College Football Rankings: Week 9's 20 Best Games for Tailgating

Russ Stanton@overtheedgenowContributor IIIOctober 26, 2011

College Football Rankings: Week 9's 20 Best Games for Tailgating

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    What a shuffle in the BCS rankings after last weekend, huh?

    Oklahoma losing to Texas Tech was a shocker, and West Virginia losing to Syracuse, Purdue beating Illinois, Michigan State improving their ranking by taking out Wisconsin and a few squeakers along the way.

    Needless to say, at this point in the season, the rankings go through a lot of upheaval week to week.

    Thank goodness there is stability in the tailgating sections of our universities. The party intensity is maintained week after week with very little fluctuation.

    So far, we have covered 66 different university tailgating experiences. This week, we look at two colleges that we haven’t covered before, Rutgers and Minnesota.

    For all the schools, whether in the tailgate ranking or not, the games have more meaning and the partying level follows right along with the intensities of the matchups.

    So come with me now, to the rankings of Week 9 and some superior tailgating.

20. Navy at Notre Dame

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    This has got to be a cool tailgating experience with the midshipmen coming into South Bend, Indiana.

    The prestige of the two schools alone must mean that the party will be somewhat upscale, although the Navy boys, not necessarily the Annapolis version, have been known to break up a bar or two when on leave.

    I’m only going by what I see in the movies, so don’t take any offense at that last thing.

    Notre Dame is actually the perfect tailgating venue for this matchup since, as I understand they do not muster a raucous tailgate experience at Notre Dame anyway.

    The school does have some rigid rules when it comes to tailgating, and 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 this weekend before Halloween, expect more Leprechauns than usual handing out candy.

    Flower arrangements will be everywhere and the whole scene is a bit more stoic than what you’ll see down south.

    I just had to put this game in, because it will be quite a meeting between closely matched independents.

19. Iowa at Minnesota

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    This is Minnesota’s first time in the tailgating top 20, and they made it here by virtue of a Big Ten game and an interstate rivalry with Iowa.

    They certainly didn’t make it because of the football record, which is 1-6 overall and 0-3 in the conference.

    But, in a rivalry between two states that have a lot to say about each other, throw out the stats and the records, this is for braggin’ rights.

    Tailgating at U of M is allowed in designated areas, and certain areas are alcohol free, so if you’re thinking of imbibing, you should check the website to get accurate information about where and what you can have.

    But, basically you can start six hours before the game, but no earlier than 7:00 A.M., and you must be done four hours after the game.

    That is plenty of time to grill up some brats on the grill, or breakfast food and down a few beers in the meantime. 

18. Colorado at No. 21 Arizona State

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    This is a Pac-12 contest, but don’t expect much of a game. Arizona State is 5-2 overall, 3-1 in the conference, and Colorado is struggling to say the least.

    The Buffaloes were able to put up only 2 points against No. 9 Oregon last week, and so far they haven’t posed a threat to anyone with their 1-7 overall record, plus they are winless in their conference.

    But tailgating at Arizona State has become an experience starting with the USC game a few weeks back.

    It's called the Sun Devil Club Game Day Experience, and it attempts to duplicate the typical tailgating experience of other college campuses.

    What, they didn’t tailgate like other colleges before?

    The new tailgate experience features live entertainment, big screen TVs, a Kids Zone, misting areas (it’s still hot in Arizona) throughout the venue, food and beverage available for purchase. And, it’s free of charge to the general public, except for the food and beer you have to buy.

    But there is more, including private cabanas for $2,500, which include a full living room area, flat screen TV with satellite and a private outdoor patio.

    Now that’s partying five hours before the game at a cushy level, but for the Colorado fans, a Buffalo burger and a beer will be just fine.

17. Mississippi State at Kentucky

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    How much more evenly matched can two teams get than the Bulldogs and the Wildcats?

    Both have identical records at 3-4, both are winless in the SEC and both have a little something to prove, to be honest. 

    This should actually be a good game, and one of these teams will come out of it with a conference win.

