College Football Rankings: Week 8's Best Games for Tailgating
There’s a nip in the air this weekend, which really gets you in the mood for college football and some cold-weather tailgating.
Even in the deep south, the temperatures, for the most part, will be in the 60s, which makes that grill in the parking lot all the more important.
On top of that, it’s the kickoff of the second half of the season, and the BCS rankings are out; this gets serious now for teams and the fans.
Even if your team is not ranked in the BCS, you’ve got to get out there and support them.
Tailgating before and after the game is mandatory in all situations, and we’ve got the 20 best spots happening this weekend, week eight.
It almost feels like the start of the season all over again.
20. No. 21 Penn State at Northwestern
Ryan Field in Evanston, Illinois, will be the site for this game, with the Nittany Lions finally placing in a poll and the Wildcats of Northwestern coming off of four straight losses.
This is still a Big Ten matchup that surely will see Penn State coming out the winner, making Northwestern 0-4 in the conference.
But that won’t seem to matter to the fans pouring into the parking lot around the stadium, roasting brats and drinking beer. That’s a given in the Chicago-land based university.
There are plenty of places that charge for parking, but there are free areas to park too; you just need to know about them or someone who does, so check ahead if you can.
And drinking a beer at Ryan field doesn’t seem to be a problem either.
Also, if you bring a TV and generator, you’ll be glad you did because this is a 7:00 p.m. ET game, so if you start in the morning you’ll be able to see some really good football games.
19. Cincinnati at South Florida
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This is a Big East contest, and Cincinnati is having a monster season at 5-1 overall and 2-0 in their conference.
South Florida isn’t fairing so well after they were ranked in the AP Poll earlier in the season.
Currently, they are 4-2 overall but 0-2 in the Big East.
But the Bulls have great success at tailgating. They have their own Tailgating Association, so you know that they take this practice seriously.
You have to visit their website. It almost gets you psyched to be there just reading it. To quote, “It’s gonna be legendary.”
This is tailgating in the southern tradition with rows and rows of RVs, campers, food, adult beverages and tailgating setups that seem to elicit competition.
They kick if off at 7:30 a.m. for a 12:00 p.m. ET game, and you’ll find lots to do with Flip Cup, Corn Hole, Beer Pong and lots of fun. I’m sure the party continues after the game too.
18. Marshall at No. 19 Houston
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Marshall’s Thundering Herd runs into the undefeated Houston Cougars this Saturday.
They’re both C-USA conference members, and both have two wins in the conference, so there is something on the line here, maintaining an undefeated record for the Cougars, and becoming the spoiler for Marshall.
Besides the game, the Cougar Pride group provides excellent partying before and after the game.
A 4:30 p.m. ET start guarantees plenty of time to get ready for what could be a good game.
The fans can get a little rowdy as you can see from this video, and the sea of red is blinding.
17. USC at Notre Dame
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The Trojans make their trip from beautiful, warm and sunny California to the chilly autumn campus at South Bend, Indiana.
Neither team is where they want to be, which is in the BCS top 25, but their records are not that bad.
USC is 5-1 overall and 3-1 in the Pac-12. The Irish are not in a conference and end up at 4-2, hoping to improve on that for the second half of the season.
But the teams are traditional rivals, so this game is a good kickoff for both.
Notre Dame may not seem like the kind of school that could muster a raucous tailgate experience. And, for the most part, that's true. After all, it is a Catholic university, steeped in ceremonious tradition.
The school has some rigid rules when it comes to tailgating. But, 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 will pass you by handing out candy.
Flower arrangements are everywhere, and it is a bit more stoic than what you’ll see down south.
Irish eyes are smiling, getting around the rules, so you might detect a bit of a glaze-over Irish eye just before kickoff, and this is a 7:30 p.m. ET kickoff, so plenty of time for the party.
While kegs are prohibited, there’s no law against plastic cups and some discretion.
16. Memphis at Tulane
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It has not been a good year for Tulane or Memphis football. The Green Wave from New Orleans is 2-5 on the season, and Memphis is 1-6.
As far as C-USA conference play, Tulane has won one and lost two, while the Tigers are 0-3.
So, most of the excitement has to be that the Tiger fans get to go to New Orleans for the game. That in itself is enough to celebrate.
Anywhere in Louisiana is party time on Saturday in the fall, and in New Orleans, the party is on every day of the week
LSU is also taking on Auburn up the road in Baton Rouge this Saturday, so you’d better believe Louisiana will be rockin’.
