College Football Rankings: Week 7's Best Games for Tailgating

Russ Stanton@overtheedgenowContributor IIIOctober 12, 2011

College Football Rankings: Week 7's Best Games for Tailgating

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    We are half way through the college football season and the first BCS rankings come out this weekend.

    It’s going to be an exciting next few days, as every team will want to make a big splash.

    The tailgating takes on a new meaning for some fortunate teams that get a ranking and I would venture that everywhere, the excitement and the party cranks up a notch, whether in celebration or to forget a season that didn’t come to fruition for others.

    We have just a few newcomers to the Tailgating Top 20 this week, including California, Duke, Michigan State, Iowa, Vanderbilt and Kansas.

    So far this season, we have covered 61 separate tailgating venues, some more times than others.

    But let’s face it, some campuses just do it in stellar fashion week in and week out.

20. No. 3 Oklahoma at Kansas

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    The Kansas Jayhawks take on the undefeated Oklahoma Sooners in a Big 12 conference matchup this Saturday.

    Kansas is 0-2 in conference play and will do their best to bring something to bear against the Sooners, the best probably being their tailgating.

    Check out this video about the tailgating experience, typically very much a family affair with their blue and white striped tents, mascots, kids games and of course the typical grilling, eating and drinking.

    Whatever the outcome, these neighboring states will definitely have a good time Saturday, and it is a 9:15 pm Eastern Time kickoff, so there’s plenty of time for a good time before the game.

19. Northwestern at Iowa

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    The Iowa Hawkeye fans typically begin their festivities on Friday night, prior to a Saturday game and theirs is a typical RV, camper, tent, cooler and grill kind of crowd.

    The game is a Big-Ten conference affair, with both teams in need of a win since Northwestern is 0-2 and Iowa is 0-1 in the conference.

    Some of the rules that apply at Kinnick Stadium include the open container rule where alcoholic beverages are concerned, so remember discretion and the opaque plastic cup.

    Also, you’ll want to get into the stadium soon enough to witness the traditional run-on of the team to AC/DC.

18. Georgia at Vanderbilt

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    The Georgia Bulldogs will be traveling up to Nashville to take on the Commodores of Vandy after some marked improvements in their game, most notably going 3-1 in the SEC with a win over the other Tennessee Volunteers.

    Vandy had been the SEC spoiler early in the season with a win over Ole Miss, but fell the last two weeks to Alabama and South Carolina.

    The Georgia fans will most likely import their own legendary brand of tailgating to the Music City and have a website devoted to a Georgia style – Vanderbilt Edition .

    Somehow I don’t think the folks at Vandy will mind blending the two, especially with the menu that’s laid out on this website. Take a special note of the Gridiron Punch and the Mint Julep Jelly Shots.

17. Colorado at Washington

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    The Huskies are having a great year, so far 4-1 overall and 2-0 in the Pac-12. This game shouldn’t be too much trouble with the Buffaloes from Colorado only 1-5 on the season and winless in the conference.

    Still, this is a great place to enjoy a game before, during and after the game.

    It’s a unique venue for tailgating because you can take your boat to the game on Saturday morning, and not on the trailer.

    Husky Stadium is located right on Lake Washington and there can be upwards of 12-thousand people on the lake right next to the stadium. Some camp out there the entire weekend.

    Just before kickoff, the University of Washington crew team offers shuttle service between boats and the docks for fans to come to the game.

    And, the food is unique as well. How about dining on Dungeness crab or other seafood delights.  Actually that seems to be pretty common on the west coast for tailgating.

    You can tell these Husky fans are quite serious about tailgating on or off the water. An expansion of a state highway threatens to close the south parking lot to tailgating, which has the Washington fans in an uproar. 

16. Ohio State at No. 16 Illinois

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    This is certainly not the kind of season Ohio State and their fans had hoped for, especially after such a tumultuous preseason with a new head coach and the loss of their quarterback. The Buckeyes are 3-3 on the season and 0-2 in the Big-Ten.

