The 50 Best Game Day Experiences in College Football
Out of the soon to be 124 Football Bowl Subdivision programs, there are so many game-day experiences that need to be on the bucket list.
Obviously, it helps if the game itself is unforgettable. The decades may go by quicker for some than others, but the college football memories last a lifetime and always have the fans coming back for more.
Ranking the top 50 (stadium, tailgating, fans, atmosphere, history, tradition, overall experiences), here are your best game-day experiences in college football.
Note: Not the easiest rankings to compile, feel free to share your lasting memories from the game-day experiences that you cannot wait to experience again.
No. 50 Hawaii
Heading to a Hawaii football game needs to be on the bucket list because the weather more times than not is perfect.
Tailgating is always a joy wherever you go (assuming it is a BCS school), but the Warriors know how to have some extra fun, thanks to the "Haka'' dance. Many teams to this day do the dance, but Hawaii was the first to do so.
No. 49 North Carolina
Yet another ACC team that gets overlooked, North Carolina has one of the more beautiful campuses in the entire nation. It just adds to the atmosphere and game-day experience.
Kenan Stadium is gorgeous on a fall Saturday. After a victory, the song "Carolina Victory" is a great way to cap off the day.
Note: Traditions also include Old Well Walk and Tar Heel Town before and after games.
No. 48 Arizona
Wilbur the Wildcat is a popular mascot who does push-ups after every score, and “Wildcat Walk” has become a valued part of the Arizona tradition since it began in 2010.
Two hours before kickoff, the team walks down Cherry Avenue to Arizona Stadium, cheered on by fans, the "Pride of Arizona'' marching band and the cheerleaders.
No. 47 Louisville
Having the Cardinal mascot land at midfield after he parachutes into the stadium is pretty nifty, as is the train whistle after every score.
Before the game gets underway, every player touches the Johnny Unitas statue in the end zone before they run onto the field.
Many programs use such a tradition, but this experience is like no other.
No. 46 North Carolina State
The wolfpack sculpture outside the new Wendell H. Murphy Football Center and the Walk of Champions are legitimate game-day experiences whether you are a fan of the Pack or not.
However, there are so many other ACC schools with solid traditions that this program often gets overlooked.
No. 45 California
Oski, Cal’s mascot, has been a game-day tradition at the school since his debut during the 1941 football season.
After every Cal score, the Victory Cannon fires on Tightwad Hill, which adds a little extra to the game-day experience.
No. 44 TCU
“Riff Ram Bah Zoo,” “Frogs Up” and the “Frog Horn” are the three main traditions that Horned Frog Nation anxiously awaits every game day during the fall.
Although TCU doesn't have a history full of traditions, the game-day atmosphere is always full of pageantry.
No. 43 Boston College
“Sweet Caroline” is known as a Fenway Park tradition, but it is used for Boston College as well.
The overall comradery that the fans enjoy is great to see, and don’t forget the “We Are? BC!” chant that lights up the atmosphere.
No. 42 Utah
The MUSS fan club is composed of rabid Utah fans who pull for their team through thick-and-thin.
There are more game-day traditions such as the “Pride of Utah” marching band and the “Utah Walk,” in which the team is greeted by its fans.
No. 41 Boise State
One has to consider Bronco Stadium’s blue turf as a game-day tradition. Every home game, it is a joy (unless you hate the Broncos, of course) to witness football played on a blue gridiron.
It was a one-of-a-kind idea that has been copied a couple of times since then. But "Smurf Turf” remains a signature element of the Boise State program.
No. 40 UCLA
The Bruin Walk gets the fans going on game day two hours before kickoff.
As you can imagine, Pasadena is not a bad place to tailgate before the game gets underway. But heading into Rose Bowl Stadium is when all those childhood memories kick in.
UCLA fans sing a few traditional songs such as “Mighty Bruins” and “Sons of Westwood.” Throw in the alma mater played at the end of the game, and your game-day experience will not disappoint.
No. 39 Stanford
The band is on the field!
Or shall we say, "The World's Largest Rock and Roll Band" is on the field?
The tradition that will forever remain is 1982 “Big Game” as the Cardinal band, the Leland Stanford Jr. University Marching Band, ranks among the best.
