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The Best College Football Tailgate Countdown: 20-16

Washington State Cougars Tailgate
© James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

There's nothing quite like the electrifying atmosphere of a college football tailgate. As fans gather hours before kickoff, the air fills with the tantalizing aroma of sizzling grills and the sound of clinking glasses. From coast to coast, these pregame rituals are more than just a warm-up act—they're a cornerstone of college football culture, blending tradition, culinary delights and spirited beverages into an unforgettable experience.

In this article, we review the 20 thru 16 ranked tailgates that go above and beyond the typical gameday gathering. Our grading system takes into account three key elements: time-honored traditions that bring fans together, signature foods that define the tailgate and drinks that keep the party going. Whether you're a die-hard fan or a casual observer, join us as we explore the best of the best in college football tailgating, where every bite and sip is a testament to school pride and camaraderie.

20. Georgia Southern Eagles

Tailgating and gameday rituals at Georgia Southern University are steeped in rich traditions that honor the legacy of legendary football coach Erk Russell and celebrate the spirit of Eagle Nation. One of the most cherished traditions is Beautiful Eagle Creek, originally a simple drainage ditch that Russell transformed into a symbol of luck and determination. During the 1985 playoffs against Northern Iowa, Russell famously sprinkled water from Eagle Creek on the field, leading the Eagles to victory and sparking a series of national championships. Today, the jug of Eagle Creek water is enshrined at GSU and signs mark the historic creek's path, keeping alive the legend of its magical properties.

GUS, the live American Bald Eagle, continues to soar as the official mascot of Georgia Southern, captivating fans with pre-game flights that culminate in a dramatic landing at midfield. This spectacle ignites the crowd with excitement and pride, setting the stage for an exhilarating football experience at Allen E. Paulson Stadium, affectionately known as "The Prettiest Little Stadium in America." With its intimate seating for 25,000 fans, the stadium provides a close-knit atmosphere where every cheer and chant reverberates through the stands, enhancing the sense of camaraderie among Eagle supporters.

Gameday at Georgia Southern is not just about football—it's a celebration of community and tradition. Tailgating parties dot the campus, where fans gather in parking lots adorned with grills, tents and spirited decorations. These gatherings are more than pregame festivities—they are opportunities for fans to bond over Southern hospitality and indulge in favorite foods like barbecue and homemade delights. As kickoff approaches, the campus buzzes with anticipation, fueled by the echoes of Russell's inspiring chants and the legacy he left behind, embodied in every Eagles player who taps the bronze bust in his honor before taking the field.

Tailgate Favorites

Signature Food:

  • Southern-Style BBQ: Slow-cooked meats, tangy sauces and crispy sides

  • Shrimp and Grits: Lowcountry favorite, hearty and comforting

  • Falafel: Crispy chickpea patties with versatile toppings

  • Pimento Cheese Sandwiches: Customizable with various meats and cheeses

  • Boiled Peanuts: Savory snack, seasoned to perfection

Signature Drinks:

  • Eagle’s Nest: Blue Gatorade, lemon-lime soda and blue curaçao over ice

  • Southern Belle: Sweet tea, lemonade and peach syrup, garnished with mint

  • Tailgating Tonic: Gin, tonic water, lime and soda water over ice

  • Eagles’ Wings: Vodka, pineapple juice, and grenadine, garnished with a cherry

  • Georgia Peach: Peach schnapps, peach puree and lemon-lime soda over ice, garnished with mint

19. Auburn Tigers

Tailgating at Auburn University is a lively celebration infused with long-standing traditions and an unbeatable spirit of camaraderie. The festivities kick off with the iconic Tiger Walk, where the Auburn football team, led by coach Bryan Harsin, makes its way from the intersection of Donahue Drive and Sanford Avenue to the stadium. Fans line the streets, cheering on their favorite players and basking in the collective excitement that signals the start of gameday. This pregame ritual, steeped in tradition, sets the tone for the day, as thousands of Auburn faithful come together to support their team.

War Eagle, Auburn’s battle cry, reverberates through the air during kickoff and at pivotal moments throughout the game. This historic chant, dating back to the early 20th century, embodies the fierce school spirit that defines the Auburn experience. Victory brings another cherished tradition: Rolling the Trees. After a win, fans flock to the Quad to roll the oak trees, a joyous celebration that has been a hallmark of Auburn pride since the 1970s. It's a sight to behold, as the trees become blanketed in toilet paper, symbolizing the triumph and unity of the Auburn community.

