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College football: Five Midwest weekend getaways to catch the big game

September 6, 2023

When it comes to college football, pigskin loyalties usually mean cheering for the alma mater or rooting for the home team. 

Southwest Florida is home to plenty of Midwest transplants – fans and alumni who spent their formative years in Ann Arbor, Bloomington, Columbus, Madison, State College and other college football hot spots and still pull for the squad “back home.” 

The Big Ten Conference is the heart and soul of college football in the Midwest – at least for one more year, when the 14-member league will broaden its geographic footprint and add two California schools and one each in Oregon and Washington. And don’t forget the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame, a proud football independent.  

The days of piling into the car for a 12-hour (or more) weekend road trip with your college buddies are long over. Looking for a Midwest college football weekend getaway to catch the big game this fall? Travel in convenience, style, comfort, luxury and safety on an Elite Jets charter aircraft. 

READ MORE: Private travel: Getting there is half the fun | Elite Jets 

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At Elite Jets, we offer several options for your next college football Midwest weekend getaway: 

Both luxury jets feature high-speed Wi-Fi, personalized temperature controls, reclining leather seats with massage functions and a first-class digital entertainment system. Elite Jets passengers can also pre-select snacks and drinks, enjoy a fully stocked bar and best of all, leave the flying to us. 

Below are five highly anticipated college football weekend getaways in the Midwest this fall: four on Big Ten campuses and a fifth at the home of the Fighting Irish. 

Rutgers at Wisconsin, Oct. 7 

We start our fall campus tour in Madison, a place that lays claim to the best college football town in America. The first weekend of October finds the Badgers hosting the Scarlet Knights of Rutgers, a New Jersey university that joined the Big Ten a decade ago. 

Beyond Camp Randall Stadium, or along Regent Street after the game, a trip to “Mad-town” also offers a great opportunity to tour Wisconsin’s flagship public university, sample the city’s thriving craft beer scene, visit the state Capitol and of course, dine on cheese curds smothered in gravy. 

Location: Madison, Wisconsin 

Nearest airport: Dane County Regional Airport (MSN) 

USC at Notre Dame, Oct. 14 

With a national fanbase, devoted alumni and a strong brand identity, the University of Notre Dame is college football royalty. So, too, is the University of Southern California, another private school with a broad national profile – and starting in 2024, a new member of the bursting-at-the-seams Big Ten. 

A trip to South Bend, Indiana, which is 95 miles east of Chicago, can be a pilgrimage both athletic and religious. On campus, be sure to check out Touchdown Jesus, as well as the Basilica of the Sacred Heart.  

Stroll the St. Joseph Riverwalk in neighboring Mishawaka, jog along St. Joseph’s and St. Mary’s lakes, or return to campus for Sunday Mass at Sacred Heart Parish. 

Location: South Bend, Indiana 

Nearest airport: South Bend International Airport (SBN) 

Penn State at Ohio State, Oct. 21 

The home team Buckeyes know a thing or two about national titles, having earned six total from 1942 through 2014. The visiting Nittany Lions from State College, Pennsylvania, are no slouches of their own, winning two national championships in the ‘80s. 

Another Midwest college town that also doubles as state capital, Columbus takes its college sports seriously. With a seating capacity of nearly 103,000, Ohio Stadium is the fourth largest on-campus facility in the country. 

Beyond the stadium known affectionately as “The Shoe,” soak in the game day experience in Columbus with a visit to the Short North, a retail and dining district near campus. Golfers can visit the Jack Nicklaus Museum, home to more than 2,000 items of memorabilia, including the legendary pro’s first tournament paycheck (a grand total of $33.33 won in 1962). 

Location: Columbus, Ohio 

Nearest airport: John Glenn International Airport (CMH) 

Home for the Holidays, Michigan style 

Headed back home to Michigan for Thanksgiving? Like stuffing and gravy, Turkey Day and football go hand-in-hand. This year, in-state rivals Michigan and Michigan State both host opponents during the long holiday weekend – and on different days to boot. 

With the two campuses just a tad over 60 miles apart, make it a long weekend and hit both games – and still be back in South Florida before the weekend ends. 

Penn State at Michigan State, Nov. 24 

A day after Thanksgiving, the Nittany Lions hit the road for East Lansing, home of the Michigan State Spartans. 

Lansing also is home to its state Capitol, offering visitors the opportunity for an up-close civics lesson. Check out the Potter Park Zoo, Impression 5 Science Center and other Lansing attractions, or stick close to campus with a visit to the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum, which specializes in contemporary works. 

Before the game, fans line the tunnel outside Spartan Stadium to welcome their team, a common college tradition in the Big Ten and beyond, joined by the Spartan Marching Band and team cheerleaders. 

Location: East Lansing, Michigan 

Nearest airport: Capital Region International Airport (LAN) 

Ohio State at Michigan, Nov. 25 

It’s a college football rivalry so fierce that its annual match is known simply as “The Game.”  

When Ohio State visits Ann Arbor on Thanksgiving weekend, count on a grudge match rooted in politics, geography and culture as well as sports. 

In this case, it’s a nearly 200-year-old dispute fueled by both states’ claim of the Toledo strip on their shared border. When Michigan tried to join the Union in 1835, and include the strip in its borders, Ohio blocked its admittance. Two centuries later, the grudge persists. 

Outside Michigan Stadium (aka the Big House, official capacity 107,601), Ann Arbor offers the best of big-city amenities with a decidedly small-town flavor. While late November temperatures could be on the nippy side, pack your sweater, hoodie and long pants for hiking, golf, mountain biking and other outdoor adventures. 

Location: Ann Arbor, Michigan 

Nearest airport: Ann Arbor Municipal Airport (ARB); Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW), 40 miles away.  

READ MORE: College football: Five Southern weekend getaways 

Need assistance planning a college football weekend getaway? Please give our team a call at 239-900-9000 or email us at Charter@EliteJets.com.  

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