Some rivalries are so intense, they have to be played on neutral ground (ahem, Texas and Oklahoma). Some are so historic, they almost instill a sense of camaraderie in their opponents, and still some are fought in such close proximity that friendships and family bonds have been strained by hard fought wins and difficult losses (looking at you, USC and UCLA).
But before the players have started warming up and running drills, before they’ve swabbed black strips of war paint on their faces, the fans — a healthy mix of students, alums, teachers, and families — have packed team logo-emblazoned RVs, trucks, and cars to the brim with brats, beer, and grills. Tailgating is as American a pastime as you can get. Grilling up burgers and hot dogs, laying out a full spread of sweet and savory snacks, making sure your face and body paint looks right, and setting up for a game of corn hole or two is known far and wide as being the best way to prep for the big game.
As in every activity, though, some fans do it better than others. Some bring enough food to put county fairs to shame, some make big pots of jambalaya and gumbo the night before so they can get it just right. And the really dedicated fans go above and beyond the requisite cooler of beer. The Florida v. Georgia rivalry, for example, has a tailgate that’s been lovingly nicknamed “the world’s largest outdoor cocktail party,” while the serious tailgaters at LSU sip on Bourbon and soda, when they’re not knocking back oyster shooters.
And when it comes to the food, some fans stick to the good ol’ fashioned barbecue, grilling up meats like burgers, brats, and chicken. But to others, that sounds like child’s play. Why tuck into a barbecued chicken when you could be eating a Low Country boil and Cajun-style shrimp with the other Auburn fans? Or, wake up early with Ohio State because they come prepared with Bloody Mary’s and homemade egg “McMuffins” for breakfast while they’re firing up the grill.
It just makes you wonder — could the teams really press on if the tailgaters weren’t there firing up their grills at 6 a.m.? So, we pit 12 of college football’s most iconic rivalries against each other when it comes to pre-game grub, cocktail concoctions, and tailgate scene. Don’t think we were precious about it, either — we declared a “The Daily Meal Tailgate Winner” of each rivalry. Did your team win the ultimate tailgate rivalry?
We hosted a #TailgateTweetOff to see who you thought held the best tailgate. Now, click here to vote for the ultimate tailgate winner!