Aubie the Tiger, Auburn's beloved mascot, adds to the vibrant tailgating scene, mingling with fans, posing for photos and signing autographs. The energy peaks with the Spirit March and 4 Corners Pep Rally, where the Auburn University Marching Band splits into smaller pep bands and performs at the intersection of Donahue and Roosevelt. The rally stirs the crowd, infusing the air with music and enthusiasm before the band enters the stadium. Together, these traditions create a rich tapestry of school spirit and community, making game day at Auburn a truly unforgettable experience.

Auburn Tiger Bus
© Mickey Welsh/Advertiser/USA TODAY NETWORK
Tailgate Favorites

Signature Food:

  • Mexican 7-Layer Dip: Refried beans, guacamole, sour cream and cheese

  • Corn Dip: Cream cheese, mayonnaise and corn

  • Tiger Tails: Cheese sticks wrapped in bacon

  • Aubie’s Paw-some Pretzels: Pretzels shaped like tiger paws

Signature Drinks:

  • Auburn “War Eagle” Rum Punch: Rum, pineapple juice, orange juice, grenadine and lemon-lime soda

  • Tea Time Blueberry Bourbon Cocktail: Bourbon, blueberry puree, lemon juice, simple syrup, served over ice with mint

18. Ole Miss Rebels

The Grove at the University of Mississippi is a 10-acre grassy haven, shaded by towering oak trees, and serves as the epicenter of Ole Miss Rebels football tailgating tradition. On game days, more than 100,000 fans flock to this iconic location, arriving as early as noon the day before to stake their claim. The Grove transforms into a vibrant sea of red, white and blue tents, with professional tailgate vendors and students gathering to indulge in food, drinks and pregame festivities. This beloved tradition has been an integral part of Ole Miss football for over half a century, evolving from an informal gathering spot to a premier tailgating destination. The 1962 Rebel football team, which achieved a perfect 10-0 season, played a pivotal role in establishing The Grove as the legendary tailgating hub it is today.

A highlight of the Ole Miss gameday experience is the Walk of Champions. This tradition, initiated by the 1962 team, sees the Ole Miss football team walking through a series of pillars that honor all the letter winners at the university across all sports. Fans line the path, cheering and showing their support, creating an electric atmosphere that underscores the university’s rich athletic heritage. The Walk of Champions is not just a pregame ritual—it's a poignant reminder of the school's storied past and the pride that unites the Rebel community.

Tailgating in The Grove is more than just a prelude to the game—it's a celebration of tradition, camaraderie and school spirit. The meticulous setup, the shared meals, and the lively conversations all contribute to an atmosphere of excitement and anticipation. Whether you're a lifelong Rebel fan or a first-time visitor, the experience of tailgating at The Grove, followed by witnessing the Walk of Champions, encapsulates the essence of Ole Miss football and the unwavering pride of its supporters.

Tailgate Favorites

Signature Food:

  • Fried Chicken: Crispy and flavorful, paired with various sauces and sides

  • Deviled Eggs: Creamy filling with versatile toppings

  • Smoked Meats: Brisket, sausage and ham with a variety of sauces and sides like baked beans and cornbread

  • Fried Okra: Crispy and tender, with savory sauces

  • Grits: Comforting and versatile, enjoyed with various toppings

Signature Drinks:

  • Grove Glamour: Sweet tea, lemon-lime soda and grenadine over ice, garnished with mint

  • Rebel Red: Bourbon, cherry liqueur and cola over ice, garnished with a cherry

  • Hotty Toddy: Bourbon, lemon juice and honey over ice, garnished with a lemon wheel

  • Ole Miss Mule: Bourbon, ginger beer and lime juice, served in a copper mug with a lime wheel garnish

  • Grove Punch: Orange, apple, and cranberry juices over ice, served in a punch bowl with a sprig of rosemary

17. Washington State Cougars

Washington State University (WSU) combines unique traditions with a welcoming atmosphere that sets it apart from other college football experiences. One of the most distinctive traditions is the Sailgate, a unique twist on the traditional tailgate party. Alumni and fans gather on boats in the marina near Martin Stadium, enjoying food, drinks and camaraderie while watching the game. This tradition is particularly popular during games against the University of Washington, adding a festive maritime flair to the rivalry.