No. 38 Miami, Fla.
The annual battle between the 'Noles and 'Canes will always be a tradition in itself. But in terms of game-day experiences, nothing will ever beat the smoke that comes out of the tunnel as the Hurricanes come on the field.
Many teams have attempted to copy it, but the original will always be the best. Flashing “The U” has become a tradition as well. Watching Sebastian the Ibis do it makes it that much better.
Lil' Joe and Touchdown Tommy are great game-day experiences, although many argue nothing beats “four fingers” when the fourth quarter arrives.
No. 37 Arizona State
There is the Devil Walk, but the Devils are known for their festivities before, during and after the games (tailgating in Tempe is something you may have heard about?)
The band plays the alma mater and the fight song, but Sparky the mascot doing pushups on a surf board is even more entertaining.
No. 36 Missouri
Truman the Tiger jumps for joy all over the place, but Mizzou is best-known for the rock M, constructed in 1927 from leftover rocks from the building of Memorial Stadium, which opened a year earlier. It is 90-feet wide and 95-feet high and is located in the middle of the hill beyond the north end zone.
The best game-day experience occurs two hours before the game. The Tiger Walk begins at the Mizzou Training Complex and goes across the pedestrian bridge and down the South tunnel to the football locker room.
Memorial Stadium at Faurot Field on a fall Saturday is an eventful place to be. With the SEC coming to town in 2012, expect madness at The Zou.
Note: Don’t forget the Marching Mizzou ("Big 'M' of the Midwest") and the Golden Girls (twirling).
No. 35 Army
The tradition, spirit and honor that Army brings to the gridiron make for a solid game-day experience at Michie Stadium.
There may not be the recent great memories in terms of ranked squads or even bowl eligible teams.
However, West Point is a beautiful gameday experience with the banks of the Hudson River. The parachute team before the kick is exciting as is the parade of the Corps of Cadets.
We love everything the men and women do for us at Army, but to still show their passion for their football team on fall Saturday's is quite a scene.
No. 34 Texas Tech
“Guns up” is one of the better signs in college football, but there are several other traditions that the Red Raiders have. None would be bigger than “Raider Red” firing his two 12-gauge guns after every Red Raider score.
The atmosphere is typical BCS-caliber, though it helps when the team is ranked and/or relevant (same said for any school on this list).
No. 33 Pittsburgh
“Sweet Caroline” is one of the Panthers' main traditions, but I find it amusing and humorous when that song plays after Pittsburgh reaches the red zone.
Playing at Heinz Field, one great game-day experience would be witnessing when the two ketchup bottles pour on the JumboTron in the red zone (like in the picture above).
Also, after every score, the Gateway Clipper fleet-horn blasts, which gets the place rocking.
Lastly, the “March To Victory” involves the band making its way from Tony Dorsett Drive down General Robinson Street before ending at the stage on Art Rooney Avenue.
No. 32 Georgia Tech
The entrance of the Ramblin’ Wreck ranks among the nation's most underrated traditions.
The “1930 Model A Ford Sport Coupe” has headed out to Grant Field (Bobby Dodd Stadium) for every home game since 1961.
Plus, the game-day experience is not complete with grabbing a bite to eat at “The Varsity,” which is always the hot spot before and after home games.
The college atmosphere is special in Atlanta and never lets you down on a fall Saturday.
No. 31 Mississippi State
We need more cowbells!
Those cowbells that the fans use in Starkville are noisy and the fans are relentless in using them. The passion that they have is great to see.
Win or lose, Bulldog fans are there to raise hell and have a blast, and that makes it one fine game-day experience.
No. 30 Washington
Lake Washington makes for a beautiful setting, and the stadium itself is vastly underrated when the place erupts.
Their mascot is known as "Dubs.'' But in terms of game day, it's the pregame rituals and the setting that set Washington apart.
The pregame siren started in 1921, and it goes off after every Washington score. They also use it 20 minutes before kickoff, making everyone within earshot aware that the game will soon be underway.
No. 29 Purdue
Knowing several people that have attended Purdue, I know it is a party atmosphere that begins at the crack of dawn.
