College Football Week 4: The 21 Best Tailgating Games
There have been some great weekends for tailgating over the past three weeks, and now most of the AP Top 25 teams are getting into some serious matchups.
It’s Week 4, and by now everyone has gotten at least three tailgating parties under their belts. In other words, they are seasoned.
The pregame jitters still happen, but after a few cold ones you're ready to roll.
Experience comes into play, as well as lessons learned. Food options are expanded, and of course a variety of libations now appear, where before there was only beer.
The polls are fluctuating from week to week, with new teams in and others out. So, too, do our top 20 tailgating experiences vary from week to week.
This week we’re featuring some schools we haven’t looked at before. It’s a combination of first-timers and great games.
Author's Note: Since the original publishing of this article, it was noted by an irate Georgia fan that I had omitted a classic SEC matchup and tailgating game: Georgia vs. Ole Miss. I apologize for this omission as it is a classic game and tailgating at Ole Miss is an experience unto itself. Therefore, this is now the top 21 tailgating games, and Georgia vs. Ole Miss is listed at No. 12.
21. North Carolina @ No. 25 Georgia Tech
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Georgia Tech slid into the AP Top 25 after soundly crushing their first three opponents. They have an impressive offense, but North Carolina is undefeated as well.
This should be a very good football game and it's an ACC matchup as well—the first for both teams.
Partying in Atlanta is a unique experience, but at Georgia Tech, they have their own grounds for most of the tailgating, away from the city life.
They aren’t playing at the Georgia Dome like the Georgia Bulldogs do when in town. They have their own field, their own campus, and a history in football and tailgating that goes back a century.
Of course there is the legendary Varsity—the best hamburgers, onion rings and milk shakes you can get your hands on—across I-85 from the main campus, but still considered part of Georgia Tech.
20. San Diego State @ No. 22 Michigan
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Michigan slips to 19, at least in the tailgate polls, mainly because there is less hoopla this week, just like last week.
Once again Michigan is playing another 3-0 team, but all the way from the West Coast. So, the party grounds will be primarily all Michigan folks without all the tourists.
Tailgating tradition in Ann Arbor goes back generations, and the Wolverine faithful have the luxury of five straight home games this year. You’d think they might party out at some point.
Kickoff is at 12:00 p.m. ET, which means more of a party after the game than before.
Believe me, there’s plenty of people who’ll be hanging out at their tent, camper or RV to celebrate a victory into the night.
19. Southern Utah @ UNLV
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So far, football is not the forte of either of these teams, but I had to look at what tailgating is like where the party never stops—Las Vegas.
What happens here stays here, and the alumni have a tradition that's always been here.
It might be the way to go for their second home game, after beating Hawaii last week. It’s time to celebrate.
Parties are everywhere around the stadium, and most of the students see it as the highlight of their football season at UNLV. Rowdy is an understatement, and for this game they’ve got all day to tune up for it.
18. No. 10 Oregon @ Arizona
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This Pac-12 matchup has a history. Arizona has already lost a conference game to Stanford and another to Oklahoma State, no slouches either of them, to start the season.
The game aside, the Arizona fans will be stoked for taking on Oregon, and despite losing one game, the Ducks stay at No. 10. It boggles the mind how that happens for them and not for others, but I digress.
Arizona tailgating at the Arizona Stadium in Tucson is monitored by tailgating passes for the most part and you can get season or one-game passes.
If you want to dodge the charge, there are plenty of traditional tailgate parties in parking lots outside of the official tailgating party area.
If you are a Ducks fan, then there are many watch parties with food and adult beverages being set up for TV viewing, back in Oregon.
17. No. 23 USC @ Arizona State
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We had to give equal time to the cross-state rival, ASU, who is also hosting a nationally-ranked team, USC, at Sun Devil Stadium.
Arizona State is set to roll out a new tailgate experience at the USC game. It's called the “Sun Devil Club Game Day Experience," and attempts to duplicate the typical tailgating experience on other college campuses. What, they didn’t tailgate like other colleges before?
The new tailgate experience will feature live entertainment, big screen TVs, a Kids Zone, misting areas (it’s hot in Arizona) throughout the venue, and food and beverage available for purchase. And, it’s free of charge to the general public.
