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College Football Rankings: Best Games for Tailgating in Week 11

Russ StantonContributor IIINovember 10, 2011

College Football Rankings: Best Games for Tailgating in Week 11

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    After the happenings at Penn State this week, tailgating at all campuses will be stirred up with conversation about what happened to Joe Paterno.

    But whether you agree or disagree with that big news, you have to admit that a pall has been cast over college football on many levels.

    But this article is not intended to be a downer, so if you'll indulge me, it’s still time to get the party going, as we only have a few weeks left in regulation, so to speak.

    Where did the time go? 

    Wow, the so-called "Game of the Century" last weekend between LSU and Alabama was a nail biter, wasn’t it? After awhile it seemed that the first team to score a touchdown would win the game, but that just didn’t happen.

    And then there were the upsets that make each week more exciting than the others, and we had a few last week.

    This weekend will be no different, as we have some classic conference matchups, as well as BCS conflicts that will help resolve more questions come Sunday night in the new rankings.

    So far this season, we have covered over 75 different college venues for tailgating, so there are bound to be some repeats, but then some do it better than others week after week, just like on the field.

20. No. 25 Baylor at Kansas

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    Kansas takes on Baylor in a Big 12 contest that really doesn’t offer much hope for the Jayhawks.

    They’re winless in the conference and have only won two games so far.

    Yes, anything can happen on the field these days, but the best for Kansas may be in the parking lot.

    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 grilling, eating and drinking.

    Whatever the outcome, these fans will definitely have a good time Saturday, and it is a 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time kickoff, so there’s plenty of time for a good party before the game.

19. Ohio State at Purdue

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    After the Buckeyes' big loss to Wisconsin last week, they will be looking for some redemption on the gridiron, that’s for sure.

    The Boilermakers are just one conference win away from breaking even in the Big Ten, so it’s an important game for them as well, especially at home. Both teams have a storied tradition in terms of football history, too.

    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 in today’s football arena and played at almost every spot. It gets very competitive at Purdue.

    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.

18. Kentucky at Vanderbilt

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    Both teams have identical records at 4-5, almost identical SEC records, each team having only one win.

    However, Vandy is still double-digit favorites and should be able to get to a bowl game this year, so every win counts, and they’ve been on their game more this season than usual. Expect them to bring it.

    All the more reason for there to be an up attitude around the Commodore campus, especially when it comes to the party.

    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, 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 a few weeks back when they were up in Nashville, with the Gridiron Punch and Mint Julep Jelly Shots.

17. No. 17 Michigan State at Iowa

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    This is a Big Ten game between two teams that are pretty close in the conference. You might be able to sound the upset alert for Iowa, who can play some pretty good football at home.

    The tailgating outside Kinnick stadium in Iowa City actually starts Friday night on the property outside the stadium.

    The Hawkeyes actually made it to No. 9 in the Playboy 2009 Top 10 Party Schools.

    However, since then, some fairly stringent drinking rules have been applied. Somehow, I don’t think they are applied too heavily.

    They also seem to have a robust pong society, and tables are available in many locations, branded with the Iowa logo.

    Both schools have a tradition of tailgating, and you can bet Michigan State will bring their style to share.

16. No. 24 Michigan at Illinois

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    This game could be an offensive thriller, with two of the best dual-threat quarterbacks to take the field.

    Michigan’s Denard Robinson and Illinois’ Nathan Scheelhaase are Big Ten's No. 2 and No. 1 respectively in total yards, and both remember last year’s triple overtime Michigan win, 67-65, so this could be another nail-biter.

    But, this is in Champaign, Ill., so the Illini fanbase will be out to at least win the pre and postgame party.

    This is the land of beer, and it seems that only beer will do. They play beer-pong, as do others at colleges all over the country, and even though October is over, Oktoberfest Marzen beers should still be 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.

    In the end, it’s Hail to the Orange at a 2:30 Central Time start; there’s plenty of opportunity to get revved up for an offensive battle.

