College Bowls Party Planning Guide
Expert Advice

Image: Deposit Photos, belchonock

With Thanksgiving behind us, it means only one thing—the college bowls season is about to come knockin’. This year’s schedule is the last of its kind, as it ushers out the four-team College Football Playoff before the CFP expansion next season throws everything for a loop.

Saturday, December 16, kicks off the bowl season in sun-drenched Nassau with the Bahamas Bowl. It all concludes 41 games later on Monday, January 8, with the CFP National Championship Game in Houston. Here’s a list of all 41 games

The Bahamas may be out of reach for tickets, but it’s a great excuse for serious gameday revelry. Done right, homegating any of the bowl games will stir up your crowd but with the advantages of slo-mo replays, your favorite foods and drinks, and no weather interference.

1. The Game Plan

Be sure to check the schedule and if the weather is fine, then the party can go outdoors. Give the lighting a test run before kickoff. Harsh flood lights can bring down the party atmosphere, whereas string lights or lanterns create true party vibes. Nullify any chilly temperatures with a patio heater, fleece blankets draped over some chair backs, and light up the fire pit.

2. A Clean Locker Room

With the word pandemic now a part of our everyday culture, germs are no longer a joke. No one wants a party to end up days later with guests falling ill. That’s not a review you can overcome. Set up a sanitation station equipped with disinfectant wipes, tissues, and hand sanitizer. Patrol your most susceptible and shared space—the bathroom—keeping it stocked with hand soap, paper towels, and wipes and keep the trash can emptied.

3. Tailgate Zones

Spread out to give guests a chance to roam, to get away, and to allow better access to food and drink. Designate a few pop-up canopies outside as specialty food or drink stations to give off even more of a tailgate vibe. Inside and out, hang team flags and banners, incorporate team colors everywhere, and get your speakers primed for feel-good tunes.

Most importantly, don’t forget extra televisions, including one set up outdoors, to offer more than one viewing location. A tent is primo for this. You can always get a TV for another room in your house besides the den as they are so affordable these days.

4. Playtime

There’s halftime to consider, so set up stations of yard games, like cornhole, washers, or ladder ball. Guests can break up into smaller groups and rotate play. To up the investment of your crowd, none of whom may be fans of the teams playing, play football bingo or college football trivia. Just be sure to have enough copies and pens and distribute them before kickoff.

5. Open Seating Spaces

Because guests will be in and out of their seats, create more comfort and seating options by bringing in throw pillows and comfy floor cushions from other areas of the house. Toss them anywhere people might take a seat or need some back support. If you don’t have enough seating, ask your guests to bring their own tailgate chairs.

6. Be the Equipment Manager

The possibilities are endless for creating a football theme in your home. Table covers, napkins, cups, and plates with the teams’ logos or colors. Just be sure to have plenty on hand for snacking throughout the game. Remember, you can never have too many red solo cups. Set out several sharpies so everyone can mark their cups.

7. Seal the Deal with a Meal

Sure, bowls of pretzels, dips, nuts, and other simple snack foods make for satisfying grazing during the game. But all good tailgates center around a solid feast. So why not present your crew with something a bit heftier before kickoff or during halftime. It’s also a way to lay a foundation that can help offset the effects of the adult libations.

Premade Tailgate Meals. Cook whatever you’re serving beforehand and package it into individual portions, like a box lunch. Or set appetizers out pre-portioned on TV trays styled with team colors before guests arrive.

Safe-to-Share Tailgate Meals: Items like burgers, hot dogs, sliders, and chicken wings are typical, easy homegate fare. Either have your resident grill master serve it up fresh and hot or let guests grab the tongs and serve themselves off a warming plate.

Tailgate Buffet: Simplify by offering one food option—tacos, baked potatoes, chili, pizzas, burgers—surrounded by heaps of choices for fillers and toppings. Or offer up a fresh-sliced roasted ham or turkey surrounded by sandwich makings and unique bread and wrap options. The joy here is in the ease of work during the day since you’ve prepped most of it beforehand.