There are quick road trips for games that don’t require much planning — one simply can jump in the car and go. Then, there are dates on the schedule that call for research and a commitment to put in a ton of miles to get there.
Florida’s trip to Tennessee this weekend falls into the latter category.
It’s 549 miles from the middle of Gainesville, Fla., to Neyland Stadium. A quick search on Expedia tells us that getting a flight at this late date is going to be a challenge.
Eight-hour car rides are one thing. Eight-hour car rides that involve Atlanta traffic are something else.
Let’s have a look:
We’d suggest taking the Interstate-285 loop around Atlanta, but because it’s “the deadliest interstate in the nation” that might not be the best idea.
Why the game could be good: Well, it’s a rivalry, albeit one dominated by Florida in the last decade.
Florida has won in its last five trips to Knoxville and owns 11 consecutive wins in the series.
Injuries for both schools dominate the headlines this week. The Volunteers will be without defensive starters Cam Sutton and Darrin Kirkland Jr. A handful of other players are nursing ailments as well.
Florida’s injury woes are more focused. Starting quarterback Luke Del Rio likely is out with a knee sprain, and receiver Antonio Callaway’s availability is in doubt because of a quad injury.
Tennessee is a 7-point favorite, but it will face the SEC’s top-rated defense — and more than a decade of futility — against Florida.
Stop for food: Because you’re going to deal with Atlanta anyway, you might as well steer into the skid and make a stop there.
The Varsity has seven locations in the area, and you can get a good hot dog or cheeseburger (don’t forget the chili) at any of them.
What to see along the way: I-75 through Georgia offers some potentially interesting stops. The Tellus Science Museum in Cartersville, Lane Southern Orchards in Fort Valley and, if you’re hungry when you get to Calhoun, Dub’s High on the Hog won’t disappoint.
What to do besides watch football: Hopefully, you’ll have a little time in Knoxville that isn’t devoted to football. If you do, visit the East Tennessee History Center, hit Zoo Knoxville or just go outside and explore a beautiful part of the world.
Tailgating options: The folks at VolNation have some good suggestions for tailgating at Neyland Stadium. As with other SEC stadiums, opposing fans mingle with Vols partisans in relative harmony.
If you’ve never been to Neyland Stadium, don’t miss the Vol Navy:
Parking: If you don’t have a pass, you’re probably not going to be close to the stadium. Check out the details here.
Gas: The broken gas pipeline in Alabama was repaired and reopened earlier Wednesday, so finding gas shouldn’t be an issue this weekend. It may not be cheap, though.