The Green Wave plays at the Superdome, but that doesn’t prevent partying before and after the game.
The tailgating happens on top of Garage 5 and is promoted by the university on their website.
New Orleans doesn’t have an open container law, but you should do as the locals do when it comes to college sports.
However, the Tulane campus is right in the historic part of New Orleans, and with a 3:30 pm ET start, you can enjoy the after-party, not too far from Bourbon Street, where the party never stops.
15. No. 10 Oregon at Colorado
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Beautiful Boulder, Colorado, nestled in the Rocky Mountains is the site where No. 10 Oregon comes to town to take on the Buffalos.
Colorado was featured in this blog before, but their game was in Denver. So, this is a chance for the fans and students to show the Ducks some fun at home.
There are some rabid fans out in Colorado, and they love their tailgating.
Boulder becomes one big tailgate and has been featured on the Food Network in the past for their tailgating food.
Interestingly enough, one of their favorites is Buffalo Wings, but then they are the Buffaloes after all.
14. Air Force at No. 5 Boise State
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Bronco Stadium, with its blue turf, is something I can never get used to.
But the Boise State fans love it, and it has prompted some other schools to try for turf in their school colors, but Boise State will always be known for theirs.
The game itself will not be much of a matchup, but the hometown fans have got to celebrate their new BCS ranking.
Of course, Idaho residents can’t imagine Bronco football without tailgating.
Like most places, it is an all-day event for serious fans, and this Boise State team is creating more serious fans every week, especially in support of Heisman-hopeful quarterback Kellen Moore.
The students typically party with the alumni, alcohol is no problem, and there is a designated area right across the street from Bronco stadiumthe Alumni parking area where the whole family can enjoy the festivities.
13. No. 15 West Virginia at Syracuse
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Tailgate Larry, legendary host at Morgantown games, will have to travel north to Syracuse to practice his special brand of tailgating for West Virginia.
This could actually be a good game since this is a Big East conference matchup; the Orangemen are 4-2 on the season but 0-1 in the conference.
The Mountaineers, on the other hand, are 5-1 on the season—their only loss to No. 1 LSU. But, they’re undefeated in the conference.
The Syracuse tailgating scene is made up of lots of small tailgates spread throughout the campus. This is due to the Carrier Dome being built in the middle of a cramped campus with little close-by parking.
If you are a visiting fan you can find tailgating/parking options in the University area, but it will be mostly by private vendors.
But, everybody’s got a funnel and beer pong abounds in all the small areas.
I’m sure Tailgate Larry’s Kick ass food and 3-4 cases of cold beer, each, will make it to a small lot, and Mountaineer fans will turn Syracuse on its ear.
12. No. 4 Oklahoma State at Missouri
Oklahoma State is riding high with the undefeated season and a pretty high ranking in the BCS.
The game with Missouri shouldn’t be a problem for the Cowboys, but it is a Big 12 game, and they all carry some weight. And, with Missouri vying to get into the SEC, they surely want to impress.
They already have part of the SEC traditions in place, and that is tailgating.
Tiger fans feature a website, Mizzou Tailgating, where you can check out parking areas, stadium information and other stuff dealing with tailgating.
This is an early game at 12:00 noon ET, so most of the fans in Columbia like to have breakfast foods, such as biscuits, gravy and beer.
This happens at 6:00 a.m., so eggs, bacon and sausage do come out with Bloody Marys too, but the hamburgers and hot dogs get cooked closer to game time.
After all, beer tastes the same at 6:00 a.m. as it does at midnight.
11. Maryland at Florida State
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If you saw Maryland and Clemson last week, I’m sure you know that the Terps are going to bring some game to Tallahassee this Saturday.
The Seminoles, starting out strong, haven’t made it to where they wanted to be, but still have a pretty solid team.
This should be a good game, an ACC matchup, and both teams have 1-2 records in the conference.
Therefore, the party wagons will be rolling in Tallahassee this weekend.
FSU has consistently ranked in the top 20 of 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.
But you can’t beat a burger on your Bobby Bowden grill outside of Bobby Bowden Stadium, and a crowd all doing the tomahawk chop.
10. Boston College at No. 12 Virginia Tech
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This game will probably be a cakewalk for the Hokies. They are 6-1, nationally ranked and 2-1 in the ACC.