Whether it is waking up at 5 in the morning and dressing up in Boilermaker garb, or having the P.A. announcer shout "I am an American," the Boilermakers have several traditions going for them.
Still, we cannot leave without mentioning the letter P, the signature formation of its All-American marching band.
No. 28 Michigan State
“Zeke the Wonder Dog” provides the entertainment at halftime. He's a Frisbee-catching dog who routinely steals the show. But the Sparty statue on campus remains the must-see site around town.
Throw in the pregame music played by AC/DC for “Thunderstruck" and the Spartans are always primed and ready to show off a great game day for all fans.
Note: Don’t forget Spinning the "S," which features one of the nation's best marching bands and, of course, “The Spartan Walk.”
No. 27 Oklahoma State
After every score, the 'Pokes sing the “Waving Song.” However, the best tradition and game-day experience goes back to what Les Miles started, and Mike Gundy has continued.
The team walks down Hester Street to Boone Pickens Stadium, as Gundy leads a parade full of pageantry that includes the Cowboys marching band and the spirit squad.
No. 26 Iowa
When AC/DC blasts through the speakers, the Hawkeyes come out of their locker room and storm the field at Kinnick Stadium. The experience on game day in Iowa City is always enjoyable, regardless of what the Midwest weather brings.
The Iowa fans are noted for their I-O-W-A chant and for the "Big ass turkey legs" they offer to hungry tailgaters.
No. 25 Colorado
How could we ever forget about Ralphie?
The first buffalo named Ralphie began appearing at Colorado games in 1966, and ever since he has been a part of one of the best traditions and game-day experiences in all of college football.
Since moving to the Pac-12 from the Big 12, the excitement at Colorado has gone up despite the program's lack of success. Still, the tradition remains. It will not be long before the Buffaloes get their swagger back.
No. 24 Arkansas
Woo Pig Sooie Razorbacks!
Arguably the most unique tradition and cheer in all of college sports, the Razorbacks know how to have a good time.
Whether it is at Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville or War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock, the Razorbacks know how to enjoy themselves on game day.
No. 23 Oregon
While most love to talk about the Ducks' great Nike uniforms, their mascot might be the most energetic of them all.
Puddles is an adorable Duck, but riding on a Harley makes him a bit of a hardcore rebel. Also, doing push-ups after every score is creative, as is Duckvision.
But, saving the best for last, when the public-address announcer gives the weather report, “It Never Rains in Autzen Stadium,” it always makes the game day an enjoyable one.
No. 22 USC
The trumpeted blast of "Conquest" always sends chills through the spines of USC fans. After tailgating and the band takes a breather before kickoff, the true story is about the Trojans' mascot.
USC's storied mascot Traveler, a noble white horse, made his first appearance at the 1961 Rose Bowl. Since then, he has given USC one of the nation's best game-day experiences.
No. 21 Virginia Tech
There may not be a more exciting pregame warmup than in Blacksburg.
The Hokies storm out of the locker to “Enter Sandman,” and Lane Stadium goes bonkers when the fans hear this filthy Metallica song.
The Hokies' signature cheer and the Hokey Pokey entering the fourth quarter are just a few other traditions.
No. 20 West Virginia
The Mountaineers Marching Band is quite the show as they perform “Simple Gifts,” but the true fans love when the musket is fired off by the mascot.
The tailgating ranks among the nation's best, and the true passion shown by their fans is something I wish we saw from every school. The Mountaineers come prepared to show you a tremendous game-day experience.
No. 19 South Carolina
Williams-Brice Stadium can get rocking at any time of the day or night. After all, it is SEC country.
The list of traditions and game-day experiences are wide-ranging, from the Gamecocks taking the field (2001 Space Odyssey) to Cockaboose Railroad. The game-day experience in Columbia is special.
No. 18 Texas
Everything in Texas really is bigger, just look at Longhorn mascot Bevo and "The Largest Bass Drum in the World."
“The Eyes of Texas,” “Texas Fight” and the Hook ‘Em Horns sign are a few other famous traditions that makes Austin and its game-day experience one of the finest in the country.