15. Miami (FL) at Florida State

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    This is an ACC matchup between two teams that need a conference win to stay even a little bit alive.

    Florida State is on the redemption road after a very shaky start and the early season loss of stellar quarterback E.J. Manuel, who’s back now leading the team on a four-game winning streak in the previous weeks.

    Therefore, the party wagons will be rolling in Tallahassee once again this week, and FSU has consistently ranked in the top 20 tailgating schools in the country for years on end.

    There's always plenty of barbecue, burgers and kegs to go around, and in the land of Bobby Bowden, his name will be everywhere, including the Bobby Bowden grills outside of Bobby Bowden Stadium. 

14. Louisiana Tech at Ole Miss

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    Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt is on his way out at the end of the season, and this weekend marks the beginning of the end for the Nutt program.

    Louisiana Tech has won four straight and needs one more win to qualify for a bowl game, so there may be more fire on the Bulldogs side than for Ole Miss.

    Don’t discount the Rebels going down fighting in this, potentially their last win for the season.

    But in the south, with disappointing times comes a time to forget your woes with a hellacious party.

    Maybe you’ve read about The Grove in this column the last few weeks, 10 acres of green space that transforms into a tent city overnight for 24 hours of tailgating?

    Socially, this will be the place for the Ole Miss faithful to congregate this Saturday and debate the fortune of their future football program.

13. Washington at USC

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    USC has been playing some great football in the last few weeks, the best probably against undefeated No. 4 Stanford in the Trojans’ triple-overtime loss.

    The Washington Huskies likewise have been playing well and have an identical Pac-12 record with USC at 4-2. So, this game means a lot out west.

    Tailgating outside the Coliseum is a bit more upscale than in most college venues.

    When it comes to tipping back the glass, the USC fans do have Bud Light, but more often, you’ll see bottles of wine, premium or imported beers, and when it's time to do shots, it's not the bar brand tequila; it's Patron.

    And, because of such a diverse ethnic population, the food is a smorgasbord of every flavor under the sun. You’ll see lamb on spits, tacos, enchiladas and many other exotic foods, along with the usual chicken, ribs, burgers and dogs.

    Now that the rest of the country is freezing, it’s always sunny in Southern California.

12. No. 18 Wisconsin at Minnesota

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    The Golden Gophers haven’t had much of a season at 2-7 overall and one win in the Big Ten.

    After two losses, Wisconsin regrouped in last week’s conference win over Purdue, 62-17.  They once climbed into the top 10 earlier in the season, but dropped to its current No. 18 position after the losses.

    But this is one of the longest running rivalries in FBS, and the neighboring states don’t have much nice to say about each other outside of football season, either.

    Just get them talking about the Packer-Viking game, and you could end up with a fight.

    So, don’t count on the records to mean too much, as both would rather have the interstate bragging rights the rest of the year.

    Considering that Madison, Wisc. is not that far from the Twin Cities, this should be a dual-school tailgating event where almost anything will go.

    Lots of beer will ensue, so you can probably expect some heated verbal exchanges, if not a few disorderly conduct arrests between the two.

11. Florida at No. 13 South Carolina

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    Quarterbacks have been the issue at both schools almost all season, some injury and some behavior.

    But both will have their starters back this week, and this is an SEC game, South Carolina trying to stay in the race for the East, and Florida trying to redeem its season. 

    The Gamecocks have been out of town for the last three weekends, so it will be a pleasure to be back home, in Columbia, SC.

    Have you ever heard of the Cockabooses? Well, if you’ve read this column when South Carolina was at home, you should have. They are unique to the world of tailgating, so I’m going to tell you again.

    Twenty-two cabooses line a railroad track just outside of Williams-Brice Stadium that were 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 such as running water, cable television, air conditioning/heating and a living room that highlights every Cockaboose.

    Many are wired with closed-circuit television to watch Gamecock away games if you can’t make the trip.

    It's different, it's unique and there's nothing else like it in the nation for tailgating.

