Picking a theme song for the Augustana football team this season is a no-brainer.
It doesn't really matter how many guys on the team are Willie Nelson fans. His "On The Road Again" smash will be on replay for the Vikings the next 10 weeks.
That theme begins today thanks to a late opening on the schedule leading to a long road trip.
Coach Steve Bell's Vikings had very few options — and even fewer good options — in finding a game to kick off the season and that led them all the way to Cortland, New York.
An expected opener with an Iowa Conference team evaporated when that league added Nebraska Wesleyan and adopted an eight-game league schedule. IIAC teams then had to drop one non-conference game that was already on the books.
Bell hopes the Vikings, who open with three road games, make the best of a tough travel season that includes six road games against just four at home at Lindberg Stadium.
Augie players, including former Davenport Assumption standout sophomore Daniel Tjaden, have the simple mindset, saying "we'll play anyone, anywhere."
Well, almost anyone.
Bell noted that two other possibilities to fill the Week 1 opening were Wisconsin state school powers Whitewater and Oshkosh. He opted to pass on those two games.
“We didn't want to do that yet,'' Bell said of biting off more than the rebuilding Vikings could chew.
Instead, he opted for the long road trip that sets the tone for the early-season schedule that follows with games at Central (Iowa) and the CCIW opener at Carroll.
"It should be a good experience for our kids to learn how to travel; we're going to be on the road for three weeks in a row and you have to learn how to travel,'' Bell said. "There's a common denominator there and you all have to be on the same page when you do something like that."
Not ideal, but Bell wouldn't mind seeing the season include a game against an unfamiliar foe late in the season.
"It's a great experience," Bell said. "It's different and that's what I really like about it. You get out of the Midwest and see a team you would probably never see unless you play them in the playoffs."
While the Vikings have been a long way from that destination recently, there is plenty of optimism in the Augie camp.
It seems as if the Vikings have solidified one of last year's biggest weaknesses with a rebuilt offensive line of Andrew Anderson, Nathan Magiera, Tommy Simon, James Cousin and Chaz Williams.
Magiera and Williams are converted defensive linemen, putting their size and strength to good use on offense with a stout line set to anchor the defense. Cousin and Anderson return to the o-line after being thrown into action as undersized freshmen last fall.
The Vikings loaded the buses early Thursday morning and trekked to Cleveland, Ohio, where they practiced at John Carroll University. The remainder of the trip was made on Friday. An overnight return after the game was expected.
“It'll help us mentally,'' said Bell of the trip. "Being able to lock in, understanding it is a challenge to go three on the road right off the bat. We think that will help us lock in.''