College Football Week 3: The 20 Best Tailgating Games of the Week
There have been some great weekends for tailgating over the past two weeks, and now we find ourselves with college football in full swing.
Anticipation now begins on Monday for the next weekend of events—and of course, the parties.
It’s Week 3, and by now everyone has gotten at least two tailgating parties under their belts. It’s kind of like a football player with pregame jitters, and the players will tell you this; after the first hit of the game, the jitters go away, and they settle into playing the game.
That’s the way it is with tailgating. After the first tailgating experience, lessons are learned and food options expanded, and of course a variety of libations now appear, where before there was only beer.
Of course, the team rankings are fluctuating from week to week; so too do our top 20 tailgating experiences.
This week we’re featuring some schools we haven’t looked at before. It’s a combination of season first-timers and great games.
Let’s see what’s on tap in the top 20 countdown of tailgating.
20. Duke at Boston College, 12:30 PM ET
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Consider this one the losing-record tailgating experience. Both teams are 0-2 on the season, but Boston College has such a rich heritage I had to mention it at least at No. 20, just because it's BC.
I’ll take a clue from a tailgating blog as to four things essential to tailgating at Boston College.
1) Shotgunning (as in beer): This helps aging alums reconnect with their college youth and also creates some healthy drinking competition.
2) Cornhole is key (this is a game): It’s a great way to break up the drinking/eating routine, which keeps you from getting too drunk and too fat.
3) Rain gear: There is a value in having a large tent and being near a covered area. Tailgating in rain makes for a messy situation.
4) Mary Ann’s: This is the favored bar on the BC campus and a tradition for after the game.
19. Eastern Michigan at Michigan, 12:00 PM ET
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Michigan slips from eighth to 19th, at least in the tailgate polls, mainly because there is less hoopla this week.
Last week, Notre Dame was there, and ESPN College GameDay was there, so there was a built-in party atmosphere, although imported.
This week, Michigan is playing a lesser opponent, and the party grounds will be primarily all Michigan folks without all the tourists like last week.
They stay in the tailgating top 20, mainly because it’s Michigan, rooted in football ancestry and legendary tailgating tradition. Pass me a Bloody Mary, please.
Tailgating in Ann Arbor goes back generations and is steeped in traditions handed down by those Michigan grads of old.
This week, the Wolverine kickoff is at 12:00 pm Eastern, which means not that much party time before the game, so the need will be to get there early in the morning and have a Bloody Mary or two.
Believe me, there will be plenty of people who’ll be hanging out at their tent, camper or RV after the game to celebrate a victory into the night.
18. Syracuse at USC, 8:00 PM ET
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The Trojans are 2-0 so far this season, but still no love from either one of the major polls. They did win their first Pac-12 matchup last week against Utah, which is a good thing for their conference rankings.
One good thing about this season for USC fans is that their first three games are at home, which means more opportunity to tailgate the Trojan way.
In typical Southern California style, the weather this weekend is supposed to be spectacular, cooler than normal in the low 70s, but fall temperatures just makes it feel like football season.
When it comes to imbibing at a Trojan tailgate party, USC fans are a bit more upscale with bottles of wine and premium or imported beers, and when it's time to do shots, it's not the bar brand tequila—it's Patron.
I had one fan comment on this column last week that they’d rather have a $500 bottle of chardonnay than a $2 beer anytime. Fight on!
17. Stephen F. Austin at No. 19 Baylor, 7:00 PM ET
The Baylor Bears have come out this season, all guns blazin’, with a commanding season-opening win over favored TCU. Then they got a week off.
They play another home game this weekend, but the tailgating has a little more meaning because they’re finally getting some recognition and a national ranking of No. 19, moving up one point in a week without even playing; the beer just tastes that much sweeter.
Tailgating at Baylor breaks it down very simply with options from Baylor Marketing.
There is Creekside Tailgating in an area located along the creek on the west side of Floyd Casey Stadium, a perfect spot to host a small- to medium-sized pregame tailgate. There is a fee involved, but as I understand it they are sold out for the season, so just consider this an information point.
Located outside of the south end zone is Stadium Tailgating, the perfect area to host a medium- or large-sized tailgate party. These have free cable and free electric hookup. Oh, they’re sold out too.
Well, there’s always Student Tailgating located outside of the south end zone. Each spot is 30' x 30' and includes free cable hookup, free electric hookup and parking pass for one vehicle. They’re available, but for a $30 one-game fee, free is relative.