    Illinois fans, on the other hand, couldn’t be happier, with an undefeated season so far and 2-0 in the conference. The fans will definitely be celebrating in the tailgate section prior to the 3:30 pm Eastern Time kickoff. Plenty of time for a post-game party too.

    Tailgating on the campus at Illinois is also steeped in tradition. 

    The school itself if steeped in party lore, ranked at No. 15 in the Top 25 Party Schools in the County by our own Bleacher Report. 

    This is the land of beer, and it seems that only beer will do.

    They also play beer-pong, as do others at colleges all over the country, and at this particular time of the year, Oktoberfest Marzen beers are plentiful.

    This is also the land of the brat, not too far from Chicago, and the brat is the meat of choice for the barbecue.

    You’ll also find the usual burger, dog and a beer. Simplicity is king for the Fighting Illini.

15. USC at California (Thursday)

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    USC travels up the coast for a Thursday night game, taking on the Cal Golden Bears.  It’s a Pac-12 match that will probably end up with the Trojans coming away with the win.

    However, the Bears would desperately love to spoil that notion as they have yet to win a conference game, and if they could win one, this would be it.

    Cal is coming from two weeks on the road and two difficult losses to No. 9 Oregon and Washington, so they are looking forward to hosting this party.

    Typically, a tailgating experience at Cal consists of a lot of walking since Cal’s stadium is nestled in Berkeley, where there is little, if any parking.

    But this game is at AT&T Park, where the San Francisco Giants play, so there will be more parking, less walking.

    That’s kind of a shame because there is a charm to the games at Cal’s stadium. I quote a couple of lines from a California drinking song.

    And when the game is over, we will buy a keg of booze,

    And drink to California 'till we wobble in our shoes. 

14. Purdue at Penn State

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    You wouldn’t know it by the entire lack of ranking all season long, but Penn State is having a very solid season at 5-1, 2-0 in the Big-Ten. Perhaps it’s their lack of a significant schedule, but their only loss did come to No. 2 Alabama.

    Purdue on the other hand, has nothing but conference interests in mind, as they are also undefeated in the Big-Ten.

    Given the legendary prowess of each team, you’d think they were old rivals. But, the two have only played 14 times, the Nittany Lions winning 10 of those.

    But tailgating will be legendary, as it always is at State College, Pa. The Tailgating Website posts their menu for the game, and it hasn’t seem to change that much over the weeks.

    Bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches, hash browns, sausages, Baileys and coffee, and mimosas are the order of the morning. This is a great way to start a Saturday morning for any game in Happy Valley.

    This is a friendly crowd of Penn State fans, nestled in State College, Pa.

    Beaver Stadium is the second largest stadium in the country and 100-thousand fans is typical. Tailgating in this crowd can seem a little overwhelming, but because of the rural location, there’s plenty of room. Every acre around the stadium is used for parking.

    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.

13. Miami (Fla) at North Carolina

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    Chapel Hill, North Carolina is the legendary home of the North Carolina Tar Heels.

    They are 5-1 on the season, 1-1 in the conference as they head into their third ACC Conference game with Miami, who has not fared as well at 0-2 in the conference.

    Chapel Hill is known as one of the coolest college campuses in the country, and because it's Southern, the tailgating is special in that same kind of tradition.

    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 12:30 pm Eastern Time kickoff, that lends itself to starting with breakfast in the parking lot before heading off to the game.

    You’ll always find a good egg casserole, but that’s usually cooked at home.

    This on the other hand is tailgate grillin’ 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, the Bloody Mary,

    But another one that might be unique, but not for 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 in Wadmalaw, South Carolina. Gotta keep it close to home ya’ll.

12. No. 19 Virginia Tech at Wake Forest

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    Keeping it in the ACC, we revisit Wake Forest, as the Demon Deacons are having a banner year, at 4-1 overall and 3-0 in conference play. 

    Recently, they took conference rival Florida State at home, and return to do the same thing to the Hokies of Virginia Tech.