There are private cabanas for $2500, and include a full living room area, flat screen TV with satellite and a private outdoor patio. That's not the typical tailgate experience.
Now that’s partying—five hours before the game at a cushy level, which USC fans will love since they are used to 500-dollar bottles of chardonnay.
16. Eastern Michigan @ Penn State
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Coming from a road win over Temple, Penn State needs to get back home and resurrect the tailgating experience after the home loss to Alabama. Their brief residence in the Top 25 is over for now.
Pennstatetailgate.com posts their menu for the game.
This week, it’s a made-to-order omelet bar, Baileys and coffee, and mimosas. This is a great way to start a Saturday morning for a Happy Valley game that should be a winner for the Nittany Lions.
Like some other schools, the Nittany Lion fan base is heavy into RVs, so you’ll see plenty of them. Just wandering around, you’ll probably get invited to join folks in their RV, complete with satellite TV, kegs and open bar.
Wear white, as the stands and tailgate area appear to be snow-covered venues.
15. Tulsa @ No. 4 Boise State
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Idaho residents can’t imagine Bronco football without tailgating. Like most places, it is an all-day event for serious fans.
The students typically party with the alumni, alcohol is no problem, and there is a designated area right across the street from Bronco stadium.
It's in the alumni parking area where the whole family can enjoy the festivities.
14. No. 9 Nebraska @ Wyoming
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This weekend, Governor Matt Mead and the First Lady of Wyoming will be tailgating with the students.
The Nebraska game brings a national audience and some competition on the field.
There is plenty of parking since this is one of those campuses with plenty of land. It is Wyoming, after all.
Alcohol is permissible, and open container parking lots will be available for tailgating prior to home football games only—sometimes a rarity in colleges.
The Ford Stadium Lot and Summit View Lot will both allow open containers for alcoholic beverages, so make a note of that.
13. Louisiana Tech @ Mississippi State
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Mississippi State is coming off a Thursday night game last week, in which they played hard, but just couldn’t overcome powerful LSU, going down 19-6. A great effort for the Bulldogs.
So, another home game, this time not ranked as they were last week. They're going up against a lesser foe in Louisiana Tech, 1-2 on the season, just like MSU.
The Junction is the hotspot to tailgate for Mississippi State fans, considered the quintessential MSU Tailgating Experience. Visiting fans are always welcome—after all, it is the hospitable 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. But, everything else pretty much goes with no problems.
12. Georgia @ Ole Miss
These two teams are having their troubles this season, both at 1-2 overall and 0-1 in the SEC. The latter of the two will definitely improve for one of these teams after this game, and they both need the boost.
Some of the folks from Georgia will definitely will bring their tailgating practice to bear on Ole Miss, one of the unique tailgating experiences in all of college football.
However, Georgia has taken tailgating to an art form themselves, back at their home in Athens, GA. The school even admits that it uses tailgating to attract students from all over the country.
The Grove at Ole Miss has is own legendary tailgating lore.
Ten acres of green space used by students during the week, transforms into a tent city over night for 24 hours of tailgating. No cars are allowed, but thousands of fans from all over the southeast show up in the best attire.
Yes, no cutoffs and tee-shirts. This is the social event of the fall for every Rebel home game, where people go from tent to tent socializing as only southerners do. I'm not too sure how Georgia fans will blend into this congenial atmosphere, because this can be a hot rivalry.
And a couple of hours before game time, everyone lines a brick sidewalk for The Walk of Champions, where the team makes it's way to the stadium, with fist bumps, chest bumps and rootin’ for the Rebs. How about the Hotty Toddy yell?
Hell yes! Damn Right! Hotty Toddy, Gosh almighty, Who the hell are we, Hey! Flim Flam, Bim Bam OLE MISS BY DAMN!
11. UTEP @ No. 18 South Florida
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The Bulls have made it into the Top 25, ranked No.18 in the country. How stoked must those fans be?
No better reason to make this a party to beat all parties, but that would be typical for South Florida.
This is tailgating in the Southern tradition—rows and rows of RVs, campers, food, adult beverages and tailgating setups that seem to elicit competition.
