Ranking Top 25 College Football Tailgating Schools for 2015
Tailgating—almost every other sport in the world does it, but college football does it best.
The locales and the traditions that make the college game great enhance fans' pregame experience. For some of them, it's their entire game day, as staying at the tailgate to watch the game can be more appealing than paying for a ticket inside the stadium.
You probably can't find a bad tailgating experience in college football. Whenever friends and family and even rivals get together before the game, it's a pregame time of food and fun that's hard to mess up.
However, some schools do it better than others, and a select few are as famous for what they do outside the stadium as what they do inside it.
With that in mind, here is a list of the top 25 tailgating schools in all of college football. This writer hasn't been to every single stadium in the nation, so keep in mind that these rankings are based on national reputations and unique traditions.
This top-25 tailgating list is going to be dominated by powerhouse programs in the Power Five conferences, but it starts with an independent school that once ran the college football world—the United States Military Academy, located on the picturesque banks of the Hudson River in New York.
The unique atmosphere surrounding service academy football and a fantastic setting make for some special tailgates for fans of the Black Knights. Game days at West Point are far from the rowdy ones you see across the country.
They're different in a great way.
Arkansas doesn't have as big of a tailgating reputation as some of its SEC brethren, but it's still a great spot for fall Saturdays in the South.
And while Razorback fans are known to be a friendly bunch, visiting fans should prepare themselves for the constant Calling of the Hogs—"Woo...Pig! Sooie!"—no matter where they're at on campus.
The hub for tailgating for Arkansas' on-campus home games is The Gardens, a manicured open area for fans to congregate before the action takes place at D.W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. It's the perfect spot to get game day started in Fayetteville.
Norman, Oklahoma, is a good-sized city that gets even bigger on fall Saturdays when the Sooners stay in town. Tents and RVs cover the campus as fans count down to kickoff at Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium
The Sooners receive good support away from home, and their fans hold their own when it comes to bringing their tailgates on the road.
They most notably combine with Texas fans to create the incredible pregame atmosphere outside the Cotton Bowl for the annual rivalry clash.
Oregon's reputation as a big-time program in college football has exploded over the last two decades, and that growth has translated to the tailgates in Eugene.
The Ducks are known for their innovative offense and uniforms on the field, but that creativity also goes off the field.
The Moshofsky Center, Oregon's state-of-the-art practice facility, holds a massive pregame and postgame tailgate on game days. According to the school, the Moshofsky Center can hold up to 5,000 fans on Saturdays for one of the biggest indoor tailgates in sports.
21. Notre Dame
Don't expect a rowdy tailgate atmosphere in South Bend on Saturdays. That's just not how the Fighting Irish and their fans roll. However, that doesn't take away from the entire game-day experience for Notre Dame, which is widely considered one of the best in the game.
Pregame festivities include the player walk from the practice facility and tours of the team's famous tunnel at Notre Dame Stadium.
Tailgating is far from the most famous part of Notre Dame Saturdays, but the tradition and history surrounding the program heightens the fun before kickoff.
Since they're in Los Angeles, one should reasonably expect a party atmosphere for USC tailgates outside of the Coliseum.
After all, it's football in the land of Hollywood.
Game days for Southern Cal mean two things: great weather for tailgating and the possibility you might see some stars. The Trojans have a large celebrity fanbase, so you might spot someone such as Will Ferrell, Snoop Dogg or any one of the dozens of players USC has put into America's pro sports leagues.
19. West Virginia
All right, let's go ahead and get this out of the way. West Virginia's most famous fan tradition is the constant burning of couches, whether the Mountaineers win or lose at Milan Puskar Stadium.
(The burnings are so widespread in Morgantown that the city recently banned all outdoor furniture.)
As bizarre and dangerous as that tradition might be, that should show newcomers to Mountaineer football how passionate these fans are about their team. Tailgating, like almost everything else else on game days at West Virginia, can be a wild ride.
18. Ohio State
Tailgating takes more of an urban (and I'm not talking about Meyer) flair for fans of the defending national champions. Ohio State sits near the middle of Columbus, a state capital that boasts almost 2 million people in its metro area.
Ohio State's location in Columbus makes tailgating spots prime real estate. According to Luke Zimmermann of SB Nation's Ohio State blog Land-Grant Holy Land, "if you don't have friends running one, access can be tougher due to a rather established tailgating pecking order."