    There’s only one problem, the Hokies have a great team at 5-1, and the one loss is in ACC play. This should be a great football game

    Tailgating at Wake Forest is in the Southern tradition of tailgating with coolers filled with beer, barbecue on the grill, nestled in this North Carolina campus, much like their Tar Heel neighbors.

    At Wake Forest they take the hassle out of it for you with the Deacon Club

    This club offers packages that range from tables, tents and chairs, to full-blown stadium suites that you can rent, on the field or up in the stadium.

    They even have RVs that you can rent. All you have to do is show up with your beverages–adult or otherwise–food and folks.

    The stadium suites provide for your beverages and food, so that all you have to do is show up.  For me, that kind of takes the fun out of tailgating, but that’s just me.

11. Florida State at Duke

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    Here is yet another North Carolina tailgating experience, so the state will surely be rocking this weekend.

    The Duke Blue Devils have a winning season so far at 3-2, and are undefeated in the ACC at 1-0.

    The hapless Seminoles from Florida State haven’t been so fortunate, 2-3 on the season and winless in conference games.

    FSU also has to travel back to North Carolina after dropping their second ACC game to Wake Forest last weekend.

    Tailgating at Duke had some rough going in the 2010 season after a student was found unconscious following the game. That caused the school to put some restrictions on the practice.

    What they did was replace the word “tailgating” and said they would never refer to that term.  The event is now called “Football Gameday.”

    Registered student groups will be able to host barbecues on the Main West Quad, and in any of the surrounding residential quadrangles.

    Groups can request a particular location for their event, although nothing is guaranteed, according to Vice President for Student Affairs Larry Moneta.

    “The basic premise is that there is not an event other than the football game,” Moneta said. “There are opportunities on Gameday for groups that want to have a private barbecue and gathering to do so. We’re inviting spirit-building in advance of the game.”

10. No. 2 Alabama at Ole Miss

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    This game is steeped in rivalry and tradition that goes back to 1894, and the two teams have played 55-times since then. Alabama leads the series 44-9-2.

    However, Ole Miss would love to be the spoiler to the Crimson Tide and SEC rivalries like this were made to defy the odds.

    You can bet there will be plenty of Alabama fans bringing their own style of tailgating to the Oxford, Miss. Campus.

    The Grove is legendary in tailgating lore.  The tiny Mississippi town of Oxford is right out of a John Grisham novel. It’s what you’d picture when you think of the south, but maybe atypical for game day Saturday anywhere else in the country.

    Ten acres of green space where student matriculate 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 their 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.  The Alabama campus is the same, so visiting fans will be right at home.

    No open flame is allowed, so this changes the menu somewhat. But it is a cocktail party atmosphere, and bar food, picnic-style sandwiches, okra, southern style is the food of the day. The University even offers a catering service that you can call ahead for.

    And a couple of hours before game time, everyone lines a brick sidewalk for The Walk of Champions, where the team makes its way to the stadium, with fist bumps, chest bumps and rootin’ for the Rebs.  Here is the traditional Hotty Toddy yell from Ole Miss.

    Hell yes! Damn Right! Hotty Toddy, Gosh almighty, Who the hell are we, Hey! Flim Flam, Bim Bam OLE MISS BY DAMN!

9. No. 1 LSU at Tennessee

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    Perhaps not as old as the Alabama/Ole Miss rivalry, this is still an old matchup in the SEC that goes back to 1925.

    Tennessee usually does well at home, but this year the Bengal Tigers are just too strong and come by their No. 1 ranking honestly.

    Neyland stadium, on the campus of the University of Tennessee, is located in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains, and the scenery is spectacular.  However, outside of the mountains, all you can see is an ocean of orange.

    This is another stadium with water access, and on game day the Tennessee River is crowded with boaters having their own tailgate afloat in front of the stadium.

    Tennessee’s fight song, Rocky Top, is heard at every turn, so much, that it permeates the brain by the end of the day.

    The morning starts with Bloody Marys, but very soon migrates to Bourbon.

    This is Tennessee, and your visit wouldn’t be complete without some Tennessee sippin’ whiskey.