They even have a tailgating association website where you can see more photos of a truly good time that starts officially at 11:00 a.m. for a 7:00 p.m. game. Not too shabby, but I imagine the students will start sooner.
10. Rice @ No. 17 Baylor
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The Baylor Bears have actually only played two games this season, but find themselves at No. 17 in the country.
In this cross-state rivalry, Rice has had a week off, but this is the third home game for Baylor, and therefore a tailgate opportunity. The fans have had a week to work up an appetite and excitement for it.
Tailgating at Baylor gives you several options, and they break 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 great spot to host a small- to medium-sized pregame tailgate.
Located outside of the south end zone is the Stadium Tailgating, which is the perfect area to host a medium- or large-sized tailgate party.
There’s always Student Tailgating as well, located outside of the south end zone. Each spot is 30'x30' and includes free cable hookup, free electric hookup, and parking pass for one vehicle. They’re available, but for a $30 one-game fee, so 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.
9. No. 15 Florida @ Kentucky
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The Wildcats will be hosting what is clearly the No. 1 party school in the country—the Florida Gators.
The No. 15 Gators will head into Commonwealth Stadium for their second SEC contest, and Kentucky will play its first. The Gators will be looking for their second conference win, and most likely will get it, but the Wildcats will party on in hopes that things could turn to gold for them.
Kentucky tailgating appears to center around Kegs—at least it seems to be a theme running through the typical setup.
The late start will provide plenty of time for lubrication prior to kickoff.
And, like Tennessee, don’t be surprised to see some Kentucky bourbon making an appearance just before kickoff or earlier, depending on preferences.
8. Vanderbilt @ No. 12 South Carolina
Columbia, South Carolina, the home of the Gamecocks, is known for its tailgating in the southern tradition, with something no other stadium has—the Cockabooses.
If you’ve read this before in my previous weeks’ reviews, forgive me, but no other college has these and I don’t want to slight those reading the reviews for the first time.
Twenty-two cabooses line a railroad track just outside of Williams-Brice Stadium—the vision of a local businessman who was 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.
Many are wired with closed-circuit television to watch Gamecock away games if you can’t make the trip.
7. No. 13 Virginia Tech @ Marshall
The Thundering Herd takes on their second nationally-ranked opponent in their second home game, an interstate rivalry with the Hokies from Blacksburg, Virginia.
Their first game with West Virginia didn’t go so well, with Marshall going down 34-13.
But that shouldn’t dampen their spirits for tailgating, because they get a chance to spoil it for VT, even if the odds are not with them.
It’s your typical parking lot scene, and these folks love to get together to eat and drink.
6. No. 14 Arkansas @ No. 3 Alabama
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This is the Crimson Tide’s first SEC game of the season, and it will be a hard-fought game in the West Division.
Look for some good football and the Tide facing their first real competition of the season. Both teams are undefeated so far.
Alabama is destined for greatness, as long as they can keep doing what they’re doing.
Fraternity life is a vibrant society at 'Bama, and one that parties hard. They usually mingle 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, most with their own generators, satellite dishes, big screen TVs, and a banquet layout that’s already making my mouth water.
Like other truly Southern campuses, the dress is not what you’d call casual—no jeans, and dressing up like a church social. But church it ain’t.
5. South Dakota @ No. 6 Wisconsin
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Tailgaters in Madison are getting a lot of practice. This is their third home game in Madison, and is followed by two more against No. 9 Nebraska and Indiana. Tailgating fans in the cheese state have got to be ecstatic.
Why are they just now making it into the tailgating top 20? Well, maybe because their opponents have been lackluster, but they're up to No. 6 in the AP poll. So, I guess it was time.
In the land of cheese, you’ll find an abundance of that along with the local favorite—brats and beer.
A 3:30 p.m. ET kickoff, or 2:30 p.m. Wisconsin time, gives the students and fans plenty of time to load up and celebrate their ranking beforehand.
The stadium is nestled within neighborhoods, so parking can be difficult, but most of the enterprising neighbors will let you park on their lawn for a fee.
Some of the most passionate fans in the country, these Badger fanatics will party hard and most likely see another win for their team.