Boston College just hasn’t been able to put together much of a winning effort all season, 1-5 on the season and 0-3 in the ACC.
So BC fans can just hang out at the Blacksburg tailgating experience in the beautiful scenic campus of Virginia Tech and enjoy the experience anyway.
Blacksburg is an upscale country college. There are Internet businesses, a robust student body and Starbucks.
Tailgating at Virginia Tech has gotten better in relation to how the team is actually performing, more so every weekend.
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 (quite appropriate) or marinated whole chickens, and grilling is the centerpiece of the VT tailgate.
But for the local fare, Hokie country is barbecue country and the different sauces that make it special.
But beverages are the real backbone of any tailgate.
They call it tailgating with "brown water," also known as bourbon. A fine Kentucky bourbon or Tennessee whisky will certainly get you ready for the game. What game?
9. No. 25 Washington at No. 8 Stanford
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This game creates a critical junction for Stanford’s season.
The Cardinals’ are 6-0, 4-0 in the Pac-12. Washington goes in determined to knock off Stanford, and it’s probably the only game in the Cardinals schedule where that could happen.
The Huskies are also undefeated in the conference, so this game is important to both teams; tailgating just gets everybody all fired up prior to the game.
On the tailgating front, you have to remember this is California, so instead of chips and dip, its garlic fries everywhere.
But the menu doesn’t stop there. How about a Dungeness crab cioppino, paired with a nice dry Barbera from Italy’s Piedmont region. No?
Well, the Stanford crowd is unique, but you’ll also find the typical burger and a beer crowd too.
8. No. 20 Auburn at No. 1 LSU
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Auburn would love to roll into Baton Rouge and knock off LSU.
And, in the SEC, this matchup is a serious rivalry, just as any game in the SEC can be. In other words, anything could happen.
I’m sure the Bengal Tigers are glad to be back in Baton Rouge after traveling to Tennessee last weekend.
The fans love it because they can take advantage of the delicacies that Louisiana cooking offers, a unique experience to the typical tailgating fare.
Crawfish boiling on the grill, crawfish etouffee and other unique Cajun dishes that only the Tiger fans can concoct.
The stadium in Baton Rouge is called Death Valley, and the noise created by the fans even registered on the Richter scale in one Auburn game, many years ago, and you can bet the LSU fans will want to try that one again.
Tulane is at home in New Orleans, which is a short drive to Baton Rouge for this night game and some campus tailgating at LSU. Now that’s a weekend to remember.
7. Texas Tech at No. 3 Oklahoma
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Here’s another one that’s packed with tradition and rivalry.
The Red Raiders from down south in Texas would love to travel to Norman and knock off the Sooners. It could happen.
Either way, it’s still party time in Sooner land, and this is a late game, with kickoff at 8:00 p.m. ET.
What that means is that there is more time for imbibing before kickoff. What kind of condition do you think most will be in by that time?
Just like most schools, the parking lots and fraternity house lawns are fair game for setting up your tailgate party. But keep in mind, the frat boys will probably charge you a fee.
You have a range of food from Oklahoma Chili, to ribs, barbecue, hamburgers and the normal fare.
Also, beer is the drink of choice, as are full bars and tailgating trailers, decorated in Sooner fashion.
Those are a common fixture to the back of most cars coming to the stadium.
6. No. 9 Arkansas at Ole Miss
This is another classic SEC matchup, but this rivalry goes back before the Razorbacks entered the conference.
These neighboring schools first met in 1908 and have played each other 56 times since then.
The fact that current Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt was at Arkansas prior to joining the Rebels has only added to the heat of the contest.
The Grove at Ole Miss is legendary in tailgating lore throughout the country.
Ten acres of green space used as a gathering spot by the students during the week, transforms into a tent city over night for 24 hours of tailgating.
It’s like nothing else in the country, and you’d better check on the dress code before you go.
There are no cutoffs and tee shirts to be seen. This is a social event, and every fall football weekend in Oxford is where people go from tent to tent socializing as only southerners do.
It is a cocktail party atmosphere, so bar food, picnic-style sandwiches and 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.
5. No. 23 Illinois at Purdue
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This Big Ten conference game has both teams very close in the conference but not evenly matched.
Illinois isn’t No. 23 for nothing. They are 6-1 on the season and 2-1 in the conference.
The Boilermakers are 3-3 and 1-1 in the conference, so concentration may be on the tailgating.
