College Football's 10 Best Pregame and Tailgating Experiences
Many claim baseball, football, or even golf as America's favorite pastime.
However, many fail to mention one of the biggest appeals to sporting events that keeps people coming back no matter the result of games.
Whether you're on an East Coast campus indulging in greasy cheese-steaks or on a West Coast experience diving into a plate full of fresh seafood, nothing beats a pregame gathering before your team takes the field.
With the addition of music, alcoholic beverages, and of course, parking lot football, it's easy to see why so many college football fans choose to partake in such a lifestyle.
Want to get in on the burgers, beer, and barbecue? The tricky part isn't finding a tailgate party.
It's finding the elite, nationally-known tailgate parties in those same parking lots outside of your home stadium.
With a little help and a desire to enhance your game-day experience to its full potential, let's take a look at where you can do just that hours before kickoff.
*Note: As of March, Georgia has decided to put strict restrictions on its tailgaters. Because the pregame festivities were, in this case, too awesome, the fans are being punished for their elite tailgating skills. Therefore, this slideshow is dedicated to the once flourishing parking lots of Sanford Stadium.
Thanks to the recent news of Georgia heavily restricting tailgaters in their pregame festivities, Colorado gets the nod due to its unique scenery, high elevation, and for being an awesome place to start your Saturday of football.
With not much left to do in the beginning of fall in Boulder, Folsom Field becomes the hot spot of the town, and state for that matter.
Grills and coolers are brought out in full effect just in time for the cool, breezy mountain weather to hit the lots.
It might not have the excitement or party scene of a Southern SEC team, but don't mistake Folsom Field for being a weak pregame experience. Just take one glance at the above picture and you'll see for yourself why the scenery of tailgating can push one's experience over the top.
9. Notre Dame
What could be so special about boring old South Bend?
The Irish fanbase not only has one of the largest in the country, but also some of the most dedicated and close-knit. The parking lots are not only full of magnificent spreads, but of rich tradition and community as well.
In addition to the assorted chicken and beef meats prepared, the tables are decorated with elaborate flower arrangements under Irish tents. Although it may not seem like the most exciting tailgate in the world, for those that appreciate tradition, Notre Dame can't be beat.
In retrospect, the Irish tailgating experience is one not only for the beer-filled college senior, but also the grandfather of that same student. But remember, we are talking about the Irish here—alcohol will be flowing like the St. Joseph River.
Washington may not have the most credentials among the West Coast football programs, but they get the nod in the tailgating department.
Walk into the parking lot at Husky Stadium and you'll be scratching your head, thinking to yourself, "What's so special about this?"
The answer? Nothing, really. You're looking at a great tailgate, but in the wrong direction.
For the Husky fans of the nation, "stern-gating" has become the "in" pregame event. Instead of taking out the lawn chairs and firing up the grills out of their trunks, they take to Lake Washington on their boats just outside of the stadium.
Along with the normal tailgating cuisine, you'll find fresh crab legs, wild salmon, and any fish that could be caught in the same body of water they "sterngate" on. This makes for the most unique pregame atmosphere in the nation.
Like they say, everything is bigger in Texas.
That includes the rib racks, beef patties, and the party, which are all some of the biggest and best of the college football nation.
As an added bonus to your pregame meal, the females are maybe only second to those in UCLA in the looks department.
Football is the state-wide religion of Texas. Food is the next most important aspect of a Longhorn lifestyle, hence why the parking lots of Texas Memorial are home to some of the best tailgaters in the world.
With the scents of barbecue lingering and football ready to be played within hours of your last bite, there is a reason why Texas finds its way onto this list.
It's widely known across the nation that some of the most enthusiastic, hardcore football fans can be found in the sometimes forgotten state of Wisconsin.
My experiences of Wisconsin, thanks to my proud uncle, aunt, and father, can be summed up in the following descriptions: breweries, cheese curds, partying, and greasy food found virtually nowhere else.
For the average fan, the Wisconsinite weather may turn their experience into a questionable one. But for those with pig-skinned bodies, how can you pass this one up? As my wonderfully insightful aunt likes to say, "The colder, the bolder!"
Not only will you find cheese concoctions floating around Camp Randall Stadium's parking lots, but you may also find some of the rarest oddities around. And of course, don't forget the endless supply of Wisconsin brewskies thrown your way.
In what may be the most versatile tailgating area in the world, Neyland Stadium blends the unique Washington experience with that of the traditional SEC barbecue pit.
Thanks to the Tennessee River behind within walking distance to the stadium, boaters can choose to go the water route with spreads of seafood and meat all in one. This gang of hardcore sea-Vol fans have dubbed themselves "The Volunteer Navy."
If you're allergic to the river air, Neyland's parking lots offer the tradition Southern tailgating experience.
However, the overflowing crowds, which can sometimes reach more than 100,000 screaming Vol-heads, along with the scrumptious barbecue-styled menu, make these lots some of the best in the nation.
4. Penn State
They don't call this Happy Valley for nothing.
Known for its massive and rowdy pregame crowds, the Valley becomes home to nearly 100,000 fans come Saturday afternoon.
Along with the stadium filled and the extra thousands of tailgaters, State College turns into the third-largest city in the state of Pennsylvania come game day.
The lots get so many tailgaters and partygoers that they even had to install rules against tailgating DURING the football game, banning all drinking of alcohol outside the stadium after kickoff. If that doesn't say "party" for you, nothing quite ever will.
Nittany Lion fans are known for their dedication to Joe Pa's program, supporting them through thick and thin regardless of wins and losses (which hasn't been a struggle recently).
With the combination of the game-day atmosphere in Happy Valley and the world-famous tailgate experience, this is one that everyone must partake in before their college football days are over.
Let's talk some deep Southern barbecue.
Look no further than the packed pregame lots of LSU, thanks to their mix of Southern favorites, including jambalaya, pig roast, and of course, the famous (and delicious) baby-back ribs.
Tiger Stadium holds around 90,000 screaming fans. On top of those 90K, another 20,000 Tiger followers show up just for the food and pregame festivities.
In addition to being well-known for their hardcore barbecue setup, the LSU fanbase may be best known for the pregame drinking habits.
Because most home games are played late in the night, tailgates have all day to feast and drink, starting in the wee hours of Friday night. Most will be lucky to make it to their seats before kickoff on a good Saturday.
When it comes down to it, there's nothing like the California sun, beautiful girls flocking in dozens, and a burger in your right hand right before that early afternoon kickoff time.
Bruin fans arrive at the scene as early as 5:30 AM in order to get started early on the tailgate action. Breakfast is no longer viewed as the most essential meal of the day in regards to tailgating, so lunch is prepared and ready to be downed just hours after rolling out of bed.
Like before stated, surrounding scenery just gets your tailgate bonus points. The Bruins don't have a backdrop of mountains or a beautiful ocean skyline, but rather one of the most beautiful stadiums in all of football—the legendary Rose Bowl.
Nonetheless, how can you even contest the beautiful women and grills of the Bruins? Simple answer—you cannot.
1. Ole Miss
There really is no other Southern experience than that of a Rebel pregame gathering.
I first was educated on the intense scene of a Rebel tailgate by no one other than Tucker Max, the author of I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell.
The story tells how the author not only had his best experience at a college football game at the Grove, but also had the best party experience in his life on that 10-mile patch of designated grass in the center of campus.
Men and women, for the most part, sport their formal attire, giving this pregame gathering a sense of elegance to go along with a college party atmosphere.
The best part about the Grove? The party begins at 7 PM...on Friday night.