    Kentucky tailgating appears to center around Kegs, at least it seems to be a theme running through the typical setup.

    This is a 7:00 P.M. Eastern Time kickoff, which will give everyone plenty of time for lubrication prior to the start of the game.

    And, like Tennessee, don’t be surprised to see some Kentucky bourbon making an appearance just before kickoff, or earlier depending on your preference. 

16. No. 5 Clemson at Georgia Tech

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    At the time we last saw Georgia Tech in this tailgating ranking, the Yellow Jackets were ranked at No. 13 in the AP poll. My, how the season doth rattle and roll.

    Still Georgia Tech has a decent team, but the Clemson Tigers have so many ways to beat you on offense.  There’s a reason they are undefeated and have moved up the rankings, a total surprise considering the preseason.

    Still, look for a good, close ACC conference game.

    Partying in Atlanta is a unique experience, a little cumbersome, unless you have your own digs, like GT.

    They have their own grounds for most of the tailgating, unlike having to navigate areas around the Georgia Dome like the Georgia Bulldogs have to do when in town.

    The Yellow Jackets have their own field, their own campus and a history in football and tailgating that goes back a century or more.

    If you’re in town, don’t forget the legendary Varsity. They have the best hamburgers, onion rings and milk shakes you can get your hands on, and it’s right on what is considered the Tech campus.

    The Varsity is across I-85 from the stadium, but there’s plenty of time since this is an 8:00 P.M. Eastern Time kickoff.

15. Illinois at No. 19 Penn State

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    This is another conference game, and these two teams have a lot at stake, at least in the Big Ten.

    Joe Paterno’s Nittany Lions have only lost one game, and that was to undefeated No. 2 Alabama earlier in the season. They are undefeated in Big-Ten play and 7-1 overall.

    And, the BCS has honored them with a No. 19 ranking, unlike the AP poll which shunned the Nittany Lions completely from any top 25 rank.

    Penn State just takes stuff like that in stride, and figures it will all work out in the end.

    Their opponent this week, the Fighting Illini, was once ranked, but fell out of favor in their last two losses to Purdue and Ohio State. Those are their only two losses on the season, I should mention.

    As far as tailgating is concerned, to quote PennStateTailgate.com

    “It is a sea of tens of thousands of people, eating, drinking, cooking, smoking, laughing, singing, and dancing. It is throwing a football, predicting the outcome, talking with the opposing school’s fans, posing for pictures, getting paws painted on your face, saying “I remember when…” and hoping it doesn’t have to end in November.”

    For the 3:30 P.M. Eastern Time kickoff, their menu for the game stays pretty much the same.

    They start early, so bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches, hash browns, sausages, Baileys and coffee, and mimosas start the day.  Beer fills in the remainder, and Captain Morgan caps off the evening.

    This is a great way to start a Saturday for game day in Happy Valley in yet another of the Big Ten conference games.

14. No. 25 West Virginia at Rutgers

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    Rutgers makes their first entry to the Tailgating top 20, going up against the nationally ranked West Virginia Mountaineers.

    Both are in the Big East Conference and the Scarlet Knights are one up on WV at 2-1 in the conference versus 1-1 for the Mountaineers.

    Still, both are 5-2 overall, and they’re playing at Rutgers’ home in New Brunswick, New Jersey, halfway up the state near New York City.

    The prime tailgating lots around the stadium do require a season ticket and a parking pass, but there are plenty of free lots around.

    This is the land of the No.1 sandwich in America, according to Maxim Magazine.

    You can find this elusive sandwich at the "grease trucks". That is where you will find the Fat Darrell. You will also find a number of other "fat" sandwiches on this truck.

    Just head to the main campus and travel along College Avenue until you see a hoard of college kids gathered around a grease truck. Bring your own antacids!

13. No. 10 Arkansas at Vanderbilt

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    Early in the season, Vandy shocked everyone by knocking off Ole Miss. But then Ole Miss shocked everyone by being the lackluster team of the SEC.