So, if you're wanting to do Saturday right in Columbus, have some Buckeye friends or walk around and make some Buckeye friends in this unique tailgating space.
Although Florida doesn't have a defining characteristic to its tailgating experience like most Southern schools on this list, Gator fans' more laid-back tailgates are all over campus.
And, when the weather cools off from unbearably hot and humid, you can do a lot worse than North Florida in the fall.
The Gators' biggest and most famous tailgates happen away from Gainesville and in Jacksonville. While the college football world is technically not supposed to call the annual Florida-Georgia game "The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party" anymore, there's a reason it still sports that nickname.
Judging from other top tailgating lists out there, Iowa might be the country's most underrated school in this category.
It might not be the nation's top party school anymore, but the Hawkeyes still go hard on game days.
The pregame atmosphere could be described as "big-time tailgate meets state fair" with all the tents and vendors that dot Iowa City. With some campus parking lots opening Friday nights before home games, tailgating can be an all-weekend affair for these fans.
Everything's bigger in Texas, and that includes the tailgating. Texas' sprawling campus in Austin makes for acres and acres of nonstop tailgating for diehard Longhorns fans.
Austin is one of the country's best cities for food and culture, and visitors can get the best of both when they hit the city for Texas home games. (And let's not forget what goes down at the Cotton Bowl for the rivalry game with Oklahoma.)
Although the Longhorns have seen better days on the football field, expect big things in the tailgating department from one of the game's biggest names.
If Michigan fans consistently fill college football's largest stadium, think about how many people hang out around the Big House before the Wolverines take the field.
There isn't anything particularly unique about Michigan's pregame experience when it's compared to most of the other schools on the list, but the sheer number of fans who are in Ann Arbor on game days make tailgating a big-time deal.
And with all the excitement surrounding the new Jim Harbaugh era in Michigan, one can expect the foot traffic around the stadium to keep getting bigger.
Fans can tailgate on any college campus. But you can't "sailgate" unless you're at a select few places, and Washington is one of them.
Husky Stadium in Seattle sits right on the edge of Lake Washington, and fans can dock their boats right next to where their Huskies play on Saturdays for one of the most iconic tailgating experiences in all of college football.
And tailgating on the water can lead to eating from the water—seafood is a part of the popular game-day eats for Washington fans.
A massive fanbase like the one Alabama boasts leads to a massive bunch of tailgaters outside Bryant-Denny Stadium. Even in the Tide's years of struggle before Nick Saban's championship-winning streak, RVs and tents covered Alabama's campus on game days.
The Quad serves as the mecca of tailgating for fans, and the parties extend outside the campus and into downtown Tuscaloosa's bars and parking lots.
With a tradition of titles and gigantic game-day attendances, you can bet any available inch of campus is claimed on Saturdays at Alabama.
From the time parking lots first open up on game-day weekends to when Dabo Swinney leads his Tigers past Howard's Rock and down the hill, tailgating is a huge part of Clemson football.
A picture-perfect college town in South Carolina, Clemson's campus is covered in a sea of orange on game days. Impressive tailgates surround Memorial Stadium, and they're filled with people before, after and even during Tiger games in the fall.
Clemson might not be an SEC school, but it has a tailgating experience that rivals the rest of the best in the South.
10. South Carolina
Schools on this list have dedicated legions of fans who tailgate out of their cars, trucks, SUVs, RVs and even their boats. But South Carolina throws a new vehicle into the mix—a train.
Some football-crazy South Carolina fans can get ready to cheer on Steve Spurrier and the Gamecocks in one of 22 "Cockabooses," which are decommissioned luxury train cars that sit on an inactive stretch of railroad next to Williams-Brice Stadium.
If you're in Columbia for a South Carolina game or even watching one on TV, there's no way you can miss a Cockaboose sighting.
Auburn is known as "The Loveliest Village on the Plains," and it's also known to be one of the friendliest villages for opposing fans in all of college football.
After 4 p.m. on Fridays before home games, all of Auburn's campus is opened up for tailgating. But fans start saving their spots as early as Thursday morning. If it's a big game like the 2013 Iron Bowl, some fans parked their RVs an entire week beforehand.
Tailgating begins early and goes late in Auburn, through all the Tigers' famous pregame and postgame traditions such as the Tiger Walk and the rolling of Toomer's Corner. It's more than just a one-day thing on the Plains.
