Apartment Living BlogOff-campus Living › Game of Zones: Which College Football Tailgate Wins the Rivalry

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Plenty of tailgaters settle for the mundane: a plain old hamburger or a run-of-the-mill hotdog. But not you. You strive for something…better. Bigger. More unique. You don’t mind getting your hands dirty—either on the grill or in the workshop—so long as yours is the tailgate that everyone talks about. We’re here to help make it happen. Today, we’d like to walk you through some of the best tailgates of the season. For inspiration, we’ve dug deep to highlight the best tailgate options at four of the fiercest college football rivalry games each fall:

For each, we’re going to talk about what makes the game special. Specifically:

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THE HISTORY OF THE RIVALRY

The bigger the rivalry, the better the tailgate.

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THE TAILGATE
Some rivals save their best traditions for each other. Knowing your way around these traditions will help you become a next-level tailgater.

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THE FOOD
Burgers and brats are great, but they’re just a little…common. If you want an experience to remember, serve something that stands out.

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THE BUILD
Anyone can bring a portable grill. But those who show up towing a DIY roasting spit will be remembered as one-of-a-kind.

To help inspire an unforgettable tailgating season, we’ve gathered our favorite rivalries, and ideas on how to make the most of these epic games with festive recipes and awe-inspiring DIY setups that utilize the tailgating supplies you’re loading up on for the season.

Whether you call one of these rival schools your home turf or you’re setting up your tailgate experience in a spot all your own: Happy eating, happy grilling, and happy building!

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Texas vs. Oklahoma
198 miles. That’s the distance to Fair Park in Dallas, TX from both Norman, Oklahoma and Austin, TX. A perfect geographic neutral zone, where the Oklahoma Sooners and the Texas Longhorns clash year in, year out, as they have every year since 1932. It’s a rivalry as rich in history as it is on-field ugly.

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THE RIVALRY
The Texas-Oklahoma rivalry has been around so long that it actually predates Oklahoma statehood by about seven years. In other words, this rivalry is a part of Oklahoma’s pre-history.

But how big is this rivalry, exactly? We spoke to Ryan Lepper of the legendary Horn-Ball Texas Tailgaters, who throw a tailgate so big, they’ve actually got corporate sponsors. “The [Red River Rivalry] is incredible! Every first down feels like a touchdown and every punt a kick in the teeth. It’s not just bragging rights on the line—it’s state pride,” he says.

A rivalry this big demands a tailgate of truly stratospheric proportions. So how about a 24-day tailgate? Like, say, the State Fair of Texas?

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THE TAILGATE
You’ve probably seen pictures of the State Fair of Texas. Decorated with a record-breaking Ferris wheel and the iconic Big Tex statue, this fair features concerts, auto shows, barbeque contests and even livestock auctions. Even non-football fans can find almost a month’s worth of entertainment without ever laying their eyes on the gridiron. It is one of THE highlights in the state of Texas each year.

As a tailgater, you’ll have your work cut out for you. There aren’t a ton of parking spaces for traditional tailgaters at the State Fair. “There is a small but fervent scene,” says Lepper. “It’s not like a home game—more campers and RVs—but most people head into the fair to ‘fairgate.’” So if you’re lucky enough to get a spot, we recommend going big. Really big.

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Source: https://www.facebook.com/HornBallTexasTailgaters/photos


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THE FOOD: Deep Fried Turkey
The menu at the fair reads like a personal trainer’s nightmare: fried bacon cinnamon rolls, Buffalo chicken in a flapjack, and deep-fried gum. This goes on for 24 straight days. “If you’re on a diet or a calorie-counter, just turn right around and head back home,” says Lepper, who warned us away from deep-fried margaritas.

When bringing your own fare for your tailgate, you probably want to do more than just throw something on the grill. To keep up with this atmosphere, you have to fry something.

We recommend deep-frying a turkey. Why turkey?

  1. It is among the most challenging things to fry, so if you can fry a turkey, you can fry anything (Texas brisket, for instance).
  2. Frying a turkey means building a really cool DIY fry derrick.

To get started, you’ll need a turkey (giblets removed) and plenty of peanut oil. Celebrity chef Alton Brown has the full instructions over at the Food Network, including your ingredient list and the cooking process. But to do this outside, you’ll want to build a portable fry derrick.

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THE BUILD: Fry Derrick
Ok, you’ve got your other ingredients ready to go. Did you remember to buy a ladder? Yep, a ladder. Of course, turkey fryers are great in their own right, but to really enhance the project (and create a little tailgating crowd control around your pot of boiling oil), a derrick is a smart addition to the process.

You’ll need to gather a list of supplies that includes the ladder, pulleys and heavy-duty cotton cord. Here are instructions from user Lextone at Instructables.com. Celebrity chef Alton Brown also has full instructions and a supplies list. Watch his demonstrative video below.