    Every now and then you’ll come across a drink called Calvados, although it is also referred to as apple moonshine, homemade of course.

    This game has a 3:30 pm Eastern Time kickoff, so there will be plenty of lubrication on both sides of the fan base, and the Bengal Tigers will probably import their own legendary style of tailgating.

    That should make an interesting mix and a party you just don’t want to miss.

8. No. 15 South Carolina at Mississippi State

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    Mississippi State has struggled this year, but made some major changes at quarterback at the half last week, that saw them scoring 21 unanswered points against UAB. They were scoreless in the first half.

    South Carolina has also created news-making changes at quarterback, booting their fifth-year senior Stephen Garcia; booting him not just from the game, but also from the team.

    That should make for an interesting game, that both sides hope will make a difference in the outcome of the game.

    It’s only the Bulldogs' third home game, so the fans will be pulling at the leash to tailgate, and maybe have a reason to celebrate.

    The hot spot at MSU is The Junction, and it is considered the quintessential Tailgating Experience. Visiting fans are always welcomed; 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. But, everything else pretty much goes with no problems.

    Check out the webcam at the Junction so you can watch the festivities if you can’t make it.

7. No. 17 Kansas State at Texas Tech

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    Kansas State has come by their national ranking honestly, undefeated at this point in the season. But, the Red Raiders are going to be anything but friendly.

    This is a Big 12 conference game with KSU at 2-0 and Texas Tech, 1-1.

    This is Texas Tech’s second entry to the tailgating Top 20, but anywhere you go in Texas is going to be a wild time. As the conference matchups become more frequent, the tailgating experiences heats up as well.

    Check out this Video, that shows it Texas style.

    Monster grills are everywhere since grillin’ at Texas Tech is what makes things special on a Saturday.

    Drinking and eating start early in Lubbock, so considering that it’s a 7:00 pm Eastern Time kickoff, there’s plenty of time to enjoy the Red Raider hospitality all day long.

6. No. 6 Oklahoma State at No. 22 Texas

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    This is the second week in a row that Texas has faced an Oklahoma team.

    Last week it was the No. 3 Sooners, and the Longhorns took their first loss of the season to make their record 4-1, 1-1 in the Big12.

    This week it’s the Cowboys of Oklahoma State, also undefeated heading into Austin and another conference battle for Texas.

    There may be some leftover roasted steer from last week’s tailgating game.

    Any game in Austin is reason for celebration; the sun came up for example is another.  I doubt it will be the game this weekend.

    These Texans take tailgating quite seriously, and they have several websites devoted to the subject. 

    On Longhomtailgaters.com, their mission statement says ‘Longhorn Tailgaters is a community open to all Longhorn-Loving, Orange-Blooded, sooner-Hatin' Texas Fans. Come early, have a beer and watch ESPN GameDay!”

    They have a dedicated location right on campus, not too far from the stadium where you can stop by Saturday morning, get entertained, have a burger and a beer and see which head Lee Corso puts on.

    This week, with a 3:30 pm Eastern Time kickoff, that would be an average early start, but what the heck, this is Texas, a land where a beer on Saturday morning is not only justified, it’s required. 

5. Florida at No. 24 Auburn

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    The Auburn Tigers have been on the road for the last two weeks, dropping their second loss of the season to Arkansas.

    Still they are 2-1 in the SEC and Florida has had a rough road with injuries and losses over the last two weeks to No. 2 Alabama and No. 1 LSU.

    So, the fans coming home to Auburn are both apprehensive and hopeful as to how the team will perform. 

    Tailgating, however is always something to look forward to on the “Loveliest Village on the Plains.”

    The first thing that hits you is the number of RVs that permeate the landscape on game day; one more lavish than another.

    Some have LCD large-screen TVs embedded in the side, and they all have amenities that make you wonder why you would ever go home.

    These folks get to Tiger Town on the previous Monday for a Saturday game, parking on campus and living the college life vicariously all week. 

    It is a beautiful southern campus as well, and everyone makes you feel like you are part of the AU Family.