    Vandy did put up a battle against all their opponents, and it's not expected for them to lay down for the Hogs.

    But Arkansas has such a strong offense, there’s no wonder they are No. 10 in the BCS.

    Tailgating at Vanderbilt can be a little tough considering this is an urban setting in Nashville.

    But, this is southern urban, so bring your BBQ, or buy it there, and there are still areas around the campus where you can park your RV.

    The great thing about Vanderbilt is that it is a very wet university, so there are no worries there.

    And, it is Tennessee, so get you some sippin’ whiskey like the Volunteer neighbors and you’ll be all set.

    The Vandy tailgaters probably learned a thing or two from the Georgia fans when they were up with the Gridiron Punch and Mint Julep Jelly Shots.

12. Baylor at No. 3 Oklahoma State

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    Oklahoma State has come out of nowhere to their current ranking of No. 3 in the BCS.

    This is quite a reversal of fortune for their cross-state brothers Oklahoma, who were No. 3 just last week, but moved to No. 9 after losing to Texas Tech.

    We’ll see if it goes to the Cowboys’ head in their game with interstate rival Baylor.

    I’m sure the party will be underway in Stillwater, Okla., as the Cowboys and Cowgirls take to the campus in the traditions of tailgating there.

    Dressing up just a tad is expected as long as it’s orange, but I doubt you’ll get the fashion police on you.

    Parking lots open six hours ahead of kickoff, four hours for morning or early afternoon games, so note that this games starts at 3:30 P.M. Eastern Time, 2:30 Oklahoma time. You probably should check ahead of time just to be sure.

    Everything else goes, including grilling, although they have restricted grilling to designated areas due to wildfire potential.

    But alcohol consumption is completely allowed as long as you’re 21.

11. Purdue at No. 18 Michigan

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    This is another Big Ten conference matchup in which both teams have a 2-1 record, but Michigan is carrying the better team at 6-1 overall.

    Their loss to cross-state rival Michigan State is still stinging them, I'm sure.

    Still, it’s Purdue and Michigan; tradition is dripping from both of them with programs that go back more than a century.

    Tailgating tradition in Ann Arbor is usually dripping something else, but it goes back generations too, and the Wolverine faithful have been on the road for the last two weeks, so they are truly ready for some home front tailgatin’, Big Blue Style.

    Kickoff is at 12:00 P.M. Eastern Time, which means more of a party after the game than before, although you never know.  Time has no meaning in the tailgating world.

    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, or the morning in Ann Arbor.

10. Missouri at No. 16 Texas A&M

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    It’s another Big 12 conference matchup at Kyle Field on the campus of Texas A&M. But then tailgating anywhere in Texas is going to be some kind of party.

    These Aggies are seasoned tailgaters as this is the sixth tailgating experience for the fans of A&M, and they are coming off a three-game winning streak, laying down Texas Tech, Baylor and Iowa State in fine fashion.

    They’re No. 16 for a reason.

    But this is the Big 12 and Missouri would still like to impress the SEC committee, but they have a long way to go with their 3-4 record, 1-3 in the Big-12.

    At A&M, they love their tailgating and they have a website to make sure it’s orderly.

    It’s mostly rules and regs, but this is 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.

    Otherwise, the Aggies are actually planning for increased tailgating, preparing to go over the top, since they will be joining the SEC next year, all champions at All-Star tailgating. 

9. North Carolina State at Florida State

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    Florida State may have turned a corner, beating Maryland last week in a big way, 41-16.

    But when they play NC State, these two teams are pretty close, if records say anything.

    They both have two losses in the ACC, and this is another conference matchup that means more as the season goes along.

    But for Tallahassee this weekend, it’s party time; the remainder of the season will take care of itself.

    FSU is always a top tier tailgating school, and is usually ranked highly in the country that way.

    The warm weather and the friendly southern student body are some sure reasons why.

    As with any southern event, there's plenty of barbecue, burgers and kegs to go around. 

8. No. 11 Michigan State at No. 14 Nebraska

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    This is going to be more than a Big Ten matchup. This is Nebraska’s time to show if they have it or not.

