Best College Football Bars For 2012

Fall has arrived: the leaves are changing, the days are getting shorter, and our teams are lacing up their cleats. That's right, it's finally football season — and more importantly for some, college football season.

Nothing quite inspires football allegiance like a nice cold brew, team colors, big-screen TVs, and rowdy fans. No, we're not talking tailgates (though they're a hallmark of the season), we're talking sports bars. At every university with a decent football team — or any school pride — there's that one meeting place that tops all the others; the one bar where students, football junkies, and alumni trying to relive the glory days of college congregate to scream fight songs and cheer on their team.

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So what makes these bars stand out from the rest of football-gathering watering holes? After all, any bar can hang a big-screen TV, turn on the game, and call it a day. It's not just the location, usually near the football stadium or campus, that makes them the unofficial watch party for the game (though it doesn't hurt). These college football bars have the extras that take them from fratty college bars to well, decent bars.

A great selection of brews and bites makes games an all-day event. Take the cheese fries at Oklahoma State University's Eskimo Joe's, or the pizza at University of Kentucky's Pazzo's Pizza Pub, or yes, the Cajun gator tail at University of Florida's The Swamp; a great bite will keep you camped out from kickoff to the final touchdown. Not to mention the beer: it's Texas A&M's Dixie Chicken that proudly claims to have "the most beer per square foot of any bar in the U.S," one possible reason for its large crowds on game day.

Let's be real, these aren't the bars you're going to find a craft cocktail, or even a craft beer. Peanut shells, pool tables, writing on the walls, outrageous drink specials, and rowdy students practically come on a college bar checklist. But what makes these bars great is that they have heart; they're institutions nearly as old as the football teams themselves. After all, President Obama didn't pick just any bar to visit while campaigning in Boulder, Colo.: he chose the Sink, best known for its burgers, beers, and crowds on game day. (And, for full disclosure: I, too, have a few autographs up on the wall of the Sink.) Whether your team's undefeated or just barely scraping by, we can agree that these bars are always winning.

With research and writing from Emilia Morano-Williams.