Tailgating at Purdue is steeped in tradition as well, and you’ll see black and gold painted vehicles everywhere—their sole purpose as a party wagon.
The beanbag game Cornhole is also the rage, played at almost every spot, and it gets very competitive.
Barbecue pork, wings, pizza, nachos, hot dogs and hamburgers are the typical fare, and for drinks, well they are the Boilermakers after all, so whiskey with a beer chaser or vice versa.
After awhile, it really doesn’t matter.
4. No. 11 Kansas State at Kansas
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In-state rivalries are always some of the best tailgating experiences, mainly because it’s clearly a two-school event with both sides bringing it.
Both schools are in the Big-12, and Kansas is 0-3 in conference play, 2-4 on the season overall.
But, having the Kansas bragging rights is something that throws records and rankings out the window.
Check out this video about the tailgating experience at Kansas, 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 rivals will definitely have a good time Saturday, although it would probably be a good idea for them to party in separate corners.
3. North Carolina at No. 7 Clemson
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This is Clemson’s homecoming game, so you can imagine how important this is to the alumni, making the trek over to the campus for the game.
The party atmosphere will take on a new importance as well.
On gameday in Clemson, South Carolina, it's acres and acres of tents, tables, southern hospitality and a sea of orange with Tiger paw prints in some beautiful southern scenery.
Like Oxford, the dress code usually calls for sundresses, khakis, polo shirts and rarely do you see jeans.
But, this weekend, it will probably be fleece, hats and gloves. A cold front just came through in time for the weekend.
That’s OK; it just feels more like college football weather.
The food is dressed up too, with table clothes, platters of wings, shrimp, fried chicken, silverware and not the typical tailgating plastic.
Early on Saturday morning, treat yourself to screwdrivers, mimosas and Yuengling or Bud Light. It’s OK; this is college gameday, and the perfect excuse to part with decorum.
And, this is a college campus, so beer pong tables are everywhere.
As in most southern schools, the fraternities are all together on a quad, so this gathering quickly becomes a frat party, and there are usually live bands and repeatedly the Tiger yell.
2. Tennessee at No. 2 Alabama
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This is a storied rivalry in the SEC, and perhaps the country. It was so regular and looked forward to it was dubbed “the third Saturday in October.”
It’s sort of a technicality that it’s actually on the fourth Saturday in October this year, which matters little.
This is an important game to both teams, even though Tennessee probably has little chance against the Crimson Tide on their home turf.
This rivalry is steeped in so much tradition that has probably faded in importance due to the lack of performance on the part of Tennessee over the last few years.
But the history is worth mentioning.
The first game between the two was played in Birmingham, AL, in 1901. Since then, they have played each other 93 times, Bama leading the series 47-38-7. Pretty close isn’t it?
But, enough about that; we’re tailgating and the Tuscaloosa campus is famous for that. The rivalry only adds some juice to an already intense gameday.
Fraternities and their houses are famous 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.
You may see some orange sprinkled in amongst them, because the Volunteer fans will make the trip for this game.
Most of the setups have their own generators, satellite dishes, big screen TVs and a banquet lavish enough for any holiday gathering; and this qualifies.
There is the usual case of beer and the occasion keg, hidden in the RV, but the dress is like I mentioned about Ole Miss and the Grove; no jeans, dressing up like it was covered dish supper at church. But church it ain’t. Things can get a little crazy around kickoff.
So on the fourth Saturday in October, be prepared for a good time in Bama.
1. No. 6 Wisconsin at No. 16 Michigan State
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Last week, Michigan State hosted their cross-state rival and upset the Wolverines in the classic Michigan, Michigan State game.
This week, the Spartans host the crew from ESPN College GameDay, and the excitement for this game is just as high as a cross-state rivalry.
These teams are both undefeated in Big Ten play at 2-0 each, and they both want to knock each other off to remove and maintain a BCS ranking.
But imagine the attention of a national audience two weeks in a row, not to mention the excitement of two key games in a row. Good times are to be had by all.
It’s a typical tailgating setting with grills, brats, beer and beanbags that brings tailgating to bear on East Lansing, Michigan.
You can also take advantage of several alumni groups that set up group get-togethers on campus just to add to the camaraderie, for both schools this weekend, since Wisconsin is a short drive over.
The Badger fans will definitely want to share in this game, only adding to the numbers and a great party.