When it comes to college football, tailgaters put as much training and practice into their "performance" as athletes do to ensure they're at their prime on the field. For college football powerhouses the Alabama Crimson Tide and the LSU Tigers, they've been practicing all year with their eyes on the prize — Monday night's BCS National Championship game taking place in New Orleans at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. And, as they are the only two teams in the game's 14-year history from the same conference and same division to ever meet on the turf, this Super Bowl of college football is going to be quite unlike any other.
While we'll have to wait for Monday night to determine who will come out on top on the field, we've already named a victor for the competition taking place between 'Bama BBQ and Louisiana Cajun in the parking lots. Here's what to expect:
For Crimson Tide devotees, fans start gathering on The Quad the day before the game. Hundreds of tents litter the grass, complete with flat-screen TVs and feasts where BBQ reigns supreme.
All day long, strains of "Sweet Home Alabama" are heard, with several "Roll Tide Rolls" thrown in at the chorus. According to Drew Robinson, executive chef of Alabama-based Jim 'N Nick's Bar-B-Q, the game-day feast is all about barbecued meat — everything from whole roast hogs and smoked ribs to chicken, accompanied by plenty of Southern sides. He and his crew start game day with spicy bloody marys, a tradition that is thought to bring good luck. And giant coolers filled with chilled High Life and bourbon are essential. "This is of primary importance."
Others might roll out tailgate standards, like seven-layer dips, corn and shrimp chowders, and mouthwatering chilis. Of course, the day isn't complete without a 'Bama favorite — Armadillo eggs, akin to jalapeño poppers on steroids. How can you go wrong with a rich pork sausage-flecked popper filled with gooey cheese and a kick of jalapeño?
The people of Louisiana take their food and football seriously. So it's no surprise that LSU fans take tailgating seriously, starting the festivities nearly two days before kick-off. The aroma of bourbon and smoke wafts through the sea of purple and gold tents, and fans serve up plenty of icy-cold bourbon cocktails and spicy Cajun food to go around. Think boudin, jambalaya, boiled shrimp, and of course plenty of hearty gumbo, all downed well before kick-off. Fans compete with neighbors, blasting Zydeco and other New Orleans classics at full volume all day long, and when rivaling fans walk by, you just might hear "Tigah Bait!" ring out.
Rivalry on the field aside, there is one clear winner when it comes to tailgating superiority on Monday: Alabama. How can you go wrong with some of the best barbecue in the country and bloodys with a kick?
Hosting a tailgate of your own to kick off the festivities Monday? Robinson and Tory McPhail, executive chef at Commander's Palace in New Orleans, have shared their top tips for a tailgate you'll never forget, no matter which team you're rooting for.