4. Missouri @ No. 1 Oklahoma
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The Sooners play only their third game of the season, but this is their first Big 12 Conference game against Missouri.
The only real competition was last week against Florida State, but against 2-1 Mizzou, it should be a bit easier. Still, everyone will be gunning for Oklahoma.
It's party time in Norman for the second time this season, but it’s not quite the Red River Rivalry (Oklahoma vs.Texas) although its still a great party atmosphere.
Just like most schools, the parking lots and frat house lawns are fair game for setting up your tailgate party. But keep in mind, the enterprising frat boys will probably charge you a fee.
It gets started pretty early at Gaylord Family - Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, and this game has a 7:00 p.m. Central Time start. What kind of condition do you think most will be in by that time?
You have a range of food from Oklahoma chili to ribs, barbecue and hamburgers.
Also, beer is plentiful, as are full bars and tailgating trailers decorated in Sooner fashion. They are a common fixture to the back of most cars coming to the stadium.
3. No. 7 Oklahoma State @ No. 8 Texas A&M
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No. 7 plays No. 8 in another Big 12 Conference matchup at Kyle Field, on the campus of Texas A&M. Tailgating anywhere in Texas is going to be some kind of party.
This is the third tailgating experience for the fans of A&M this season, and the last for at least two weeks when they'll be on the road, before coming back home for Baylor.
Although technically, next week they are the home team against Arkansas, it's just that the game is in Dallas, a short drive away. Something tells me they'll treat that tailgate experience like a home game.
They’re quite organized about it, and the university actually has a website devoted to tailgating, but the info there is mainly rules and regs—what you might expect for a partially military school.
However, the Aggie folks depart from regulations, and have a unique pregame tradition starting at midnight before a game day with the "Midnight Yell."
Students will pack Kyle Field and practice screaming for the big game on Saturday, or at the Grove on campus for a road game during the season.
If you can get there the day before, it would be worth it for that experience.
Also, 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.
2. No. 11 Florida State @ No. 21 Clemson
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Clemson is new to the rankings this week, after a big win over Auburn last week.
Florida State slipped a bit after losing to No. 1 Oklahoma, but still has an incredible team this year. This should be a barn-burner.
On game day in Clemson, South Carolina, there are acres and acres of tents and tables, along with southern hospitality and a sea of orange with Tiger paw prints everywhere you look.
The dress code calls for sundresses, khakis and polo shirts—rarely do you see jeans. Of course, this changes as the weather gets cooler, but this weekend should be right on track for the code.
The food is dressed up too, with tablecloths, platters of wings, shrimp, fried chicken and silverware—not the typical tailgating plastic.
Early on Saturday morning there are screwdrivers, mimosas, Yuengling or Bud Light, and beer pong tables are everywhere.
The fraternities are all together on the quad—an element in most Southern university tailgating parties.
It quickly becomes a frat party, with live bands and, repeatedly, the Tiger yell. The 3:30 p.m. ET kickoff is perfect for morning and early afternoon pregame partying.
1. No. 2 LSU @ No. 16 West Virginia
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Another great matchup, and guess who’s in town? ESPN GameDay.
Anywhere they go the party follows, which is probably why I always look to see where they will be when doing the tailgating rankings.
This should actually be an incredible game with West Virginia bringing a lot of offense to bear, as well as a passionate fan base.
Morgantown, W. Va., is one of those places where Mountaineer fans have a blast and paint up their cars to show their support for the team.
Ranked at No. 16, the fans have more reason to be juiced.
There’s a fixture at WV named Tailgate Larry. He hosts a website dedicated to Mountaineer tailgating with great recipes and tips for tailgating in Morgantown.
Dandy Man’s Teriyaki Steak, Janet’s Spinach Dip and Alisha’s Tailgate Hamburger Dip are only a few of the dishes on the menu.
My favorite is Recipe for Success: “3-4 cases of Ice Cold Beer, 15-20 Good Ol' WV folk, a bunch of Larry’s kick ass food, 1 Mountaineer Victory.” Against LSU? Well, it will be an exciting game to watch, and the Mountaineers just might be the spoiler.
Have a great weekend and an even better Tailgate!