WSU’s tailgating scene is renowned for its welcoming atmosphere. Cougar fans are eager to share their pent-up celebration and hospitality, creating one of the most inviting game-day environments in the Pac-12 Conference. This friendly vibe ensures that everyone, from first-time visitors to die-hard alumni, feels like part of the Cougar family.

Wazzu Tailgate RV
© James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Another hallmark of WSU’s tailgating is the RV invasion. Fans bring their recreational vehicles to the stadium parking lot, setting up their own personalized tailgating parties. These RV gatherings transform the parking lot into a lively community of fans, complete with elaborate setups, grills and plenty of Cougar pride.

Tailgate Favorites

Signature Food:

  • Cougars’ Chili: Made with ground beef, turkey, or vegetarian mix, topped with Cougar Gold cheese

  • Sweet Apple Cider Donuts: Paired with coffee or hot chocolate

  • Cougars’ BBQ Ribs: Tender, sweet and tangy, served with coleslaw or baked beans

  • Cougar Gold Cheese: Creamy, sharp cheddar, ideal for snacking or adding to dishes

Signature Drinks:

  • Cougar Gold Cocktail: Cougar Gold-infused vodka, Baileys Irish Cream and cream, served in a martini glass

  • Crimson Cougar: Cranberry juice, vodka and lime, garnished with a lime wedge and rosemary sprig

  • Ginger Gray: Ginger beer, vodka and lime, served in a highball glass over ice

  • Cougars’ Creamsicle: Orange liqueur, vanilla vodka and cream, served in a coupe glass

Wazzu Cheer Squad
© Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

16. Florida State Seminoles

The Florida State University (FSU) tailgating experience is a vibrant celebration steeped in tradition and brimming with excitement. One of the most iconic pregame spectacles features Osceola, the Seminole warrior, and his horse, Renegade. Just before kickoff, Osceola rides onto Bobby Bowden Field at Doak Campbell Stadium, igniting the crowd's fervor. The stadium, with its seating capacity of over 79,000, is named after the legendary coach Bobby Bowden and stands as one of the most revered venues in college football. As fans gather in the parking lots, the atmosphere is electric, with a sea of garnet and gold proudly displayed on flags, decorations and team gear.

FSU fans elevate their tailgating with a variety of games, from cornhole and giant Jenga to the ever-popular Hook and Ring Battle, fostering friendly competition and camaraderie. The unique atmosphere of FSU tailgating is enhanced by the traditions passed down through generations, with fans sharing their favorite recipes, games and rituals. The food is legendary, with grills sizzling with burgers, hot dogs, and other mouth-watering treats, ensuring that no one goes hungry.

FSU Tailgate
© Alicia Devine/Tallahassee Democrat/USA TODAY NETWORK

What truly sets FSU's tailgating apart is the sense of community and pageantry. Fans from all walks of life come together, united by their love for the Seminoles and the game of football. The pregame show, featuring the dramatic entrance of Osceola and Renegade, is a spectacle that encapsulates the spirit and excitement of FSU football, ensuring that everyone is pumped up and ready to cheer on the Seminoles to victory.

Tailgate Highlights

Signature Food:

  • Gator Bites: Breaded and fried bite-sized alligator meat with tangy dipping sauce

  • Florida-Style BBQ: Slow-cooked pulled pork, brisket and ribs with tangy BBQ sauce

  • Conch Fritters: Crispy fritters made with conch meat, onions and spices

  • Cuban Sandwiches: Ham, roasted pork, Swiss cheese, pickles and mustard

  • Roast Alligator: Marinated in tangy sauce, a unique twist on traditional tailgating fare

Signature Drinks:

  • The Garnett and Gold: Beefeater Gin, cranberry juice, lemonade

  • The Seminole: Goldschlager, grenadine syrup

  • Noles’ Nectar: vodka, peach schnapps, pineapple juice, splash of grenadine

  • Bobby’s Brew: whiskey, coffee liqueur, cream, splash of vanilla extract

As we conclude our countdown of the second set of five college football tailgates, the excitement and camaraderie of game day are evident in every celebration. These schools showcase a rich tapestry of traditions, delightful signature foods and refreshing drinks that make their tailgates truly unforgettable.

Each one offers a unique glimpse into the heart of college football culture, bringing fans together in a vibrant display of loyalty and festivity. Whether you’re a seasoned tailgater or new to the scene, these experiences are a testament to the enduring spirit of college football.


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