College Football 2012: Power Ranking the Week 9 Tailgating Sites
With conference standings starting to take shape for the race to the BCS, it's time for another edition of our tailgating site power rankings.
We've already seen a lot of great football this season, so it's no small wonder we've also seen a banner year for college football tailgating around the nation.
But just in case you haven't partaken of this great American tradition just yet this season, don't worry: There's plenty of top-notch opportunities left to participate—many of them this week!
Here's our power ranking of the Week 9 college football tailgating sites!
Cincinnati at Louisville
This game barely made the list, as it seemed somehow more important a week ago—before then-unbeaten Cincinnati dropped a Week 8 game against Toledo.
Still, both Cincy and Louisville are undefeated in conference play, and this game will have a major impact on the Big East title race—and resulting BCS berth.
Plus, we expect the Louisville fans to turn out in force as their Cardinals continue to impress on the field this season (Louisville is the No. 15 in the latest Bleacher Report College Football Top 25 Poll).
Tennessee at South Carolina
There won't be any SEC East title for either of these two teams as preseason expectations have been completely dashed.
Still, there are some major bowl invitations on the table for South Carolina, and Tennessee is fighting for its bowl life with a 3-4 record.
Tennessee fans travel particularly well, and South Carolina is no stranger to hosting some top-notch tailgating. Just because this game doesn't have major national implications doesn't mean a fan of either team should skimp on the pregame preparations.
Michigan State at Wisconsin
It's clear to even a casual observer by now that neither Michigan State nor Wisconsin is having the season's either anticipated.
Both teams have struggled mightily on offense so far, and Michigan State is all but eliminated from the race for a repeat Legends Division title.
Wisconsin, on the other hand, is benefiting from a Leaders Division that has the top two divisional teams—Ohio State and Penn State—both ineligible for the postseason, including the Big Ten Championship Game.
So while the Badgers look to be on track to win the division by default (and the three other division teams are all 0-3 in conference play), there's still something about this Wisconsin team that just doesn't get too many people fired up.
All that being said, there have been few games in the Big Ten over the past few seasons better than those between MSU and Wisconsin.
Sparty has had the Badgers' number in the regular season for a couple of years, but it was Wisconsin how knocked off MSU in last season's Big Ten title bout. And don't think the Spartans have forgotten.
Add in the typically raucous Madison atmosphere and some truly great late-October foods from the folks up north, and you have the perfect recipe for a stellar tailgater.
Michigan at Nebraska
We'll stay in the Big Ten for the next tailgate site on our Week 9 power rankings list.
And this time, we'll have a pair of Legends Division teams still with a chance of winning the division—and maybe the conference, too.
Michigan, despite some early-season setbacks against Alabama and Notre Dame, has recovered nicely in Big Ten conference play.
After finally knocking off Michigan State for the first time since 2007, the Wolverines are 3-0 in conference play and hold the outright lead in the division.
It has been a long time since Michigan has won a Big Ten title, but 2012 might just be its year—what with all the ineligible and downtrodden teams this season.
One obstacle is Nebraska.
The Cornhuskers had a rough go of it last year in their inaugural Big Ten season, suffering through several embarrassing losses—including one to Michigan.
Now, the Huskers have an opportunity to return the favor as the Wolverines make their first trip to Lincoln since 1911 (a 6-6 tie).
The folks in Lincoln also know how to throw one heckuva tailgater, too.
In fact, it's even caught the attention of the Wild American Flavor Tour. Who in their right mind would miss a chance to tailgate with Larry the Cable Guy?
Mississippi State at Alabama
We obviously can't have a tailgating power rankings list without the stop in the SEC.
This week, we'll all be treated to another great conference showdown, and hopefully, the score will be a little closer than what we've seen thus far in other meetings of conference undefeateds.
Does anyone remember the last time Mississippi State was 7-0?
To help you out, it was 1999, when the Bulldogs started 8-0 and finished 10-2. And the first lost that season for the Bulldogs came against—you guessed it—Alabama.
Maybe the historical perspective will influence the game, and maybe not. But we do know that a couple of undefeated, ranked SEC teams tangling in late October is sure to draw a crowd.
And with an 8:30 p.m. Eastern kickoff, there will be plenty of time to get in all the tailgating in Tuscaloosa you can handle.
Notre Dame at Oklahoma
There are probably fewer games with directly BCS implications this weekend than the epic showdown brewing in Norman, Oklahoma between the Sooners and the Fighting Irish.
This will be the first trip to Norman for the Irish since 1966, and Notre Dame holds a commanding 8-1 all-time lead in the series (with Oklahoma's only win coming in 1956).
Notre Dame and Oklahoma are not only two of the more history-laden programs in the nation, they also sport two of the largest followings of die-hard fans anywhere—and that includes the SEC.
Either of these programs and their fanbases by themselves might be worth of a mention on a tailgating power rankings list most weeks. Put them together, and a contender for the top spot is a no-brainer.
With the Sooners fighting for their BCS lives, and the Irish looking to silence critics once and for all, this is going to be the biggest game of the week—and it should have an equally epic tailgater.
Florida vs. Georgia
There's really only one thing that could keep an historic showdown between Notre Dame and Oklahoma out of the top spot on our Week 9 tailgating power rankings: “The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.”
Wait. Are we still allowed to call it that?
Apparently, the PC police got their grubby little fingers on this grand Southern tradition and decided that the name might be misconstrued as promoting alcohol consumption. And we shudder to think what would happen if college football fans actually started to drink alcohol at tailgaters! The horror!
The game, officially anyway, currently lacks any official title—but that hasn't stopped the legions of fans from storming Jacksonville each and every year to continue the grand tradition of the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.
And with this game deciding first-place in the SEC East and providing an inside track to Atlanta, you can bet the 2012 Cocktail Party will be the best we've seen in a years—more than enough reason to place Georgia vs. Florida at the top of our Week 9 tailgating power rankings.