Source: https://www.youtube.com/embed/O14bgW8xmqk


Between the propane cooker and the ladder, you’ve got some supplies to move. Go ahead and bring the kitchen sink by investing in a high quality portable trailer to get your gear to the game.

Is this all a lot of work? You betcha. But if the young men of UT and OU will be bringing their best, we think you should too. Hook ‘em Horns! Boomer Sooner! It’s game time.

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Source: Scott Eklund
for Red Box Pictures

Washington vs. Oregon
Although they have largely flown under the national radar until recent years, the Washington Huskies and Oregon Ducks have one of the most interesting rivalries in college football: They’ve been playing each other since 1900, and have a nasty history filled with Machiavellian political intrigue. Strap in, folks. You’ve got a front-row seat to the contest known as the Cascade Clash.

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THE RIVALRY
While these two schools have been playing since 1900, things got ugly in 1948. Although Washington wasn’t terribly competitive that year, they still found a way to ruin Oregon’s season—through democracy.

That year, Oregon had a shot to get into the Rose Bowl. They just needed enough votes from other teams in their conference. Numbers being what they were, it was assumed they’d be a shoo-in.

Well. Not only did Washington vote against Oregon, they got Montana to vote against them too. Even though Washington wouldn’t have made it into the game, they began a political movement out of pure spite against Oregon. They succeeded, and the rivalry has been pretty bad ever since.

Other notable games include:

  • In 1962, Washington fans tackled an Oregon receiver to break up a tie.
  • In 1999, Washington hired Jim Neuheisel, former Colorado Buffaloes head coach, who was infamous for running up the score against Oregon. (That same coach, once at Washington, danced on the Oregon “O” after a victory.)

Such a heated rivalry demands a tailgate of epic proportions. One so big, in fact, that it can’t be contained on solid ground. See, at Washington, they’ve perfected the art of Sailgating.

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THE TAILGATE
Sailgating is, simply put, amazing. Imagine everything good about tailgating —the food, the refreshments, the company —and now put it on a boat.

This year’s contest will be held in Oregon. With all due respect to the recently dominant Ducks, who have a fine tailgate at The Moshofsky Center, we’re turning our attention to 2017, when a regatta’s worth of boats will descend upon Lake Washington. Fans can drop anchor and enjoy all the typical tailgating rituals, just lake-bound.

Now that you’re afloat: let’s talk about grub.

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Source: Jordan Stead for Red Box Pictures


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THE FOOD: Duck Roll Ups and Grilled Apples
If you’re around when the Ducks visit the uskies, you’re going to want to plan for a feast. Luckily, we’ve got one dish for each team ready to go.

For the Huskies Fans
There’s nothing more demoralizing than seeing opposing fans devour your team’s mascot. That’s why we recommend grilling these Duck Roll Ups. In addition to duck breasts, you’ll need bacon, an onion, a pepper and a handful of seasonings. For the full ingredients and instructions, check out the recipe at Legendary Whitetails.

For the Ducks Fans
The apple is something of a state icon to Washington, so seeing the Duck faithful chow down on a source of state pride is sure to infuriate Husky fans. You’ll just need butter, cinnamon and honey, plus a handful of Washington apples.

Here’s the recipe from Extraordinary BBQ.

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THE BUILD: Boat Grill
If you’re sailgating, we recommend investing in boat grilling as well. To set up a grill on a boat, you could pay extra to buy a specialized model, or you can get creative by using a regular portable grill and building a customized mount to keep it secure. Before adding a grill to your boat, please make sure you’re following all local regulations and keep safety in mind!

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You’ll just need stainless steel pan head screws, nuts and washers, plus a rail mounting bracket that fits your boat. You’ll also need a good drill and an appropriately sized, portable propane grill, all available at your local hardware store.

Once you’ve gathered those supplies, follow these instructions from the Stingy Sailor to make your boat grill come to life. Before long you’ll be resting on Lake Washington enjoying a feast, and the feeling that you’re moments away from watching one of the best rivalries in all of college sports.

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Megan Bean/
Mississippi State University

Ole Miss vs. Mississippi State
Among the kings and queens of tailgating, fans of the Ole Miss Rebels may just hold the throne. Where else can you tailgate underneath chandeliers, served up on fine china? In fact, the only thing that can make an Ole Miss tailgate better is when they’re playing against a big rival, like Mississippi State, in their yearly clash: The Egg Bowl.

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THE RIVALRY
Ole Miss and MSU began squaring off in 1901. Far more than bragging rights, a victory for one over the other is usually enough to salvage a bad season. Through 1925, Mississippi State was clearly dominant. Then, in 1925, after an Ole Miss victory, fans stormed the field to tear down the goalposts. Passionate Mississippi State fans fought back with wooden
chairs. It got ugly, as amateur chair combat often does.

