This is the year. You’ve finally saved up enough money to quit your job, travel around the south and hit every SEC campus in one autumn.
In case you’re not the atlas type, we put together the ultimate road trip guide for you. This will bring you to 16 cities in 14 weeks, with an emphasis on rivalries and strong matchups over proximity.
Start booking hotel rooms (or reserving RV spaces) now:
Sept. 1 — Nashville, Tennessee for Vanderbilt/South Carolina
Get the season started right in the SEC’s largest city. This Thursday night matchup features the beginning of the Will Muschamp era, and Gamecocks quarterback Brandon McIlwain might show some flashes of greatness in his first college appearance. Once the final whistle blows, head down to Broadway for a lengthy celebration of football’s return.
Sept. 3 — Auburn, Alabama for Auburn/Clemson
Travel: 303 miles in two days. En route: Decatur (Ala.), Birmingham (Ala.) • The defending national runner-up — and likely No. 1 or No. 2 team in the preseason AP poll — will be in town for an all-Tigers matchup. It’s a tough challenge for the home side, but campus will be more energetic for this one than any game since the “Kick Six” in 2013.
Sept. 10 — Gainesville, Florida for Florida/Kentucky
Travel: 323 miles in seven days. En route: Columbus (Ga.), Valdosta (Ga.), Lake City (Fla.) … Total trip mileage: 626 • What were you doing in 1986? That’s the last time Kentucky beat Florida. The Gators will try to make it 30 straight with a group of players that were still a full decade away from being born when the Wildcats last triumphed.
Sept. 17 — Oxford, Mississippi for Ole Miss/Alabama
Travel: 665 miles in seven days. En route: Macon (Ga.), Atlanta (Ga.), Tupelo (Miss.) … Total trip mileage: 1,291 • The Crimson Tide won’t fall to the Rebels for a third straight year, right? Ole Miss fans know they’re on borrowed time in this rivalry, but Hugh Freeze’s squad has the tools to pull off a three-peat.
Sept. 24 — Knoxville, Tennessee for Tennessee/Florida
Travel: 404 miles in seven days. En route: Chattanooga (Tenn.), Cleveland (Tenn.) … Total trip mileage: 1,695 • Here’s another Florida streak you might see extended: the Gators have won 11 straight against the Volunteers. Many think this will finally be the year Tennessee ends its cursed run, and if the Vols pull it off, Knoxville will be partying into Monday.
Oct. 1 — Athens, Georgia for Georgia/Tennessee
Travel: 235 miles in seven days. En route: Asheville (N.C.), Franklin (N.C.) … Total trip mileage: 1,930 • Take a dip through ACC country on your way down to northern Georgia. You’ll likely be following Volunteers fans as they gear up for a game that will go a long way toward deciding the SEC East division.
Oct. 8 — Columbia, South Carolina for South Carolina/Georgia
Travel: 175 miles in seven days. En route: Oconee National Forest, Augusta (Ga.), Lexington (S.C.) … Total trip mileage: 2,105 • Here’s another easy trip that will allow you to either stick around in Athens a while longer or arrive in Columbia early for a battle between former Nick Saban assistants.
Oct. 15 — Fayetteville, Arkansas for Arkansas/Ole Miss
Travel: 913 miles in seven days. En route: Augusta (Ga.), Atlanta (Ga.), Birmingham (Ala.), Memphis (Tenn.), Fort Smith (Ark.) … Total trip mileage: 3,018 • This leg is not for the faint of heart. But you’ll see plenty of the south’s major markets on your way from Columbia to Fayetteville, and will be rewarded with a hard-fought SEC West game at your journey’s completion.
Oct. 22 — Baton Rouge, Louisiana for LSU/Ole Miss
Travel: 518 miles in seven days. En route: Ozark National Forest, Pine Bluff (Ark.), Natchez (Miss.)… Total trip mileage: 3,536 • This trip’s first foray into Louisiana will be scenic; after driving through the Ozark National Forest, you can ditch the main highway and take a slightly longer route (30 miles added) by driving along the Mississippi River for a few hours. The water will take you to Baton Rouge, where fans will be hyped up for a crucial division game against Mississippi.
Oct. 29 — Jacksonville, Florida for Florida/Georgia
Travel: 602 miles in seven days. En route: New Orleans (La.), Biloxi (Miss.), Mobile (Ala.), Tallahassee (Fla.) … Total trip mileage: 4,138 • We can’t do a complete tour of the south without a trip through New Orleans. It’s a tad off the main route here, so we won’t blame you for skipping it —especially because there will be plenty of free cocktails available at this week’s final destination — but it’s tough to say no to NOLA.
Nov. 5 — Lexington, Kentucky for Kentucky/Georgia
Travel: 717 miles in seven days. En route: Savannah (Ga.), Columbia (S.C.), Spartanburg (S.C.), Asheville (N.C.), Knoxville (Tenn.) … Total trip mileage: 4,855 • Yeah, you might get a little deja vu on this drive. This is your fourth Georgia game, and you’ll travel through two SEC towns you’ve already visited. But the flip side is you also get to roll through three different national parks and forests. Nature!
Nov. 12 — College Station, Texas for Texas A&M/Ole Miss
Travel: 972 miles in seven days. En route: Nashville (Tenn.), Jackson (Tenn.), Memphis (Tenn.), Texarkana (Texas) … Total trip mileage: 5,827 • You’re probably wondering why we didn’t send you to A&M after an Arkansas or LSU game, but the schedule simply doesn’t shake out that way (unless you’d rather see the Aggies play New Mexico State). College Station might as well be on another planet as far as the rest of the SEC is concerned, so you knew you were going to need to put in serious highway hours for this one regardless of your departure point.
Nov. 19 — Starkville, Mississippi for Mississippi State/Arkansas
Travel: 564 miles in seven days. En route: Shreveport (La.), Monroe (La.), Vicksburg (Miss.), Jackson (Miss.) … Total trip mileage: 6,391 • Things happen for a reason. You were complaining about last week’s leg, but now it allows you to head back into the heart of the south through several important cities. And even though you might not see the best teams in the league this weekend, there’s a chance you’ll get a worthy rematch of last year’s 51-50 barnburner.
Nov. 25 — Columbia, Missouri for Missouri/Arkansas
Travel: 572 miles in six days. En route: Memphis (Tenn.), Cape Girardeau (Mo.), St. Louis (Mo.) … Total mileage: 6,963 • Make sure to bring a jacket and some gloves; this one is going to be cold. The third iteration of a now-annual “rivalry” game, Missouri-Arkansas will bring some life to a town that will probably be suffering through another rough season. Oh, and we hope you enjoyed a nice Thanksgiving feast of St. Louis ribs on your way up.
Nov. 26 — Tuscaloosa, Alabama for Alabama/Auburn
Travel: 603 miles in one day. En route: St. Louis (Mo.), Cape Girardeau (Mo.), Tupelo (Miss.) … Total trip mileage: 7,566 • This is the toughest part of the trip. Get packed up after enjoying the Friday afternoon game and start the nine-hour drive to Tuscaloosa for the Iron Bowl. You can stay in Tupelo overnight or simply roll into T-Town in the wee hours. The adrenaline at Bryant-Denny on Saturday afternoon will keep you awake.
Dec. 3 — Atlanta, Georgia for 2016 SEC Championship Game
Travel: 202 miles in seven days. En route: Birmingham (Ala.) … Total trip mileage: 7,768 • This is what you’ve been working toward all season. When the final whistle blows at the Georgia Dome, you’re free to head home and sleep for a couple weeks before the ultimate bowl road trip begins.