Oh, and beer pong seems to be quite alive and well at Baylor. Their tailgating website even offers an entire section for beer pong accessories.
16. No. 15 Michigan State at Notre Dame, 3:30 PM ET
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From Michigan to Michigan State, Notre Dame can’t seem to get a break.
The Irish's last two losses were very close games, but they still managed to go 0-2 after a fairly optimistic preseason ranking. They fell out of that very quickly after their season opener against South Florida.
Regardless, they’re up against 2-0 Michigan State, who really hasn’t faced a major threat, but Notre Dame could be it. Really?
But let’s talk about South Bend and Notre Dame. It may not seem like the kind of school that could muster a raucous tailgate experience. For the most part, you’re right. It is, after all, a Catholic University, steeped in ceremonious tradition.
The school has some rigid rules when it comes to tailgating. However, partying before a Notre Dame game could be considered a different sort of party.
People eat and drink in the parking lots just like anywhere else, but every now and then a Leprechaun may pass you by handing out candy. It’s OK—they’re harmless.
Flower arrangements are everywhere, and it is a bit more stoic than what you’ll see down South.
But when Irish eyes are smiling, they’re a bit glazed over just before kickoff, because that part of tailgating doesn’t miss them.
While kegs are prohibited, there’s no law against plastic cups and some discretion. After all, they are the Irish.
15. Arkansas State at No. 13 Virginia Tech, 4:00 PM ET
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The land of the Hokies is nestled in the Appalachians within the sleepy little town of Blacksburg, Virginia. Football-wise, this team hasn’t been sleeping and made its way into the preseason poll at No. 13, which is where it stays, regardless of its two wins. Something to celebrate nonetheless.
Blacksburg is a bit more upscale than the typical tucked-away country college. There are Internet businesses, a robust student body and Starbucks.
They’ve only been home for the opener, so the VT tailgaters have some lost time to make up for.
Tailgating at Virginia Tech has gotten better in relation to how the team is actually performing.
The Hokie Club has established a block of prime parking spaces near Lane Stadium. You can pick up your parking pass online or at eBay.
Hokie tailgates are primarily about food and beverage, the food being ribs, Boston butt or marinated whole chickens, and grilling is the centerpiece of the VT tailgate.
For the local fare, Hokie country is barbecue country, with a variety of sauces.
That said, beverages are the backbone of any tailgate. They call it tailgating with "brown water," aka bourbon. A fine Kentucky bourbon or Tennessee whiskey will certainly get you ready for the game. What game?
14. Virginia at North Carolina, 3:30 PM ET
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Chapel Hill, North Carolina is the legendary home of the North Carolina Tar Heels. They are 2-0 going into their first ACC conference game with Virginia, which is also 2-0 and also playing its first conference game. That in itself lends some fever to the game, regardless of the team's lack of national ranking.
Chapel Hill is known as one of the coolest college campuses in the country, and because it's Southern, the tailgating is special.
Grills, or rigs as they’re called, are huge, towed by a car, on a trailer or just grates on cinder blocks. That way you can cook many meals for many people.
Given a 3:30 kickoff, that lends itself to several courses, starting with breakfast in the parking lot.
You’ll always find a good egg casserole, but that’s usually cooked at home. This is tailgate grilling with chicken biscuits, biscuits and gravy, chicken and biscuits, sausage, bacon...stop me whenever you want.
Beverages take on a life of their own as well. A couple of customary suggestions include an Irish Coffee and the bloody Mary.
However, one suggestion that might be unique for anything other than an NC tailgate is a Screwed Firefly.
That consists of Firefly sweet tea vodka and orange juice. Sweet tea is a staple of the South, so it’s only fitting, and Firefly Distillery is on Wadmalaw Island, South Carolina.
Gotta keep it close to home, y'all.
13. North Texas at No. 2 Alabama, 7:30 PM ET
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Tuscaloosa, Alabama went through a rough spring this year, following the tornadoes that ravaged that area back in April. The town still shows major damage, and recovery has been slow.
But the Alabama folks use football to get past the everyday grind and tragedy, and this year their No. 2 ranking certainly helps them hold their heads high. The team is destined for greatness as long as it can hold on to what it's doing.