10. Rutgers at Army: Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NY

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    Fuhgetaboutit!

    This has got to be the unique game of the year in college football, bringing the Scarlet Knights against the Black Knights at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx.

    Distance wise, the location is roughly halfway between New Brunswick, NJ and West Point, NY, so there may be some heavy tailgating going on for the game.

    But, there is precious, if any, space around Yankee Stadium, and I’m not sure you’d want to do that anyway in that neighborhood.

    It would be a great road trip for both schools to frequent some of the sports bars around the stadium, or take the D train from midtown Manhattan before the game and then grab a great meal or a show after the game back downtown.

    The kickoff is at 3:30 p.m. Eastern Time.

9. No. 3 Alabama at Mississippi State

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    Alabama is coming off the loss of "Game of the Century," their first and only loss, taking them out of the No. 2 spot.

    Still, it only dropped them one point in the rankings, so some still have faith, maybe for a rematch.

    Mississippi State, on the other hand, has not had the kind of season all had hoped for, especially in the SEC, where they have only one win.

    But, both teams have been here before; in fact, 94 times.

    They started playing each other back in 1896, and it is considered a rivalry since both schools are so close to each other. It has been dubbed the “90 Mile Drive” or the “Battle for Highway 82.”

    The Bulldogs have proven to be the spoiler for the Crimson Tide before, in 2007 after a Tide loss to LSU, so anything can happen in the SEC.

    The Junction is the still the hot spot to tailgate for Mississippi State fans, considered the quintessential MSU Tailgating Experience. Visiting fans are always welcome, although in terms of the Tide, that might be stretching it.

    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.

    If you can’t make it to The Junction, watch the action from the live webcam and see what you missed.

8. Tennessee at No. 8 Arkansas

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    Arkansas is improving with each week, and their offense is one of the most impressive in the country.

    There is a scenario that could have the Razorbacks in a three-way tie for the SEC West, which means they would have to beat LSU later this season, and Alabama would win the remainder of their schedule.

    That said, it’s doubtful Arkansas will give up anything against Tennessee, which means the fans are going to be on fire in the stadium and out in the tailgating areas.

    As in most of the SEC towns, Arkansas provides the usual parking lot style on a first-come, first-served basis.

    But there is also The Gardens, a beautiful park setting where you can bring your stuff and tailgate in comfort.

    It’s quite similar to the legendary Grove over at Ole Miss, where the Southern charm drips from the trees.

    As convenience would have it, it’s a short walk to the liquor store for liquor, beer and ice.

    You’ll have to remember that there are strict open container laws in most of the south, except for New Orleans; just remember the plastic cup, opaque recommended, and in Fayetteville, Ark., I would recommend Hog Red, not Volunteer Orange.

7. Texas A&M at No. 14 Kansas State

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    Kansas State lost their last two games, both Big 12 contests, which certainly didn’t help their conference standings.

    A win by Texas A&M would put the Aggies even in the conference, so they have everything to gain, including bowl consideration.

    Still, the Wildcats love where they’ve come from and even more where they could be headed in the postseason, so the fans will be more than stoked for a party pre and postgame.

    With a 3:30 Eastern Time kickoff, I’m sure they’re hoping for something to celebrate in both.

    Kansas State tailgating parties are legendary.

    You’ll see purple-painted faces, cars in banners and people teetering on stilts, a real circus-like atmosphere.

    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. 

    I have no idea what would constitute an Aggie; maybe something vegetarian.

6. TCU at No. 5 Boise State

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    This game comes with everything blue; blue field, blue uniforms, but don’t count on the Horned Frogs leaving blue.

    TCU is 4-0 in the MWC conference to Boise State’s 3-0. Yes, the Broncos are undefeated at 8-0, but the Frogs are only 7-2, having played one more game than the boys in blue.

    Considering their equality in schedules, this could be the one that got away from the Broncos.

    Like most places, it is an all-day event for serious fans, and ranked No. 5, this Boise State team is making more serious fans every week, especially in support of Heisman hopeful Kellen Moore, and some love from the BCS.