    They’ve only lost one game and that was to a highly ranked Wisconsin, who lost to Michigan State last week.

    It surely would send the right message if the Huskers beat the Spartans.

    The Cornhuskers have one of the best and most loyal fanbases in the country. Legendary Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden called them “the best fans in college football.”

    I think they’ve got one of the best menus too, with corn on the cob, brisket, corn-fed beef, barbecued beef, sirloin sandwiches, all on the grill. Yum, Yum!

    It’s not your typical tailgating experience since alcohol is prohibited around or close to the stadium.

    But, there’s always a way, as long as the faithful can be patient and flexible.

    In the case of Nebraska, fans setup their grills and libations in designated areas at the other end of a pedestrian bridge or underneath the highway overpass for the underground griller.

    You can also be sneaky with opaque plastic cups being the order of the day, especially around some of the RVs or campers.

    Some have elaborate setups with TVs, full bars with taps, and Bloody Marys are the norm up until about 11:00 A.M., or longer depending on your preference, and kickoff time.

7. Kansas at No. 24 Texas

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    When Kansas comes to Austin, there shouldn’t be much worry about the Jayhawks taking down the Longhorns.

    Although Texas is struggling to keep their head above the Big 12 race at 1-2 in the conference; Kansas is doing much worse.

    So, we’re placing them at No. 7 in the Tailgating ranking, just because it’s done so well in Texas. And just being in Austin is reason enough to celebrate.

    These Texans take tailgating quite seriously, and they have several websites devoted to the subject. Here’s a great video that visually gets the picture across as to just exactly what happen at Texas tailgates.  

    This week, with a 7:00 P.M. Eastern Time kickoff, there's plenty of time to get properly prepared for the game.

    The tradition of tailgating tells you that anytime on a tailgating weekend is good to start the beer flowing, and this is Texas, a land where a beer on Saturday morning is not only justified, it's required. 

6. No. 13 South Carolina at Tennessee

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    Tennessee is licking their wounds after a shellacking at the hands of No. 2 Alabama last week.

    No. 13 South Carolina, on the other hand, is making a statement in its last few games, 6-1 on the season, after a shaky start, their only loss coming to No. 23 Auburn.

    Their shakeup at quarterback seems to be where they have shored up some of the problem, while losing their star RB Marcus Lattimore for the season.

    Still, it’s the SEC and Tennessee could bring on an upset, we’ll just have to see

    Meanwhile, the tailgating at UT couldn’t get any better. The air will be crisp in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains, getting into the 30s before the game ends.

    Neyland stadium is on the campus of Tennessee and the scenery is spectacular, but the stadium has another distinction, unique to the southeast.

    The stadium sits right on the Tennessee River, so on game day the river is crowded with boaters having their own tailgate afloat in front of the stadium. It will not matter that temps will be lower, there will still be boaters coming to the game.

    There are docks and water shuttles, so that the boaters can make it to the stadium for kickoff.

    The Bourbon comes out shortly after a couple of rounds of Bloody Marys.

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

    Calvados, or Apple Moonshine, is another delicacy of the area, and this is always homemade of course, in the tradition of Smoky Mountain moonshiners.

5. Ole Miss at No. 23 Auburn

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    I’m not too sure where to put the Auburn Tigers, but I’d imagine that their BCS ranking comes from the fact that their only losses have come from the No. 1, No. 5 and the No. 10 teams.

    Even though Ole Miss has been sluggish and sporadic this year, this is an SEC rivalry between these two teams, and anyone can tell you that SEC games mean a lot, especially if you are part of the original SEC.

    The Auburn Tigers have come off a very hard road loss to LSU and the fans are in need of lettin’ loose for a change.

    But a win would get the Tigers to 6-3, and poised better for a bowl game and yet another party.

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

    RVs 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 and make you wonder why you would ever go home.

    These RV folks usually 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 Ole Miss game kickoff is at 7:00 P.M. Eastern Time start, there’s 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. 15 Wisconsin at Ohio State

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    Wisconsin is looking to redeem themselves after the really tough loss last week to Michigan State.

