Rodger Sherman became famous for his takes on college football without ever leaving his couch. Over the past decade, he watched and wrote about hundreds of games, but only rarely had a chance to actually cheer along with fans or eat at concession stands.

Earlier this year, Sherman decided that he desperately needed to visit the stadiums he’d spent hours watching on TV, even if it meant forgoing a paycheck and being away from his wife and dogs for long stretches. He quit his job at The Ringer and started planning an exciting, exhausting, almost unbelievable college football road trip.

When I got ahold of Sherman on Wednesday, he’d just returned to the road from a short stop for gas. I could hear his GPS chirping as he described his upcoming plans.

Sherman, 33, was on his way to Middle Tennessee State University for a rare Wednesday night game. He was going to watch the school take on Jacksonville State before making his way to four more college football games over the next three days.

By the end of this weekend, Sherman will have been to 20 games in six weeks. He’s tired and even a bit traumatized from all the driving, but he’s still in love with the trip.

“It’s terrifying and exhausting, but it’s also incredible. I’ve always wanted to do something like this,” said Sherman, who attended journalism school at Northwestern University but never had a traditional sports reporting job at a paper.

On our call, I asked Sherman about how he plans each weekend’s journey and what he listens to on the road. I asked him about his experience at Utah at the end of August and at BYU last week. And I asked him to tell me, a sports and religion writer who works from home, why it’s worth it to leave the couch.

Here’s what he said.

Kelsey Dallas: Why did you want to do this?

Rodger Sherman: I’ve been writing about football for about a decade, but it was more like blogging. It didn’t involve a lot of travel.

And the thing about college football is that the environments are very special. The atmospheres are incredible. You can see the mountains by the Utah and BYU stadiums on TV, but you can’t fully appreciate them unless you’re there.

So I decided after seeing all these places on TV that I needed to go and actually see what they were like. I wanted to feel what it was like to be in the crowd, not up in the press box or on my couch.

KD: Is it living up to your expectations?

RS: Absolutely. I’ve gone to 15 games so far, and I still get a rush when I get into a stadium and see 60,000+ people wearing the same color of clothing. It’s a wall of color and noise.

Every place is unique. Every place has its own feel to it. It doesn’t get tiring, because every place has something you’ve never seen before.

KD: How do you pick which games to go to?

RS: A few factors go into it. The most important thing is what games are happening on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. There aren’t a lot of games on those nights, so you choose one and map around it.

Another factor is whether I know somebody with an extra ticket for a game or somebody who lives near a game who will let me sleep on their couch. Convenience and money are pretty heavy factors.

And then there are also just a few games that I’m going to go to no matter how much it costs because I’ve always wanted to see them.

This year, that includes some rivalry games that won’t exist any more after this season because of conference realignment, like Oklahoma-Oklahoma State, Oregon-Oregon State and Washington-Washington State. Seeing those games this year will be a once-in-a-lifetime moment.

KD: Do you try to sit in a certain spot in each stadium?

RS: I’m just looking for the cheapest ticket. I don’t need the seats to be good, since being in the stadium and feeling the atmosphere is as important as being close to the game.

Really high seats are awesome at Utah because you can see the mountains over the rim of the stadium. I was totally fine not being down by the field.

Rice-Eccles Stadium is shown during the second half of an NCAA college football game between Weber State and Utah on Sept. 16, 2023, in Salt Lake City. | Rick Bowmer, Associated Press

KD: Tell me more about your experience at the Utah-Florida game. What stood out to you?

RS: Like I said, I had the perfect view from up top. That backdrop is something you don’t get on TV or at most other stadiums.

Utah’s stadium definitely feels underrated.

If you look at the way they win games there, their style of play, the altitude, the crowd noise — those things come together and make it one of the most annoying places for a visiting team. You can feel it when you’re there. It really deserves a little bit more credit.

KD: How does Utah compare to BYU? You saw BYU last week.

RS: The pregame atmospheres were very different. I was handed several beers in the parking lot at Utah. I was handed zero beers in the parking lot at BYU.

I was impressed with both stadiums. They’re both intimidating places to play. Both have the altitude factor and extremely loud fans.

KD: But what if someone had to choose between going to a Utah game or a BYU game? Which one would you recommend?