    Because the game has a 7:00 pm Eastern Time start, that means plenty of time to get rowdy.

    For Tiger fans, there is the hope for a win, so that they can engage in the decades-old tradition of toilet papering the oak trees at Toomer’s Corner.  

    If you can’t make it in person watch that on the Toomer’s Corner Webcam

4. No. 20 Baylor at No. 21 Texas A&M

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    No. 20 against No. 21, deep in the heart of Texas doesn’t get any better than this.

    Baylor has a slightly better record than Texas A&M at 4-1, but both are tied at 1-1 in the Big 12.

    But, then again, this is Texas and bragging rights abound whether it’s the Aggies, the Longhorns or the Baylor Bears. The tight ranking only makes this game even more important.

    This is the fifth tailgating experience for the fans of A&M this year; so there’s plenty of recent experience to draw from.

    They’re quite organized about it and the university actually has a website devoted to tailgating, but it is mainly rules and regulations; something 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 a 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.

    And, the Aggies are actually planning for increased tailgating, preparing to go over the top, joining the SEC next year. Somehow, I don’t think the importance of their tailgating presence will change at all.

3. Indiana at No. 4 Wisconsin

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    Tailgaters in Madison are getting a lot of practice. This is their fifth home game this season and their last before they heading off down the road with four out of the next six games away. So, the tailgating opportunities may dry up.

    It’s not like their spirit will fade as the Badgers are undefeated, but they only have one win in the Big-Ten. It’s doubtful that 1-5 Indiana will have much sway over that record, but it is a conference game that should increase Wisconsin’s record to 2-0.

    In the land of cheese, you’ll find an abundance of that along with the local favorite, brats and beer.

    This is an early game in Madison with a 12:00 noon Eastern Time kickoff. That’s 11:00 am Wisconsin time.

    That shouldn’t matter since traditions start early and will give the student and fan plenty of time to load up, watch the game and celebrate after the game.

    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 will see another win for their team.            

2. No. 18 Arizona State at No. 9 Oregon

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    As is usually the case, where ESPN College GameDay goes, the party is sure to follow.

    This one is an unusual game by east coast standards because it is hosting the ESPN crew, but has a 10:15 pm Eastern Time kickoff, which means it will be 7:15 pm on the west coast.

    Conference importance plays heavily in this game as the Ducks are 2-0 and the Sun Devils are 3-0 in the Pac-12.

    This is Oregon’s fourth tailgating game at home, and the experience is all about green and yellow; on grills, cars, vans, buses and bodies.

    It typically doesn’t have quite as much style as the team itself, in their Nike Designer uniforms. But, it’s usually neat using stencils.

    The city of Eugene, home for the Ducks, does have some rules regarding tailgating, and it’s a little rigid with the exception of allowing alcoholic beverage consumption.

    You’re simply limited to starting the imbibing to four hours prior to the game and continuing until the game is complete.

    Other than that, it’s a typical tailgating scene. Perhaps the Ducks will enjoy their time back at home with a brat, a beer and a win.

1. No. 11 Michigan at No. 23 Michigan State

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    I know that I typically put the ESPN College GameDay feature in the No. 1 tailgating position, but you just can’t ignore Michigan at Michigan State in terms of atmosphere.

    It almost rolls off the tongue when talking about rivalries like Auburn/Alabama, or USC/UCLA.

    The fact that they are both nationally ranked for this meeting, makes the game bear all the more tension.

    They are both undefeated in Big-Ten conference play, although the Wolverines edge out the Spartans overall being undefeated.

    Michigan also gets the nod in terms of nationally recognized party schools, but I’m sure the Spartans would differ with that opinion, and since that’s where it happens this year, the green and white will try for the state of Michigan bragging rights in that as well.

    It’s a typical grills, brats, beer and bean bags that brings tailgating to bear on East Lansing.

    You can also take advantage of several alumni groups that setup group get-togethers on campus just to add to the camaraderie. I’m sure that will be true for both schools this weekend.