No. 17 Oklahoma
OU’s Sooner Schooner is about as cool as it gets in terms of showing off the swag-mobile. When College Gameday’s crew has a commercial featuring the Sooner Schooner, its ratings must skyrocket.
Oklahoma has such prestige as a program that just the chants of “Boomer Sooner” signal it is time for college football (unless you bleed burnt orange).
No. 16 Georgia
“Between the Hedges” at Sanford Stadium is an enjoyable atmosphere, to say the least. No football stadium in America had been completely surrounded by hedges, a trend that some schools have since copied.
The Dawg Walk is your typical place to meet the players up close, but the tailgating that starts five hours before kickoff is like heaven for the average fan.
The Redcoat Band plays “Krypton Fanfare” along with the alma mater after the game. And everybody loves bulldog mascot Uga. Uga VIII passed away, but Russ has since stepped in wearing the red sweater.
Note: After victories, the Chapel Bell is rung.
No. 15 Wisconsin
“Jump Around” has to be considered one of the greatest game-day experiences in all of college football.
The electricity is surreal when the third quarter comes to a conclusion (especially at night), but Camp Randall is just a special place to be around.
The “Fifth Quarter” is also another experience that the Badgers have made popular after every home game.
No. 14 Clemson
Clemson offers one of the most electrifying and storied game-day experiences in all of college football.
Howard’s Rock was a tradition that was started in 1967 by legendary Clemson coach Frank Howard.
Sprinting out of the Clemson locker room and touching the rock before running down the hill in all-purple or all-orange uniforms is considered “the most exciting 25 seconds in college football.”
After touching Howard's Rock, the team sprints down down “The Hill'' toward the fans, accompanied by a cannon shot, the Tiger Paw flag and "Tiger Rag.''
Throw in Dabo Swinney’s own version of “Tiger Walk.” where the team comes out together holding hands, and it simply gives you goosebumps.
God, I love college football!
No. 13 Florida
The “Swamp” is one of the grandest stages of all. When the Florida fans are singing “We Are The Boys from Old Florida,” college football is near its best.
The night games are electric at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Even though the Mr. Two Bits tradition has stopped, nothing can take away the excitement and prestige of a home game in Gainesville.
Note: Gator Walk, Gator Chomp, Orange & Blue Chant, Alma Mater Fight Song after game
No. 12 Penn State
“Paternoville” will live on forever, as will the blue buses, uniforms, “Linebacker U.," “We Are Penn State”, the whiteouts and so much more (Kirk Herbstreit has called the Nittany Lion fans the best in the nation).
It is one of the better game-day atmospheres not only in the Big Ten, but across America. Beaver Stadium on a Saturday afternoon (or evening/night) is a true spectacle that every fan should witness.
No. 11 Texas A&M
Kyle Field features the 12th Man, but the fans in College Station really get into the game before it even starts because of the great history.
The five yell leaders get you even more pumped in case you weren’t already. The maroon-out’s while they wave their “12th Man Towels” is borderline deafening after touchdowns. But the louder it gets, the more at home you feel (at least for diehards).
The list of traditions really is endless. The overall game-day experience ranks high on any list.
No. 10 Florida State
Many believe Doak Campbell Stadium affords the average fan his or her best game-day experience.
When Chief Osceola rides Renegade and plants his flaming spear at midfield, the entire stadium erupts into pandemonium. Plus, throughout the game one of the best chants in all of sports is featured.
The tomahawk chop and war chant has to be considered one of the elite experiences in all of college football.
Tallahassee also has great tailgating before the game, and the fans are always generous. Florida State truly has one of the nation's best game-day atmospheres.
No. 9 Nebraska
The “Tunnel Walk” for the Huskers is not the typical music and video entrance. All of the legendary icons that went through Lincoln give you the goosebumps as the players head out to the field (Sea of Red).
After scoring the first touchdown of the game, the fans will let loose their red balloons, and the scream “Husker…Power” gets the crowd going in case they weren’t intense already.
No. 8 Michigan
Just once in my life, I wish I could experience one of the best traditions in all of sports and be one of the players that jumps through the "Go Blue: M Club Supports You" banner before every home Michigan game. That moment is college football at its best.
