College Football: The 10 Best Tailgates in the Country

LSU fans with signs

LSU has one of the very best tailgates in the country. | Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The only thing more fun than going to a packed stadium and taking in a loud, exciting college football game is enjoying the festivities beforehand. As far as sporting events and time-honored traditions are concerned, tailgating is easily at the top of the list.

When you think about it, how can it not be? Whether you’re hanging out with family and friends, or conversing with people you barely know, as long as you’re all cheering for the same team, nothing else really matters. Tailgating is all about good food, fresh beverages, and school pride. There is easily no better way to pump yourself up for the day’s game.

During football season, you can go to college campuses all around the country and surely find some form of tailgating taking place. Of course, while the idea behind each scene will generally be the same, not all forms of tailgating are created equal. Some schools surely outdo others. How can we possibly decide which ones are best? Easy. We leave it up to the fans.

The College Football Fan Index is “an in-depth ranking of the top fanbases as determined through social aggregation and online polling across weekly editorial themes such as best tailgates and best traditions.” And wouldn’t you know, as far as college football’s best tailgates are concerned, the people have spoken. With that in mind, here’s a look at the 10 best tailgates that topped them all in 2016.

10. Michigan Wolverines

Michigan Wolverines fans know how to tailgate.

Michigan Wolverines fans know how to tailgate. | Leon Halip/Getty Images

Even when Michigan struggled on the gridiron, fans came out in droves to show just how much they love their Wolverines. That’s what genuine passion is all about. However, now that Jim Harbaugh has returned the program to prominence, fans have even more reasons to celebrate outside The Big House. Based on the data collected in the College Football Fan Index, this clearly happened often in 2016. Two words: Go Blue!

9. Nebraska Cornhuskers

Nebraska fans know how to celebrate their Cornhuskers.

Nebraska fans know how to celebrate their Cornhuskers. | Eric Francis/Getty Images

It’s been a while since Nebraska stood on the top of the college football mountain. And yet, with the way Cornhuskers fans flock to tailgates prior to kickoff, you’d never know it. Memorial Stadium boasts one of the best atmospheres in all of college football. Forming the ultimate sea of red, the team’s faithful make Lincoln a tailgater’s paradise.

8. Iowa Hawkeyes

Iowa fans hold up a sign of support.

Iowa fans love their Hawkeyes. | Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Iowa fans are super passionate about their Hawkeyes. Therefore, it’s only natural they get together on game day and take tailgating to the next level. As the College Football Fan Index notes: “Iowa City on game days is a zoo in a good way. Kinnick Stadium is a great place to tailgate.” That’s what we like to hear. Guess it’s time to plan a trip to Iowa (words we never thought we’d utter).

7. Alabama Crimson Tide

Alabama fans walk around campus before the game.

These Alabama fans are ready for the game. | Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Through their championship-caliber expectations and exceptional play on the gridiron, the Alabama Crimson Tide have given their fans something to cheer about for quite some time now. Under Nick Saban’s guidance, Alabama is consistently one of the most elite programs in the land. As a result, it’s only right that their devoted followers bring the same sort of A-game off the field.

If you’re interested in checking out the No. 7 ranked spot on the list of best tailgates in college football, then make your way to the Quad on Alabama’s campus. The party starts at 6:00 p.m. — on the Friday night before the game. We hope you’re thirsty.

6. Penn State Nittany Lions

A Penn State fan stands with a Joe Paterno cutout.

Happy Valley is the place to be on game day. | Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Despite a heartbreaking defeat to the USC Trojans in the Rose Bowl, the Penn State Nittany Lions are a team on the rise. This group went 11-3 in 2016, and proved its legitimacy by downing the Wisconsin Badgers in the Big Ten title game. For the Penn State faithful, a group of diehard fans who support — and tailgate hard for — their favorite team no matter what, this was the most excited they’ve been in quite sometime. Happy Valley has never been happier.

5. Tennessee Volunteers

Tennessee fans tailgate outside of Neyland Stadium.

Now that’s a lot of orange. | Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

If you’re a fan of tailgating and all things “orange,” then Saturdays in Knoxville, Tennessee is where you want to be. These Volunteers fans aren’t afraid to get down, show their true colors, and party like Peyton Manning is still under center. On top of that, as the College Football Fan Index points out: “There aren’t too many places where you can sailgate. On Saturdays in the fall, Vols fans can have fun on boats on the Tennessee River.” Suddenly our schedule just become wide open.

4. Florida Gators vs. Georgia Bulldogs

Florida and Georgia fans tailgate together.

It’s always a party when Florida and Georgia get together. | Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

If you weren’t aware that the Florida-Georgia game was a big deal, something tells us you are now. In fact, at one point in time, this game was actually dubbed “The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.” That’s arguably the most epic name we’ve ever heard for a tailgating event. Seriously, how do you top that?

3. Wisconsin Badgers

Wisconsin students tailgate hard.

Wisconsin students tailgate hard. | Tom Hauck/Getty Images

The Wisconsin Badgers faithful have spoken. If you seek one of the best tailgating scenes in all of college football, then it’s high time you make your way to Madison. You won’t be disappointed. Per the College Football Fan Index, Wisconsin tailgates are filled with booze and brats. What else do you need? Sign us up immediately.

2. Ole Miss Rebels

Ole Miss fans tailgate at the Grove.

Ole Miss fans tailgate at the Grove. | Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

After finishing atop the 2015 rankings, the Grove at the University of Mississippi dropped a peg this time around. And yet, that doesn’t change the fact that Ole Miss fans clearly know how to tailgate. Here’s what the College Football Fan Index had to say about this legendary spot:

At this point, the Grove deserves its own trophy case. The 10-acre picturesque expanse on the campus of the University of Mississippi has received handfuls of accolades. Sports Illustrated, the New York Times, and ESPN have all gushed about it, and with good reason.

The tree-lined space — featuring elm, magnolia, and oak — is the prettiest tailgating area in America. There’s a different vibe there than at other schools (cooking over an open flame isn’t allowed), but the Grove is one of a kind. People wear fancy clothes, food is served on fine china, and bourbon flows liberally.

We’ve never actually viewed tailgating as a classy affair before. It just didn’t feel right. However, after hearing how the Rebels faithful do it at the Grove, we decided to put on our Saturday best and join the party. Who’s coming with us?

1. LSU Tigers

LSU fans host an epic tailgate.

LSU is the place to be for tailgating. | Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Following a disappointing second-place finish in 2015, the LSU Tigers are back where they belong — at the top of college football’s tailgating universe. Oh, how sweet it is to be No. 1 again.

While we ourselves have not been fortunate enough to attend one of these iconic tailgates, if the College Football Fan Index is as accurate as we believe, then we’re royally missing out. Whether it’s the crowd of incredibly devoted fans or the wide range of food options, it’s clear that Baton Rouge is the place to be.

Information courtesy of USA Today and the College Football Fan Index.