North Texas, this week's opponent, really poses no threat to the Crimson Tide, but it's only their second home game, which means tailgating has some catching up to do.
Fraternities are abundant on campus, and it’s a vibrant society that parties hard and mingles into the tailgating area of Bryant-Denny Stadium near Fraternity Row.
These people take tailgating seriously. There is a sea of crimson and white tents, but just a cooler and a tent won’t get it. Most have their own generators, satellite dishes, big-screen TVs and a banquet lavish enough for Thanksgiving dinner.
There is the requisite case of beer and the occasional keg hidden in the RV, but the dress is like other places in the South—no jeans, dressing up like it was covered dish supper at church. But church it ain’t.
How does that old Hank Williams song go? “If Heaven ain’t a lot like Dixie, I don’t wanna go.”
12. Troy at No. 14 Arkansas, 7:30 PM ET
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The Hogs had big wins in their first two games, the first in Fayetteville, Arkansas and the second in Little Rock. The latter is still considered a home game since it’s in Arkansas, but different for tailgating because it’s a city.
The most impressive thing about those games is how the Razorbacks just completely demolished their opponents: the Missouri State Bears, 51-7, and New Mexico, 52-3. This is a team with a definite display of both offense and defense.
After this weekend, they will be heading off to Alabama in their first road trip, where they can party with the Tide. But for now, it’s all about honing their tailgating skills in Fayetteville against Troy.
As in most of the SEC towns, Arkansas provides the usual parking lot style on a first come, first served basis. However, there is also The Gardens, a beautiful park setting where you can bring your stuff and tailgate in comfort.
It’s located at the corner of US 62 and Razorback Road, fairly close to the stadium. As convenience would have it, it’s a short walk to the liquor store for liquor, beer and ice.
Remember, though, there are strict open container laws in most of the South, except for New Orleans; just remember the plastic cup, opaque recommended, and in Fayetteville, Arkansas I would recommend Hog Red.
11. Louisiana-Monroe at No. 23 TCU, 2:00 PM ET
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“Grills Gone Wild” is the way one site put it. Tailgating at TCU has increased with the popularity and performance of its team over the last half decade.
Louisiana-Monroe doesn’t pose much of a threat to the Horned Frogs, but then TCU was destined for an undefeated season before it opened. Then along came Baylor to deflate that balloon.
At least their tailgating home opener this weekend should go a lot better. It sounds like a Texas blast.
On game day, fans bring it all. They drive up in specialty cars, grill at monstrous smokers, watch games from around the country on flat-screen, high-definition televisions and show off elaborate decorations.
Well, that’s fairly typical for most campuses in the country, but at TCU it used to be that fans would pull up to the stadium 20 minutes before kickoff with the wife and kids to see the Frogs play.
Now, fans arrive hours early and set up quasi-living rooms on the asphalt for an all-day celebration of feasting, football and fraternizing. It's a place to see and be seen.
It’s such a big deal that Athletics regularly receives calls from brides-to-be wanting to plan their weddings (and tailgate-type receptions) around Horned Frog games 12 to 24 months in advance.
Another caller, who was deadlocked in a divorce settlement, wanted to know if TCU would allow joint custody of a parking space.
Tailgating has certainly come of age, maybe a bit too much at TCU.
10. No. 3 LSU at No. 25 Mississippi State, Thursday, 8:00 PM ET
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Since this article is typically published on Friday, I don’t usually put Thursday games in here, but this one is an exception.
LSU at No. 3 and Mississippi State, moving down in the polls to No. 25 after an upset loss to Auburn last week, was actually a hard-fought game.
The Dawgs kept LSU at bay for a majority of the game, but the Bayou Bengals just proved too tough, winning 19-6.
It was the Bulldogs' first home game, thus their first tailgating opportunity at home. The Dawgs have been pulling at the leash for weeks now.
The Junction is the hot spot to tailgate for Mississippi State fans, considered the quintessential MSU tailgating experience. Visiting fans are always welcome; after all, it’s the South.
There is also a large field in front of the Vet School where a lot of visiting fans gather with lots of room for tailgating.
One thing to remember about tailgating at Mississippi State is that dogs are not allowed, which is ironic considering they are the Bulldogs. Everything else pretty much goes with no problems.
Check out the webcam at the Junction.