    Ohio State is just trying to make it through the season, and any chance at a Big Ten win would be a feather in their hat.

    And, there is hope for the remainder of the season, and the OSU tailgating faithful fans rally their red tents in one the many parking lots, and then turn the parking lots into giant outdoor bars.

    Or, you could make friends with one of the many groups who have their own buckeye-fashioned school bus.  There are plenty of them around. 

    The best tailgating at Ohio State happens a little bit away from the stadium, across the river near the basketball and track stadiums.

    That’s where you’ll find the most variety, and probably some unique approaches to imbibing and eating.

    Typically, they’ll serve breakfast with your Bloody Mary, and then chili, brats, pork, hot wings and so on.

    You might as well make the most of the circumstances presented to you.

    Tailgating at OSU is a great circumstance to be presented.

3. No. 9 Oklahoma at No. 8 Kansas State

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    This is one of those tailgating opportunities that also has an incredible game attached to it.

    No. 9 team playing the No. 8 team? We’ve had that kind of contest a few times this year, and it always is a barn burner.

    Oklahoma is still stinging from losing to Texas Tech last week, and Kansas State has a lot to protect with their undefeated record.

    And, it’s a Big 12 conference game.

    With a 3:30 Eastern Time kickoff and I’m sure they’re hoping for something to celebrate after the game.

    Accordingly, Kansas State tailgating soirees are legendary.

    You’ll see purple-painted faces, cars with banners and people teetering on stilts.

    That sounds like a circus.

    They sometimes gear the menu toward their opponent.

    For instance, if they’re playing Colorado, they eat Buffalo. If it’s Texas, then they eat steak. I guess it’s like consuming your opponent.

    But, what is a Sooner and what food could represent a Sooner. I’ll have to get back to you on that one.

    One different menu item I came across was Quick and Easy Crustless Quiche. Really?

    Something tells me there will be burgers, dogs and beer too.

2. No. 22 Georgia at Florida (Jacksonville, FL)

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    This game is referred to as the Georgia–Florida Football Classic. Next year, it will be the Florida–Georgia Football Classic. It has to do with who the home team is.

    This year, it’s Florida, and the game itself has been going on almost every year since 1915.

    Since 1933, it has been played at a neutral spot, specifically Jacksonville, Florida.

    This game is huge in terms of rivalry, and the fans really don’t like each other very much, thus the neutral arena.

    But things are always hostile. The tailgating at this classic matchup is legendary itself.

    In fact, the event has been nicknamed, “The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party”

    Need I say more?

    That name sticks with the fans of both schools, although officials are trying to distance themselves due to a need to curtail drinking in Jacksonville.

    But it still sticks today as one of the most outrageous tailgating experiences of the season. 

1. No. 6 Stanford at USC

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    What a game this has turned out to be. Stanford is the No. 6 team and USC is unranked, at least in the BCS, this is true. They are ranked in the AP Top 25 at No. 20, but that is for another article to debate.

    However, this is for the California bragging rights, Northern Cal versus Southern Cal, and the Pac 12 is also watching since this is a conference game.

    And, USC is nursing a two-years-in-a-row beating they have taken from the Cardinal of Stanford.

    Revenge is in the air. But, fortunately for us, so are the smells of a variety of foods from all over.

    Also, did I mention that ESPN College GameDay will be at the Coliseum, so the excitement will be in the air over that too.

    In typical Southern California style, the weather this weekend is supposed to be spectacular, but cooler than normal in the mid 70s, and the fall temperatures just makes it feel like football season. Well, maybe not so much in LA.

    When it comes to imbibing at a Trojan tailgate party, the USC fans are a bit more upscale with bottles of wine, premium or imported beers, and when its time to do shots, its not the bar brand tequila, its Patron.

    I had one fan comment on this column a few weeks ago that they’d rather have a 500-dollar bottle of chardonnay than a 2-dollar beer anytime; Fight On!!