In this fifth installment of this all conferences experience series, our game traveler, Mike (@CFBcampustour) will be answering questions focusing on the “best of” categories for each conference.
He’s been fortunate to visit all 130 FBS schools and attend games at 88 of them since 2017. Since he hasn’t seen a game at all 130 schools, his opinion is only partially informed. Still, he’s here to provide the best answers he can based on his experiences to date.
The next conference up is Conference USA. To date, he’s witnessed a game at 10 of the 14 C-USA schools. Here’s the breakdown:
Schools I’ve attended games at:
Florida International, Louisiana Tech, Marshall, North Texas, Old Dominion, Rice, UAB, UTEP, UTSA, Western Kentucky
Schools still needed:
Charlotte, Florida Atlantic, Middle Tennessee, Southern Mississippi
What is the best Conference USA game you’ve witnessed?
Nov. 15, 2018 – Florida Atlantic at North Texas. This Thursday night match-up in Denton had all the makings of a Texas shootout. The FAU “Lane Train”, led by Coach Lane Kiffin, came to town to try and outduel the Mean Green’s all-conference quarterback Mason Fine. Rarely do games live up to the hype. However, this game not only met expectations…it exceeded them.
North Texas came out on fire in the first quarter. Fine threw two touchdowns — one to DeAndre Torrey and another to Jalen Guyton. Add a 38-yard field goal by Cole Hedlund and North Texas built an early 17-0 lead. The Owls were able to swing the pendulum back in their direction in the second quarter and take a 21-20 lead into the locker room.
The seesaw battled continued in the second half with both teams taking the lead at various points. With just over four minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, Mean Green running back DeAndre Torrey took a hand-off 92 yards to the house to give North Texas a 10-point lead. The Owls answered back three plays later with a 55-yard touchdown pass from Chris Robison to Jovon Durante to cut the lead back to three.
FAU had one last shot from its own 35-yard-line with under two minutes to play. Facing a 3rd-and-15, Robison tried to connect with Durante again, but the ball ricocheted and North Texas’ Khairi Muhammad came up with the game-clinching interception:
Final score: North Texas 41, Florida Atlantic 38. The two teams combined for exactly 1,000 yards (FAU with 489, North Texas with 511) in an absolute offensive onslaught. North Texas improved to 8-3, sending its fans home happy after an electrifying night at Apogee Stadium.
Which school has your favorite stadium?
Sun Bowl/UTEP. Usually, I’ll talk about how difficult it is to pick a favorite, but in Conference USA, there is no doubt. The Sun Bowl in El Paso is not only my favorite C-USA stadium, it is my favorite FBS stadium. Originally constructed in 1963 with a seating capacity of 30,000, it has been expanded twice since to its current capacity of just over 50,000 seats.
The Sun Bowl is located in the Paso del Norte region — a stone’s throw away from the U.S.-Mexico border. Not only is it nestled in the Franklin Mountains, a portion of a mountain was carved out to accommodate the road team’s bleachers.
With an elevation of 3,910 feet, the stadium is in a serene location as well. I should also mention that my dad played there as an opponent back in the day for the University of Pacific. Pacfic lost to UTEP 14-10 and my dad said it was a great venue to play in:
To me, it’s a magical place. It does not have all the modern amenities fans would want and UTEP does not play any games with serious College Football Playoff implications. It’s just a feeling you get there. When you travel to stadiums you’ve never been, you’re often surprised by what you think when you’re inside.
Sometimes a stadium that looks great on TV is unremarkable in person. Sometimes, it’s the exact opposite. Everyone has their own tastes and that’s what makes visiting stadiums so much fun.
I do want to include an honorable mention. Old Dominion’s S.B. Ballard Stadium is really nice now. It underwent a significant renovation in 2019 and is one of the most beautiful Group of 5 stadiums around. It’s definitely worth a visit.