RS: I guess I’m trying to be political. Here’s the distinction I’ll make: Utah was a better football experience, but BYU was a better experience experience.

I was really impressed with the show BYU put on, like with Cosmo jumping over fire and the fire dancers. The student section is ridiculous.

Cosmo plays a drum.
Cosmo plays a drum during a break in a football game between the Brigham Young Cougars and the Cincinnati Bearcats at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Friday, Sept. 29, 2023. BYU won 35-27. | Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

But at Utah, I was more locked into the game.

Utah reminds me of some of the other stadiums I’ve seen; BYU is its own world. I am really glad I got to experience it.

Part of the goal of this trip is to go to places that are one-of-a-kind and show me something I’m not going to get anyplace else in the sport. I think BYU fits that description a little bit more than Utah.

How football fans reacted to ESPN’s ‘Cougar Tail’ segment

KD: I admit I was pressuring you to say something controversial.

RS: BYU and Utah both have great fan bases, and the fan bases don’t like each other. But what’s really interesting about the rivalry is the religious overtones.

It was interesting talking to (Latter-day Saint) people who are Utah fans about how and why they came to care about Utah as opposed to BYU. And then I asked non-(Latter-day Saint) people about what their experience is like with BYU.

I can’t experience those kinds of conversations anywhere else.

I’m really glad Utah and BYU will continue to play each other in the future. It’s much better to actually play each other in a game than to let a random sports writer decide which one is better.

KD: How do you travel from game to game? Are you always driving?

RS: I’m based in New York, which I’ve found is not a convenient starting point. I flew to my first game of the season (in Week 0) at Vanderbilt in Nashville, and I also flew to BYU because the ticket was free since I was appearing on their pregame show.

When I went to see Utah in Week 1, I drove and it was too much. It took three days to get there from New York, and it was not exactly the most enjoyable drive. There was so much corn and so many mountains.

It scarred me a little. It was a warning. It was like, “Caution. Don’t try this again.”

Now I won’t drive more than eight hours on most days.

KD: Will you be going to bowl games, too?

RS: Yes, I’m planning to go to at least 10 bowls.

KD: Agh.

RS: It’s always fun when people respond to my plans with horror.

KD: Sorry. It’s just that I can’t imagine being away from home so often. I’m definitely a homebody.

RS: I’m also a homebody. I like staying at home. But if you’re going to force yourself out of the house, you should just max it out.

KD: Let’s wrap up with some rapid-fire questions. What’s the best concession stand snack you’ve had so far?

RS: Most of the time, I eat outside the stadium. But I’d say the pepperoni roll at West Virginia. It’s a hot piece of bread filled with cheese and pepperoni.

The concession stand items at BYU ... there was just so much sugar, man. I do not understand. Do people eat “Cougar Tails” by themselves over the course of football games?

When I have too much sugar, I feel physically uncomfortable, and that’s how I felt after eating half of a Cougar Tail.

KD: What’s the worst state to drive through?

RS: The drive to and from Utah involved a long stretch of Nebraska. It was really, really exhausting.

KD: What’s the best song to listen to during a road trip?

RS: This rental car has satellite radio on it and, for whatever reason, this one station keeps playing “You Get What You Give” from the New Radicals. It’s firing me up.

I was also given a recommendation by Ben Chase, who did a college football road trip last season and inspired me to listen to boy bands and ’90s pop music when you’re driving late at night and feeling tired. That has proven to be an extremely useful tip.

KD: What’s your biggest regret so far?

RS: I’ve got two of them. Two big ones.

I drove through Nebraska to make it to the Utah game, and I was in Lincoln, Nebraska, the day before they played that record-setting volleyball game in Memorial Stadium. I should have figured out a way to stay for that game and still make it to Utah.

Then, last Saturday, I went to Colorado-USC and I should have gone to the Air Force game that night. I did Colorado and failed to double up.

KD: What’s been your favorite moment so far?

RS: It was singing “Country Roads” with West Virginia fans after West Virginia beat Pitt for the first time in over a decade.

KD: Do you know what’s next for you after college football season ends?

RS: I don’t know what I’m doing after this. I’d like to cover the Olympics next year, but it’s just a vague plan.