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FOOTBALL | WEEKEND ROAD TRIPS

Three and Out on the Road

Spectacular weekends of football can be enjoyed at a national or local level. Call your travel agent now.

September 01, 2006|David Wharton | Times Staff Writer

Call it a pilgrimage or a sojourn. A sacred journey. The mother of all road trips.

Every fan should make the effort at least once in a lifetime, paying homage to the gods of autumn, celebrating all things gridiron.

One weekend. Three games. Wall-to-wall football.

This fall offers the perfect opportunity in mid-September, the best weekend of the 2006 college season.

Start on Friday, Sept. 15, with a morning flight from Los Angeles to Cincinnati, arriving in time for the Kirk Herbstreit Ohio vs. USA Challenge, a game that pits nearby Findlay High against visiting Texas High from Texarkana.

Texas ranks in the top 25 nationally and features quarterback Ryan Mallett, who has committed to Michigan.

The next morning, a four-hour drive puts you at a suitably consecrated site -- Notre Dame. Visit the grotto for pregame reflection, stroll past Touchdown Jesus and into historic Notre Dame Stadium, where the Fighting Irish face the Michigan Wolverines.

Can you feel the synchronicity, the sense of destiny?

Sunday, it's back to Cincinnati and Paul Brown Stadium, where former USC quarterback Carson Palmer leads the Bengals against the Cleveland Browns in one of the NFL's best intrastate rivalries.

The Muslim religion asks that able-bodied adherents make at least one pilgrimage, or Hajj, to Mecca if they can afford it. The football faithful of Southern California can find a cheaper trip closer to home.

On the evening of Friday, Oct. 6, Newhall Hart High plays Los Angeles Loyola High at East L.A. College. Traditionally a grind-it-out team, Loyola last season adopted a wide-open passing offense. Given Hart's long-standing proclivity for airing it out, expect fireworks.

The next day at the Rose Bowl, UCLA faces Arizona with a shot at avenging last season's 52-14 loss. Redemption won't come easily because Arizona has a tough defense and a sophomore quarterback, Willie Tuitama, who ranks among the Pacific 10 Conference's new stars.

The weekend finishes up with a Sunday night game at Qualcomm Stadium, where the San Diego Chargers take on the Pittsburgh Steelers and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger who, by the way, attended Findlay High.

A final note: Some Hindus stick to a vegetarian diet during their pilgrimages. The football version is more likely to involve numerous beef and pork by-products.

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National Trip

* Sept. 15 -- Kirk Herbstreit Ohio vs. USA Challenge, Texas High vs. Findlay (Ohio) High, 6:30 p.m., Nippert Stadium, Cincinnati, Ohio.

Tickets: $13 in advance, $17 at gate.

* Sept. 16 -- Michigan at Notre Dame, 3:30 p.m.

Tickets: bidding as high as $500 each on EBay.

* Sept. 17 -- Cleveland Browns vs. Cincinnati Bengals, 1 p.m., Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati.

Tickets: $55-$73; pairs bidding around $200 on EBay.

* Travel costs -- LAX to Cincinnati (round-trip), starting as low as $316. Hotels in Cincinnati, starting at $50 a night. Rental car (economy), $20 a day.

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Local Trip

* Oct. 6 -- Newhall Hart High vs. Los Angeles Loyola High, 7:30 p.m., East Los Angeles College.

Tickets: TBA.

* Oct. 7 -- Arizona vs. UCLA, Time TBA, Rose Bowl.

Tickets: $15 and $33.

* Oct. 8 -- Pittsburgh Steelers vs. San Diego Chargers, 5:15 p.m., Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego.

Tickets: $54 to $92, not yet available.

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