Flipping Out: Trading conferences

You can refer to us college football reporters as Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd this week, because we're trading places.

Most of us cover one conference and one part of the country year-round. But this week, we're stepping outside of our comfort zones to experience the sport in a different area. The goal is to find out what's different and what's the same throughout college football, while finding and highlighting those unique traits from each place that help make the sport so special. We'll immerse ourselves in a new environment and tell you what we discovered.

I'm Brian Bennett, and I cover the Big Ten. Later today, I'm heading south to Clemson, S.C., to see the Tigers play Georgia Tech on Thursday night. But first, I need some tips on what to do and see there. So I'm turning to an expert: ACC reporter Andrea Adelson.

Brian Bennett: Hey, Andrea. I'm no stranger to the South. I've been all over the SEC. But my travels have never taken me to Death Valley, and I'm excited to make my first trip there.

What I know about Clemson is basically what I've seen on TV. I know the stadium has a reputation for being extremely loud. I know the team boards buses and runs down the hill before the game, a moment I can't wait to see in person. I know about Howard's Rock, which is cool but ... I mean, it is just a rock, right?

My hunch is that Clemson fans are incredibly loyal but perhaps a little scarred from some of the team's notorious losses over the years. And I'm expecting some good Southern hospitality, and probably some very tasty barbecue. Other than that, I'm a blank slate. What do I need to know, see and do when it comes to Clemson?

Andrea Adelson: First off, I would not tell the Clemson fans you see that Howard's Rock is just a rock. That's like saying "Play Like a Champion Today" is just a sign. You may get that plate of BBQ you were so kindly offered at a tailgate swiped right from your hands. Clemson fans are a really loyal bunch, and they get pretty defensive when you knock their traditions or bring up the dreaded term "Clemsoning." So avoid both at all costs.

Just soak up the atmosphere, which no doubt will be buzzing at night at Death Valley. On your way to campus, you may want to stop at The Smokin Pig just outside town or even the Pot Belly Deli, known for some terrific sandwiches at the bottom of College Avenue. The drive up College Avenue will take you through the main strip, filled with your typical college watering holes and gear shops. But the ultimate watering hole is closer to Memorial Stadium -- the Esso Club, a Clemson tradition for 80 years, with the distinction of being the oldest place to drink beer in town. ESPN The Magazine selected The Esso as its top pick for college sports bars.

The tailgate lots around the stadium are quite expansive, but I have no doubt you will find friendly faces along the way. Stand at the bottom of the hill when the team runs down just before kickoff, balloons flying in the air and the band playing and you are sure to get a big rush. You will see why this is one of the best atmospheres in all college football.


You've heard our thoughts. Now it's your turn to tell us what traditions and experiences -- whether that's the best restaurant for a pregame meal, the best tailgate spot, etc. -- are a must for any first-time visitor to Clemson. Send us your recommendations to Brian's mailbag. And do it quickly, because game day is rapidly approaching.