The maize and blue has several other game-day traditions worth mentioning, such as one of favorite fight songs, "Hail To The Victors,” the Victors’ Walk, Guarding the “M” on the Diag, Temptation, The Wave and Seat For Fritz Crisler.
All in all, this is the winningest program in the history of college football and its fans welcome you in to "The Big House."
No. 7 Auburn
One of the more unique and electrifying experiences would have to be when War Eagle VII takes flight. Throw in the Tiger Walk and rolling Toomer’s Oaks and you have yourself quite a storied history.
Auburn, of course, can play some fine pigskin as well. And as everyone knows, tailgating is king in the SEC.
In case you like a lot of food, there are several places to stop by for a bite (Mamma G’s, The War Eagle Supper Club, Cheeburger-Cheeburger and Mellow Mushroom are friendly and enjoyable before and after a game).
Note: Students dressed in shirt and tie can be seen at games all over the SEC.
No. 6 Ole Miss
Most are unaware of the beauty of Oxford, Miss. The Rebels may have the best tailgating spot in America.
The “Walk of Champions” is east of The Grove, which is beyond gorgeous. It is as high as it gets on the bucket list for the die-hard college football fan. The tailgating area is surrounded by oak trees that perfectly set the mood for fall.
Sports Illustrated rated it as the No. 1 choice for tailgating, which means it is a must for game-day experiences.
No. 5 Tennessee
Everybody loves Smokey the mascot, and SEC tailgating is one of a kind. Neyland Stadium has so much history, including the legendary orange and white checkerboard end zones.
By far the best experience outside of the Volunteers slapping that famous orange board would be the “Running Thru The T.”
There is also the Vol Walk Down Peyton Manning Pass. But only when you hear 102,000-plus singing "Rocky Top'' does the hair on the back of your neck stand up.
Note: The Pride of the Southland Marching Band and "I Will Give My All for Tennessee Today" are game-day traditions that will live on forever
No. 4 Ohio State
As one of the most prestigious programs in college football history, Ohio State, as expected, has more than a dozen storied game-day traditions.
TBDBITL (The best damn band in the land) really is just that. Dotting of the i on script Ohio is a site to be seen.
Jim Tressel started a few traditions, such as “The Hive” and Carmen Ohio where the team, cheerleaders and coaches head to the south end zone after the game.
The traditions are endless and the memories will last a lifetime at the Horseshoe.
No. 3 Notre Dame
“Play Like A Champion Today,” a sign on the wall leading out of the Notre Dame locker room, is arguably the top tradition in all of sports. Just being around Notre Dame Stadium on game day seems near perfect.
Whether it is the Irish jig, “Notre Dame, Our Mother” or “Touchdown Jesus,” the overall persona of South Bend during the fall on Saturdays makes it a match made in heaven for diehard college football fans.
No. 2 LSU
“Death Valley” is like nowhere else. Quite frankly, the crown noise can make you go deaf for a few days.
Night games are unforgettable. The tailgating and party atmosphere is ridiculous (in a great way).
The Super Bowl is great in terms of all the food you eat, but all the different options that the Bayou Bengals fans have to offer is even more amazing.
Once you get inside the stadium, being able to see Mike the Tiger come out of his cage in front of the opposition is simply breathtaking. Ranked by many as the top stadium in the country, the atmosphere and game-day experience is right there with it.
Note: The list really goes on with Tiger Bait, and the hot boudin, March Down the Hill and Geaux Tiger chants.
No. 1 Alabama
Rammer Jammer Yellowhammer Give 'Em Hell Alabama!
In case you did not watch the past few seasons, Nick Saban and the Tide have laid the smackdown on the majority of their opponents.
However, to make things taste better after the fact, the Alabama faithful will make sure you get the point that they were victorious in their victory cheer.
SEC tailgating is an adventure in itself. The fans are friendly (assuming you wear Crimson), and they fill you up with as much pageantry as any team in America
When you hear Bear Bryant’s voice before the kickoff, your goosebumps will get goosebumps.
Plus, when they have more than 101,000 fans screaming at the top of their lungs, Bryant-Denny Stadium gives you as good of a game-day experience as any school in the country.