Athens is widely considered to be one of the best college towns in America, and its greatness is on full display on the weekends when the Bulldogs tee it up between the hedges in Sanford Stadium.
Georgia's campus is right next to downtown Athens, which is known for its bar and music scene. Because every available spot on campus is quickly claimed territory, tailgating spills into the downtown area and creates a fantastic atmosphere before and after the Dawgs play.
And, once a year, Georgia fans take their tailgating talents down to Florida for one of the sport's biggest parties, the previously mentioned rivalry game name that we probably aren't allowed to say twice in one story.
Plenty of campuses are located next to the downtown areas of their respective college towns, so tailgating can easily become an off-campus affair. But few downtowns open their arms for tailgating as much as the one in Lincoln, Nebraska.
While there are great tailgating lots around Memorial Stadium, the city of Lincoln also has its fair share. Therefore, for Huskers fans, the party doesn't necessarily have to go on campus before the game. It's all over town.
This makes the Sea of Red cover an even larger area of town, and it's one of the most impressive sights in the sport. In fact, last year, the American Tailgater Association named Nebraska the best tailgating experience in all of college football.
6. Texas A&M
From the famous Midnight Yell practice to the pregame cadet march, Saturdays at Texas A&M have a set schedule—and tailgating runs from beginning to end.
Another school with a huge stadium with passionate fans, Texas A&M fit right into the SEC both on and off the field of play. Tailgating is centered on the Northgate and Spence Park areas of College Station, and the great food and drinks you expect from a state like Texas are everywhere.
Fans start staking out their spots as early as Wednesday. On game weekends, the tailgate party for Aggie fans can go on for days and days.
5. Penn State
Some of the most mind-blowing images from the tailgating scene in college football come from Penn State, where seemingly endless seas of cars, RVs and tents wash over the State College campus.
The rabid support for Nittany Lion football is evident in the size and scope of tailgating on campus. While tailgates on campus are usually filled with alumni and older fans, students have their own style of tailgating at "Nittanyville."
The best student tickets for Penn State games are first come, first serve, so a huge city of people camping in tents near the stadium gates always springs ahead of Nittany Lion games. Nittanyville gives students their own zone to get ready for Penn State's biggest Saturdays several days in advance.
Just like Washington, some Tennessee fans take to their boats for tailgating, but it's a bigger and better affair down South thanks to the longstanding tradition of the "Vol Navy."
These fans tailgate on the Tennessee River, come ashore to nearby Neyland Stadium for the Volunteers' game and return to the boats afterward to keep the party going. Tailgating is still a massive deal on campus for the landlocked as more than 100,000 fans descend on Knoxville for game day.
Whether by land or by sea, Volunteers fans have simply mastered tailgating.
For most of the season, Wisconsin doesn't have the ideal climate for tailgating. But that doesn't stop thousands of Badgers fans from being famous for the passion and fun they bring to their tailgates.
In a state known for beer, brats and cheese, you know the menu is loaded with high-quality options. And, win or lose, the Badgers keep the fun going past the traditional fifth quarter and into the night.
Camp Randall Stadium's location in Madison doesn't make for a traditional tailgating experience. However, Wisconsin fans still turn the entire area into a party atmosphere that few can compete with in college football.
What makes LSU world famous for its tailgates? The food and the drinks. Period.
From the typical grill fare of tailgates to the unique Cajun and Creole cuisines of Louisiana, Tiger fans cook anything and everything and do it extremely well. The bar scene around LSU's campus is also popular for a rabid fanbase that does everything to the extreme.
Tailgating at LSU might be intimidating to outsiders, but it's a journey that all college football fans should take at least once. It's a level of passion unlike anything else in sports.
1. Ole Miss
Ole Miss might not have a big-time championship tradition, but Rebels football is synonymous with tailgating thanks to "The Grove."
This 10-acre, tree-covered area is home to the fanciest tailgating you will ever find, even in an area of the country where fans have been known to dress up for football games. It's a kind of refinement that screams Oxford, a college town known for its Southern culture.
Case in point: When College GameDay visited Oxford for the first time ever last season, ahead of the rising Rebels game against Alabama, ESPN's marketing was focused on the show's first trip to The Grove—not their first Ole Miss home football game. Then Katy Perry showed up to party, and the rest is tailgating history.
Justin Ferguson is an On-Call College Football Writer at Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JFergusonBR.