SATURDAY, AUG. 26
USF AT SAN JOSE STATE
4:30 P.M. PDT
THURSDAY, AUG. 31
North Dakota at Utah
5:30 P.M. MT
FRIDAY, SEPT. 1
Colorado State at Colorado
6 P.M. MT
SATURDAY, SEPT. 2
Central Arkansas at Kansas St.
6:10 P.M. CDT
CATCH THE BEGINNING of the Charlie Strong era at USF as the Bulls start their season 3,000 miles from home. SI's preseason No. 17 team is the favorite to win the American Athletic Conference after an 11-win 2016. Senior quarterback Quinton Flowers is one of the most underrated passers in college ball, and there's a bit of Lamar Jackson in his dual-threat game, making him a dark horse Heisman candidate. In 2016 he passed for 2,812 yards, 24 touchdowns and seven interceptions while rushing for another 1,530 yards and 18 scores.
The game should be over in time to catch the second half of the day's overseas game: Stanford vs. Rice in Sydney. We'd have sent you if we could, but adding a yacht into the mix for this journey seemed financially prohibitive. Instead, settle into a sports bar in charming downtown San Jose, grab some dinner and the end of the game. In the morning, head east toward Utah, stopping at Ikeda's California Country Market in Auburn for lunch. It's about 2½ hours down the road. From there, spend a night or two at Lake Tahoe before making the eight-hour drive across northern Nevada. Save time for Park City before heading to Salt Lake City.
NORTH DAKOTA AT UTAH
The tour of season-openers continues with another nonconference game between mismatched opponents. The Utes have won at least nine games three years running and have three straight bowl victories. This year they'll roll out a new no-huddle offense from first-year coordinator Troy Taylor and feature defensive tackle Lowell Lotulelei (93, left), younger brother of Panthers defensive tackle Star Lotulelei; he has NFL written all over him.
Now it's time to drive. It's eight hours to Denver, where you'll need to be by Friday. Get moving; the mountain roads should be more forgiving than they are in wintertime, but Eisenhower Pass is still a beast.
COLORADO STATE VS. COLORADO IN DENVER
The Buffs are coming off a resurgent season in 2016, but their offseason has been marred by scandal. They'll certainly be ready to get back to football. The Rocky Mountain Showdown is played every year in the Broncos' stadium, and it's always a fun atmosphere. Plus, it's been a back-and-forth series in recent years; neither team has won more than two games straight since Colorado from 2003--05.
Grab a beer at one of the many craft breweries downtown before or after—or before and after—the game. Falling Rock Tap House has a massive selection of local drafts and a grilled cheese that's simple and amazing.
Get on the road by 9 a.m. Sunday. You've got a mind-numbing seven-hour run to Manhattan, Kans., plus you lose an hour as you head east. Download some podcasts; there won't be much in the way of scenery once the mountains disappear from your rearview mirror.
BUTTER FLIGHT AT RADINA'S BAKEHOUSE
Wine flights are fine. Whiskey flights are better. But why should a delightfully horizontal sampling of flavors be limited to spirits? Why not do the same with butter? That's the innovation Radina's has brought to the world. Order a Snickers' mocha to sip while sampling their finest butters. They serve up a variety of fresh-baked breads, but the sourdough provides the perfect canvas to decide which one of the three options in each flight is best to slather on your carbs. If you like shortcuts, then know this: The tangy herb and the sweet honey are tough to beat.