Ranking Top 25 College Football Tailgating Schools for 2016

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistMay 19, 2016

Ranking Top 25 College Football Tailgating Schools for 2016

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    Tailgating for a college football game is a tradition anyone can enjoy, and some schools have built a national reputation for being the best.

    While parking-lot festivities typically begin several hours before kickoff, not every party finishes once the game starts. The tailgating atmosphere often draws people without tickets to gather around a television on the outside of the stadium.

    In fairness, there's likely no bad place to tailgate. If you're with friends and familyor sometimes even complete strangerseveryone is probably going home happy anyway.

    However, the following 25 schools have earned the most recognition for their tailgating experience.

25. Purdue

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    The team is disappointing, but Purdue's tailgating is the opposite.

    Students and alumni start game days early, donning costumes and forming the Breakfast Club. The "All-American" Marching Band performs before the game, and fans take over Slayter Hill to fire up the grill, play cornhole and get ready for kickoff.

    Although the Boilermakers only have five wins at home in the last three years, their fans are posting plenty of wins outside.

24. USC

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    An important part of tailgating is the environment. When you're enjoying a historic venue, that boosts the experience.

    The Coliseum has hosted a couple of Olympics, the Super Bowl and many USC championship teams. While tradition is a key selling point, the gorgeous weather doesn't hurt, either.

    Plus, you never know who might show up. The Trojans have built a large celebrity following, and those stars—as well as legendary USC players—often head to the Coliseum on Saturdays in the fall.

23. Michigan State

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    East Lansing, Michigan, opens up to Spartans fans before home games. Open-container policies are temporarily lifted, and the party begins.

    MSU supporters often flock to Adams Field, where the marching band warms up and gives a brief concert. The drum line performs on Grand River Avenue. Fans welcome the team to the facility, cheering as the players enter Spartan Stadium.

    Any random "Go Green!" yell is matched with a "Go White!" And the chants only gets louder after kickoff.

22. Notre Dame

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    Like USC, tradition is a significant part of Notre Dame's appeal.

    If you can arrive in South Bend, Indiana, on Friday, be sure to participate in the Stadium Tunnel Tour, which follows the path players will use before the game. That's an awesome way to experience the tradition.

    Then on Saturday, the primary tailgating spots are in the connecting lots to the stadium and Joyce Center, as well as the Burke Golf Course. You'll find plenty of brats, hot dogs and beer all over.

    Notre Dame isn't exactly an adventurous place to tailgate, but sticking to the fundamentals is always a smart choice.

21. West Virginia

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    When a place happily uses "Almost Heaven" to describe itself, it's fair to have high expectations. Morgantown, West Virginia, meets them all.

    The Blue and Gold lots offer the best tailgating spots, and West Virginia fans are ready in the early-morning hours to prepare for football. They also congregate for the Mountaineer Mantrip, the school's version of the player entrance.

    You might see a couch or two burn before the country roads take you home—or to a local bar.

20. Iowa

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    When you think of tailgating, Iowa football is probably not the first program that comes to mind.

    However, parties don't have to stop when the game begins. The school allows postgame tailgating for a few hours, the limit depending on kickoff time.

    Iowa is a typical Midwestern tailgate, so grilled food and cold drinks are plentiful. A primary difference, though, is grabbing a rather large turkey leg prior to entering Kinnick Stadium.

19. Florida

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    It's Florida. It's hot. The best way to combat the Gainesville, Florida, heat is having a few cold drinks.

    Don't let a little rain scare you off, either. Five-minute thunderstorms are, quite literally, merely a blip on the radar. Smokers and grills provide enough game-day smells to make you question whether you even need that ticket anymore.

    And when Florida takes on the Georgia Bulldogs, no one should pass up the opportunity to watch the Gators in the Swamp—or join Florida fans for what is no longer officially called the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party but is exactly that.

18. Oklahoma

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    Similar to Florida, Oklahoma's best pregame experience is during its annual rivalry showdown. Texas fans and Sooners supporters take over the Cotton Bowl.