    The students typically party with the alumni, alcohol is no problem and there is a designated area right across the street from Bronco stadium, the Alumni parking area where the whole family can enjoy the festivities, providing you’re 21.

5. No. 19 Nebraska at No. 12 Penn State

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    What can you say after the things that transpired in State College, Penn. this week?

    One week after his historic win to take him to the most all-time wins for a head coach, no one ever expected to have coach Joe Paterno fired.

    It’s anyone’s guess what that will do to the crowd at Happy Valley, a name that bears no resemblance to the circumstances, on so many levels.

    My guess is that the Nittany Lion fans will choose to celebrate the career of Joe Pa rather than dwell on the occurrences, and you can bet there will be plenty of debate on both sides of the argument.

    I’ll also guess that there will be more of a presence of law enforcement, considering the initial reaction of the student body.

    I’m not going to dwell too much on the tailgating experience at Penn State, just that the game should be a good one, although the Nittany Lions are on a roll.

    Don’t count on them to let their former head coach down by any stretch of the imagination.  It’s just not the way they were coached, nor how he would want them to play.

    You can count on Penn State to take it to the Cornhuskers tough, as they will the remainder of their schedule.

4. No. 2 Oklahoma State at Texas Tech

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    Oklahoma State is certainly turning heads, as they have been for quite a few weeks.

    There is little doubt that the Red Raiders shouldn’t pose a threat to the Cowboys, unless there is an upset, which could happen down there in Lubbock

    There’s excitement for that kind of upset to happen, and you can bet the Texas Tech fans will be partying before and after the game, gearing up all hope.

    Anywhere you go in Texas is going to be a wild time around football. This video explains the Red Raiders’ way of doing things better than I could ever explain.

3. No. 10 Virginia Tech at No. 21 Georgia Tech (Thursday Night)

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    By the time you read this, the game may already be in the history books, but as the season gets older, count on big matchups like this to make it to Thursday night, and thus, the top 20 of tailgating.

    Georgia Tech is still trying to contend for the ACC, and both teams are closely matched.

    As far as the party is concerned, expect the Hokies to bring their own to Atlanta, which should make a fine time, although not too friendly.

    Partying in Atlanta is a unique experience, but at Georgia Tech, they have their own grounds for most of the tailgating and for the game.

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

2. No. 20 Auburn at No. 15 Georgia

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    This is the oldest rivalry in the Deep South, going back to 1892.

    This Saturday will mark the 115th game played between the two schools, and the feelings between them run almost as high as those of Auburn and Alabama.

    Auburn got their War Eagle battle cry from that very first game back in 1892, when a former Civil War soldier had a pet eagle at the game. It got loose and circled the field.

    At the same time, Auburn started doing well, and the students pointed skyward and yelled, “War Eagle.” 

    Needless to say, there are many other traditions between the two schools that run deep emotionally and will add to the game. Losing is not an option for either team.

    A win for either team has huge implications in the conference and on the bowl scene.

    As far as tailgating is concerned, Georgia is legendary.

    Classes mostly exist at Georgia to take up time in between games and tailgates. There's more truth to that than you know.

    The University website even states that tailgating is one of the “factors used to attract future freshmen and transfer students from all over the country.”

1. No. 7 Oregon at No. 4 Stanford

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    As far as the game is concerned, this is a big one in the Pac-12 and in each team’s season.

    Oregon has one loss, to No. 1 LSU, but is undefeated in the conference. Stanford is undefeated in both categories.

    As to the game, it should be an offensive show for sure.

    As ESPN.com said it, “Power vs. Speed, Luck vs. LaMichael”, referring to Heisman Trophy hopeful Stanford QB Andrew Luck and Oregon’s stellar RB LaMichael James.

    On top of that, ESPN College GameDay will be there, so that only adds to the fury.

    In some games, you don’t even have to mention the tailgating experience; you know it’s going to be crazy. Hot dogs and beer will be just fine, thank you.

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