9. Idaho at No. 9 Texas A&M, 7:00 PM ET
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Ranking Texas A&M is a curious thing. They started out in the preseason at No. 8 and played one game, handily defeating SMU 46-14, but slipped to No. 9 for their efforts. I guess the lesson is to not schedule a bye week at the beginning of the season.
Thus, this is the first tailgating experience for the fans of A&M this year; the anticipation is probably killing them.
They’re quite organized about it, and the university actually has a website devoted to tailgating, but it is mainly rules and regs—what you might expect for a partial military school.
However, the Aggie folks depart from regulation and have a unique pregame tradition starting at midnight before game day with the "Midnight Yell."
Students will pack Kyle Field and practice screaming for the big game on Saturday or the Grove on campus for a road game during the season. If you can get there the day before for that, it would be worth it.
Otherwise, the Aggies are actually planning for increased tailgating, preparing to go over the top should they be joining the SEC next year. Stay tuned on that one.
8. Navy at No. 11 South Carolina, 6:00 PM ET
The Gamecocks are back in Columbia, South Carolina, their home campus, for the first true home game of the season. Their opener against East Carolina was actually in Charlotte, and it's not even South Carolina—it’s North.
Steve Spurrier’s Gamecocks have a good chance of getting to the SEC Championship Game again this year after an embarrassment to the Auburn Tigers last year. Their performance over the last couple of weeks bodes well for the Gamecocks.
Home at last, Columbia is known for its tailgating in the Southern tradition of tailgating with something no other stadium has: the Cockabooses. The what, you ask?
Twenty-two cabooses line a railroad track just outside of Williams-Brice Stadium that were the vision of a local businessman, tired of looking at the unused railroad track that runs alongside the stadium.
In 1990, the beautifully designed Cockaboose Railroad began catering to the serious Gamecock tailgater with amenities never before associated with tailgating; running water, cable television, air conditioning/heating and a living room highlight each and every Cockaboose.
Many are wired with closed-circuit television to watch Gamecock away games if you can’t make the trip.
It's different, it's unique and there's nothing else like it in the nation for tailgating.
7. No. 17 Ohio State at Miami (FL), 7:30 PM ET
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The Miami Hurricanes got into this season under a specter of NCAA scrutiny for alleged violations. Some players were suspended, and while the jury is still out on the allegations, they're pretty serious.
Add to that a season-opening ACC conference loss to Maryland, and things aren't that bright in South Florida.
What better reason for a party with No. 17 Ohio State coming to town?
There are two Miami Alumni, Alfonso (“Fonz”) Dager and Gary Kapit, that are showing their support for the Canes, at least the ones not named in the allegations. They created a YouTube video series that showcases their knack for fixing fantastic tailgate grub. It’s called “Cooking with Canes.”
They’re giving unique names to some of their dishes. My personal favorite is the Schnellen Burger, named for former Miami coach Howard Schnellenberger.
The burger blends savory and tropical elements, like pineapple, mushrooms, peppers and cheese. The Hurricanes link is in the garnish of green and orange pepper strips cut to resemble Miami’s trademark U.
This weekend, they’re planning to shoot segments for their show in the tailgating area around the Sun Life Stadium parking lots. Keep an eye open for that and the delicious food they make.
6. No. 21 Auburn at Clemson, 12:00 PM ET
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Auburn and Clemson have a unique history with each other that is, well, unique to say the least.
They started playing in 1899, and there is an underlying rivalry that’s hard to explain. The campuses are so similar that well-known Southern writer Lewis Grizzard wrote, “Clemson is Auburn with a lake.”
The tailgating action is probably the only thing that takes on a life of its own at Clemson.
The ACC Tigers, Clemson, are hosting the first four games of their schedule, Auburn being the third in the series, so they’ve already got two games under their belt.
There are acres and acres of tents, tables, Southern hospitality and a sea of orange with Tiger paw prints in them hills. You might see that in Auburn as well.
The dress code calls for sundresses, khakis and polo shirts, and rarely do you see jeans. It’s a little more casual in Auburn.
The food is dressed up too, with tablecloths, platters of wings, shrimp and fried chicken and silverware, not the typical tailgating plastic.
Early on Saturday morning, the drinks are screwdrivers, mimosas and Yuengling or Bud Light. This is a college campus, so beer pong tables are everywhere.
Because the fraternities are all together on the quad, this gathering quickly becomes a frat party with live bands, and you repeatedly hear the Tiger Yell.