    Back in Norman, Oklahoma, RUF/NEKS get students involved early in the morning before handling in-game duties like driving the Sooner Schooner and firing ceremonial shotguns.

    Tailgates boast a variety of excellent choices, including the basics (hot dogs and burgers) or a little more than that (steaks and ribs).

    Getting a prime parking spot isn't easy, but that won't ruin an Oklahoma tailgate.

17. Michigan

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    If you're looking for a special part of tailgating at Michigan, there isn't a standout feature. However, the country's largest stadium is as packed outside as it is inside.

    And do those tailgaters have stories to tell.

    Wolverines fans are awfully welcoming, sharing whatever food and drinks are under the tent. The common spots to find the friendly people are parked on the Ann Arbor Golf and Outing Club course or at neighboring Pioneer High School.

    Now that head coach Jim Harbaugh has started to turn around the program, excitement is only building around Michigan Stadium.

16. Texas

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    Parking is commonly mentioned as an annoyance, but that doesn't stop Texas fans outside of Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.

    Besides, the off-field festivities have brought more happiness than the on-field product lately, so Longhorns fans are certain to maximize the tailgating experience.

    Texas fans also take their parties on the road, particularly to the Cotton Bowl for the Red River Shootout Rivalry Showdown. If afforded the chance, that's a mandatory trip for lovers of college football.

15. Ohio State

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    Ohio State can have an exclusive feel when it comes to tailgating because there isn't a prototypical gathering spot with hundreds of grills, footballs and other games.

    But this also helps expand a fan's tailgating knowledge. If you don't have a connection to someone who has prime access, head to local bars then check out the OSU Marching Band Skull Session.

    Once inside the stadium, you'll be treated to some of the nation's best football. And you can't argue with that.

14. South Carolina

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    Have you ever wanted to own a caboose for a tailgate party? Well, head to Columbia, South Carolina, and you're in luck.

    A small group of South Carolina fans begin their Saturdays while on "Cockabooses." There are 22 train cars that sit on an inactive railroad and create the "railgate" tailgate.

    Gamecock Park and the fairgrounds are common choices to start game-day parties, while a quick trip to the Horseshoe to see the original campus is a worthy detour.

13. Oregon

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    New buildings have limited the parking space once available outside Autzen Stadium, but Oregon has a nifty alternative.

    The football team's practice facility—the Moshofsky Center—becomes an indoor tailgate during the fall. Per the school, "The Mo" welcomes up to 5,000 fans before and after the game.

    Oregon has recorded 110 consecutive sellouts, so a unique way to tailgate complements the loud stadium that follows.

12. Clemson

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    Tigers fans should get comfortable taking their parties on the road, because the team might provide extra games in 2016, too.

    However, the tailgating at home is tremendous.

    The university is situated in a beautiful area. Fans start rolling into town on Thursday, parking RVs in preparation for a long weekend.

    Like many other places, Clemson doesn't have a specific standout feature. But when a dedicated fanbase comes together, great food, great drinks and great weather make for a special experience.

11. Nebraska

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    Memorial Stadium is nestled near downtown Lincoln, Nebraska, so bar-hopping is a perfect way to start a day of Nebraska football.

    Of course, that's also the logical way because of alcohol restrictions on campus. But if that's not your style, meander around the facility to find a welcoming party.

    The team arrives 150 minutes prior to the game for the Unity Walk, then the band warms up about an hour before and marches to the stadium. There, 90,000 screaming Cornhuskers fans will greet you.

10. Georgia

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    "If you're awake, the tailgate has already started," Sports on Earth's Will Leitch wrote. Now, that's my kind of Saturday.

    Restrictions have curbed the start times, but Athens, Georgia, offers several other options before taking in a normal tailgate. Local establishments are the first stops before heading to North Campus, a historic and beautiful area at the university.

    Although Georgia's primary appeal is the football—and gorgeous weather only adds to the appeal—it's practically impossible to not find a good time in Athens.

9. Alabama

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    The focal point of Alabama's experience is in The Quad, but there's hardly a bad spot to tailgate in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. That's important, because success draws lots of people.

