Top 25 Football Tailgating Colleges Countdown Continues!
NO 20 University of Nebraska
Pride, history and deeply-held tradition are all hallmarks of Nebraska Cornhusker football. While the post-Tom Osbourne era hasn’t been as successful as previous decades for the red and cream faithful, there is no doubt that fall Saturdays in Lincoln are something special. Even with Nebraska playing fruit basket turnover with its conference affiliation—they have been in three different conferences in the last 20 years—the Cornhuskers exemplify everything to love about college football.
Maybe it’s the fact that there are no major professional sports in the state or that Nebraska is the 37th most populous state in the union. In fact, on games days, a capacity crowd of 87, 000 in Memorial Stadium becomes the third largest city in the state. Simply put, Nebraska football is more than just a sport, it’s part of the state’s DNA, and a chance to play show and tell to the rest of the nation that view the Cornhusker State as nothing more than flyover country.
On game days, Lincoln bursts alive with watch parties, street festivals and concerts as the entire city comes together to celebrate its beloved Cornhuskers. For instance, fans gather before and after games in the Historic Haymarket, a funky warehouse district near campus teeming with restaurants, shops and activity. A little closer to the stadium, fans can enjoy a pregame party at the Husker Nation Pavilion, a free party on Ed Weir Track just outside Memorial Stadium.
Nebraska, of course, is cattle country, so a great steak is just around the corner. Lincoln is home to many steakhouses, but one sure to top any list is Misty’s Steakhouse, a local tradition since 1963.
NO 19 University of Texas
Our Texas twosome begins here. A world unto its own filled with big stadiums, big grills and the center of the barbeque universe. Since the departure of long-time head coach Mack Brown, UT has struggled to keep the football team competitive in the up-and-down Big 12. However, with the program moving in the right direction, fans and tailgate enthusiasts alike can look forward to a revival of Longhorn pride since the tailgating has survived even the rockiest of times.
Some may have forgotten, but before this low point in Texas history the Longhorns enjoyed double digit seasons with ten plus wins in each season (including two appearances in the BCS championship game). This raised the fan base to a level unseen in modern history, and the UT head coaching position is still considered the best job in all of college football.
The university also resides in Texas’ capital, Austin. Austin has a sterling reputation for being one of the best college cities for food and culture alike with a burgeoning nightlife to boot. From the early morning tailgates to the post game celebrations, there’s never a dull moment on Saturdays for the University of Texas.
NO 18 Texas A&M University
If this wasn’t specifically a tailgating list, Texas A&M would surely rank higher. Look, that’s hard to admit, for those who long protested the Aggies’ inclusion in the Southeastern Conference. (Texas isn’t the South. It’s Texas.) The evening before a home game, thousands of students turn out for midnight yell practice, which dates back to the university’s days as an all-male military school.
There are few things better than thousands of people lifting their voices for a cause, but one of them is game-time support. You’ve heard of the Twelfth Man, right? Then you probably know it didn’t originate with the Seattle Seahawks, though it’s a tradition they’ve proudly adopted. It’s an Aggie original. You’ll see fans on their feet throughout the game, expressing that they’d be ready to go in if one of the 11 Aggies on the field were to drop. So yeah, A&M has something special going. But let’s talk about the tailgating itself:
“The tailgating scene on campus has really exploded since I graduated in 2004, and I think it’s safe to say that the biggest growth has been in the years following our move to the SEC. Tailgating occurs all over campus, and setups can be pretty simple or extravagantly ostentatious (‘everything’s bigger in Texas’),” says alumnus Brandon Cozart, who also emphasizes the university’s family nature.”Because of the bond shared between Aggies, there are no strangers in Aggieland, particularly on game days. Since moving back to College Station a couple of years ago, we’ve put off establishing our own setup because we’ve been able to hop from tailgate to tailgate as we make our way to the stadium, sometimes sharing a plate of brisket with Aggie family members we just hadn’t met yet.”
NO 17 Michigan State University
While Michigan State might live in the shadows of their in-state rival up the road in Ann Arbor, the Spartan’s football program is full of history, tradition and intense rivalries in its own right. It was Michigan State, after all, who played Notre Dame in a little contest half a century ago commonly referred to as the Game of the Century—a 10-10 tie with Notre Dame way back in 1966. The Spartans also claim six national championships (the last was in 1966) and have nine Big 10 Championships under their belt, but what truly makes Michigan State football so special are the fans.
Despite some major ups and downs over the last 25 years, Spartan Stadium has ranked in the top 25 in attendance for 60 straight years. And, coming off a 12-2 season in 2015, including one of the most improbable come-from-behind victories over their hated in-state rivals, the Michigan Wolverines, East Lansing might make for an intriguing road trip for college football fans of all stripes in 2016.
A game day at Michigan State provides plenty of opportunities to explore the campus and find something to do that matches one’s interests. There’s the Michigan State University Dairy Store, an outreach of Food Science and Human Nutrition in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. On game days, fans regularly line up for one of the innovative ice cream flavors, such as Dantonio’s Double Fudge Fake or Buckeye Blitz.
Other beloved traditions on campus include getting a picture taken with the Spartan Statue, viewing the fall colors along the Red Cedar River, cruising Grand River Avenue in downtown East Lansing and of course, epic tailgating.
NO 16 Appalachian State University
The Mountaineers and their rowdy following vault into our top 20 after an appearance at No. 24 last year. ASU made their Division 1 debut last season and dazzled their fans with the same spectacular football they’ve come to expect year in and year out. Their 11-2 record included just one loss in the Sun Belt Conference and an incredible come-from-behind win over the Ohio Bobcats in the Camellia Bowl. Needless to say, Mountaineer fans will have every reason to continue to support their team and tailgate at a high level.
They’ll visit one of our top 10 contenders in Tennessee on the very first Thursday night of the 2016 season, and the Miami Hurricanes will come to Boone, North Carolina, just two weeks later on September 17th. Tailgating will reach a fevered pitch early and often for a program that’s peaking at the right time. “Our focus is to always provide the best possible experience to our fans inside and outside of the gate on game day,” says Ashley Payne, ASU’s Assistant A.D. of promotions and fan engagement. “From working to enhance our Mountaineer Walk to taking advantage of our nontraditional schedule and providing Thursday night tailgates with live entertainment, free t-shirts and other elements for our students and fans.”
App State is dedicated to keeping things fresh for lifers and first timers alike. Trunk or Treat games for Halloween and bringing in military and first responder vehicles for the fans to check out on Heroes Day are just some of the attractions you can expect to see this fall. ASU also has the Junior Mountaineer Kids Club and the Yosef Club for hardest of hardcore tailgaters in Boone. Make sure to get to game days early or a place may be hard to find in Mountaineer Country, a place where the party’s already started.