But this Saturday, both teams are Tigers, they are both orange and blue and they both have a “Tiger Walk.” I guess as one reader told me, “I know who’s going to win...the Tigers.”
5. Washington at No. 11 Nebraska, 3:30 PM ET
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After two big wins opening the season, Nebraska maintained its ranking in the polls and will continue their home series with the Washington Huskies.
If you recall my tailgating articles of the past two few weeks, Washington has one unique experience in tailgating. Now the Huskies come to Cornhusker land.
The Cornhuskers have one of the most loyal fanbases in the country. Their tailgate food, such as corn on the cob, brisket, corn-fed beef, barbecued beef and sirloin sandwiches, all on the grill, would keep me loyal, that’s for sure.
On the drinks side, alcohol is prohibited around or close to the stadium, but close by, libations are set up in designated areas at the other end of a pedestrian bridge or underneath the highway overpass along with the grills.
It’s the most fun you can have with a giant plastic corn hat on your head. I know, I know, I need a new line.
4. Colorado State at Colorado, Denver, 1:30 PM ET
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Colorado is new to the listing this week, but we need to give props to our mountain schools, especially in this game because of the importance of the rivalry.
They’re playing at Sports Authority Field in Denver, so we won’t be looking at Colorado’s traditional tailgating.
When you’re tailgating in a neutral location like this, it becomes a two-school tailgate—double the fun, as long as everyone gets along.
There are some rabid fans out in Colorado, and they love their tailgating.
Sports Authority Field was the site of the Bing National Tailgating Championships last year, so they come by tailgating naturally, it seems.
Boulder, the home of the Colorado Buffaloes, becomes one big tailgate and has been featured on the Food Network for its tailgating food. I’m sure they’ll have some of that going in the parking lot in Denver.
Interestingly enough, one of their favorites is Buffalo wings.
3. Coastal Carolina at Georgia, 1:00 PM ET
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Georgia goes into this game without a win, dropping to Boise State and South Carolina. The Bulldogs definitely didn’t pick slouches to begin their season.
But the Bulldogs have something going for them when they’re home in Athens, GA: the tailgating. It didn’t help them to win last week, but maybe playing Coastal Carolina they’ll get their mojo back.
Classes mostly exist at Georgia to take up time in between games and tailgates. That’s a joke, but some around there believe it to be more truth.
Southern specialties, grilled delights, catered affairs—the food at Georgia tailgates is one of the main attractions and ranges from chic to college-style. Some fans haul out grills and smokers, deep fryers, chairs and picnic tables—everything but the kitchen sink.
The university website even states that tailgating is one of the “factors used to attract future freshmen and transfer students from all over the country."
2. Tennessee at No. 16 Florida, 3:30 PM ET
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This is a classic SEC matchup, with Florida nationally ranked and Tennessee poised to do some great things this season. The first two games are good indications on both sides.
With the new head coach at Florida, Will Muschamp, the Gators have basically proven they can be contenders. This should be a great game in and out of the Swamp, the name given to the stadium.
Tailgating at Florida is unlike anywhere else.
This is a hard-partying school, and nobody is safe from getting caught up in the revelry.
Gainesville's University of Florida was voted “best party school in the country” in 2008 by The Princeton Review.
They created a tailgating website dedicated to all things tailgating, including cooking, eating and drinking. Gatortailgating.com even travels with the team and sets up at the opponent's tailgate venues.
Not to be isolated, they also provide tailgating analysis of other SEC schools and the schools where the Gators have to travel so that visiting fans can get around easily.
Pass the shrimp and give me a Chomp!
1. No. 1 Oklahoma at No. 5 Florida State, 8:00 PM ET
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ESPN's College GameDay will be in town. Need I say more?
This is going to be a major matchup, and don’t be surprised if the 'Noles provide some upset to the Sooners.
The Seminoles have to be thrilled with their AP ranking of No. 5. They have a commanding offense and put up major points in their first two games thanks to quarterback E.J. Manuel, who is the key to their success.
Therefore, the party wagons will be rolling in their third home game in a row.
FSU has consistently ranked in the top 20 tailgating schools in the country, and the warm weather and friendly student body are some sure reasons why.
As with any Southern event, there's plenty of barbecue, burgers and kegs to go around.
With College GameDay in town, and No. 1 Oklahoma too, all eyes will be on Florida State.
Now that’s going to be a party!