    In addition to basic tailgate food, barbecue is prevalent. Bleacher Report's Adam Kramer would recommend a trip to Gallettes for a Yellow Hammer, too.

    Head coach Nick Saban even helped create the ultimate tailgating van, which only cost $200,000, according to Dawn Kent Azok of AL.com.

8. Auburn

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    Auburn is a welcoming place to tailgaters, allowing the festivities to kick off an entire day before kickoff.

    The Loveliest Village on the Plains is loaded with friendly fans, many of whom welcome the team during the Tiger Walk or roll Toomer's Corner after the game.

    Friday afternoons officially mark the beginning of tailgating, but there's really no start or end time to partying on the Plains.

7. Penn State

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    University Park turns into a new city during the fall. Penn State's loyal fanbase packs State College, Pennsylvania, well before the game.

    RV lots open on Thursday night, and more than 100,000 people eventually flock to Beaver Stadium. Fans flood Penn State's massive tailgating fields, and students head to Nittanyville.

    Since student tickets are first-come, first-serve, multiday campouts are necessary. Once Saturday rolls around, the midweek preparations are worth any hassle.

6. Texas A&M

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    Texas A&M's pregame festivities are packed with fan-friendly events in a laid-back environment.

    Beyond the tailgate scene itself, the school offers a yell practice for kids. The night before a game, students gather to participate in the Midnight Yell, then become the 12th Man during the contest. The youngsters are happy to cheer along.

    Shortly after Aggies players enter Kyle Field, the Corps of Cadets begin their ritual, which culminates in a memorable march-in.

5. Washington

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    Are you sick of finding a parking spot on game day? Washington might have a solution to your frustration.

    Try a boat.

    RVs line the lots and offer a typical, enjoyable tailgate, but Husky Stadium is steps away from Union Bay and gives college football fans a unique opportunity to "sailgate." That's bucket-list material.

    Seafood is a popular choice, which only makes perfect sense. And no matter if the team flops inside, Washington notches a victory before the game.

4. Tennessee

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    Neyland Stadium sits next to Tennessee River, where the "Vol Navy" assembles for a daylong party.

    Fans like Coy Caldwell, who Bleacher Report's Brad Shepard profiled in the fall, simply never leave the marina. Caldwell lives in a houseboat during the regular season.

    The docks are an easy walk away from Neyland, but not every fan will disembark. Instead, they can listen to the roars firsthand while watching the Vols on television. And if the offseason hype is any indication, they'll be cheering often in 2016.

3. LSU

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    There's never a food shortage at LSU tailgates, and it's something every college football fan must try to experience.

    "You're liable to see the gamut of Louisiana cuisine: jambalaya, gumbo, sauce piquante, whatever seafood is available, including alligator when Florida is in town, and of course, your basic barbecue and grilling," SB Nation's Billy Gomila said, per Chris Fuhrmeister of the site. "If it can be deep-fried and eaten, you'll probably find it on campus on game day."

    Death Valley is a must-see venue, but a Saturday wouldn't be complete without enjoying the pregame part of Tiger Stadium.

2. Wisconsin

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    Weather hardly affects tailgates in Madison, Wisconsin. A little cold won't stop Badgers fans from their pregame ritual.

    Since Camp Randall Stadium is situated downtown, this isn't a traditional tailgate. Instead, fans can check out Capitol Square and/or Badger Bash, then stop at any number of bars on Regent Street.

    Wisconsin fans have plenty of brats, beer and maybe even some Bloody Marys to start their Saturday.

    Please save a Spotted Cow.

1. Ole Miss

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    "Perhaps there isn't a word for the ritualized pregame revelry on the University of Mississippi campus," James K. Gentry of the New York Times wrote. "'Tailgating' certainly does not do it justice."

    Starting on Friday, Rebels fans and students will claim a spot in The Grove, a 10-acre area that morphs into tailgate heaven. Canopies and red cups overwhelm the prime spot, which is more of a picnic than a backyard barbecue.

    The Walk of Champions leads players through the arch and into Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. And the Southern hospitality seen in the tailgate becomes raucous one-sided support for Ole Miss.