Hunter Johnson scored his first career rushing and passing touchdown, thus injecting some hope into an offense full of questions. He did throw one interception, however, which prompted UNLV to introduce the world to Chucky.

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WISCONSIN – CAMP RANDALL STADIUM

Often regarded as one of the Big Ten’s wildest and most thrilling venues, Camp Randall Stadium never disappoints. Once a Civil War training site, this massive structure is crammed in a beautiful residential area among dorms, fraternity houses, campus buildings and bars. The Camp is the perfect college venue with views of the state capital and Madison’s surrounding lakes (Mendota and Menona).

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Game 287: Central Michigan @ #19 Wisconsin

A little Wisconsin football history for you:

The Badgers used to really suck.
Tickets to a Wisconsin game were as sought after as a communicable disease. People would leave unsold Badger tickets on car windshields. Shamed football players shielded their letter jackets from view. The late eighties officially materialized Wisconsin’s tradition of being a doormat.
The program needed a major facelift, and the leaders at UW knew it. That is when Barry Alvarez strolled in as Wisconsin’s new head coach. Confidence. Toughness. Swagger. Adjectives that Badger football lacked, but that Alvarez had packed in his suitcase.
A handful of Big Ten and Rose Bowl championships later, the Badgers have become a consistent winner. Alvarez is now the athletic director helping to maintain this success.
I share this history because today’s 61-0 Wisconsin victory over CMU should not be taken for granted. There was a time when fans would come more for the band than the team, which made the retirement of its longtime band director such a momentous shift.

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IOWA – KINNICK STADIUM

This is a classic example of a place where sports dominate the entertainment category. Pre-game tailgating is fantastic, and the buzz on the streets in Iowa City is all about the team. Many fans point out visiting colors and start their battle cries and chants. Walking up to Kinnick Stadium, you see a beautiful brick façade that lines the outside. Rows of corn greet visitors to the main entrance along with a statue of Hawkeye hero and 1939 Heisman trophy winner, Nile Kinnick. The entire experience is midwestern perfection and one of the best college football stops in the country.

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Game 286: Miami (OH) @ #20 Iowa

I always get excited when I am able to put Kinnick Stadium on my schedule. I know I’m going to have an incredible day. Midwestern hospitality saturates the scene, and that was especially evidenced by the “Hawks To Go” tailgate whose members invited me in and showed me why they were named winner of the Best Hawkeye Tailgate Contest. My experience involved learning the history of the tailgate, which started in 2005. I also was taken on a tour of all the Hawkeye autographs on their trailer from all the Iowa greats that visited over the years. We took a shot to christen our visit to the tune of the I-O-W-A chant and received a pin commemorating the moment. As they inject all this passion into Hawkeye gameday, they have also taken in thousands of dollars in donations for the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital. I felt blessed to start my gameday off in this way.

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