To keep the peace, a trophy fashioned after a 1926-style football was created. Remember, footballs back then were more egg-shaped. And that’s how the Golden Egg trophy was born.

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Source: Jordan Stead for Red Box Pictures


“If you win, you get bragging rights for the next year,” says super-fan Jan Waddell. She and her husband Lamar run The Real Thing Tailgate—a regular pre-game party so big and so important, it was covered in the New York Times. “This is the one that coaches get fired for losing,” she says. So the game is huge. But what about the tailgate?

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THE TAILGATE
The world “tailgate” probably conjures up mental images of grills, parking lots and burgers. Throw all that away, because when Mississippi State visits Ole Miss, fans of both schools will be tailgating at The Grove, a 10-acre park full of oaks, elms and magnolias. Cars aren’t allowed. Neither are open flames. Instead, you’ll see plenty of Ralph Lauren clothing and candelabras.

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Source: https://www.facebook.com/realthingtailgate/


Beginning the Friday before the game, Ole Miss faithful begin setting up tents with elaborate spreads of cold hors d’oeuvres. Meanwhile, ladies and gentlemen alike dress up in attire one might expect to see in a church down South: sundresses, sharp blazers and the like. It’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen—even at Mississippi State.

“One publication included The Grove in a top ten list of sporting events you must experience. Others in that list were the Big Football Game, Wimbledon and the Kentucky Derby…pretty good company!” says Lamar Waddell of the Real Deal Tailgate. “So when I say The Junction at Mississippi State doesn’t compare to The Grove, I am not picking on them. None compare.”

It’s truly a one-of-a-kind experience. So—what’s on the menu?

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THE FOOD: Fried Catfish Deviled Eggs
For this game, you’ll need a dish that embodies the spirit of The Egg Bowl, as well as Mississippi itself. That perfect combination is fried catfish deviled eggs.

You’ll need hard-boiled eggs, catfish fillets, dill and a handful of seasonings.Get the full list of ingredients and the recipe from the Food Network here.

Now, you can’t just tote these delicacies in any old cooler. This event is all about style, right down to your food accessories.

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THE BUILD: The Wooden Cooler Cover
One of the best ways to improve the appearance of your cooler is to set it in a wooden cooler box. You will need 2x4s, hinges and PVC. Check out the full instructions, including a video, here. And remember, while the builder in the video stained his wooden cooler box, you’re in full control of the paint scheme (may we suggest crimson and blue or maroon and white?)

Source: https://www.youtube.com/embed/47QPB7KJ6cc


Of course, even the best looking wooden cooler cover won’t impress if it can’t keep your drinks cold. Start by choosing a solid chest cooler you can count on to keep your delicious deviled eggs well-preserved until game time.

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Courtesy of
Shellie Reed

Army vs. Navy
For 364 days a year, the men and women of our armed forces are brothers and sisters in arms. But one day a year, they want to beat the tar out of each other. We’re talking, of course, about the annual game between the Army Black Knights and the Navy Midshipmen. And while it is playfully competitive, it’s also serious business: These teams want to trounce each other.

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THE RIVALRY
Since 1890, a friendly—yet incredibly passionate—rivalry has existed between the Black Knights and the Midshipmen. We spoke to Lieutenant Chris Chang of the US Navy, who tells us, “From the first day at the Military or Naval Academy each and every cadet and midshipman yell ‘Beat Army’ or ‘Beat Navy’ several hundred times every day of the year.” Not only are bragging rights on the line, but in some years, it’s possible that the Commander-in-Chief’s trophy is up for grabs, too.

There’s another element at play here. Don’t forget, the young men on the field are headed into the service after college. Many of the players on the field are too old to be drafted into the NFL after their service has concluded. That means the seniors literally leave it all on the field.

Couple this with the fact that Army-Navy is typically the last game of the year, and you’ve got the makings for one of the year’s best tailgates.

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Source: Courtesy of Shellie Reed


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THE TAILGATE
Navy Lieutenant Chang reports, “Tailgating is always a big affair for any Navy home game, as this is one of the few opportunities that midshipmen can eat ‘home-cooked’ food.” If your family can’t make it for a given game? Lieutenant Chang tells us certain tailgating groups will “adopt” a company of Midshipmen.

What gives the Army-Navy tailgates a unique twist is that it’s almost always played at a neutral site. This year, the teams will square off in Baltimore at M&T Stadium, home of the Baltimore Ravens. This means you’ll have plenty of space for big tailgates, decked out RVs and all the food you can carry. Just remember to share some with our servicemen and women.

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THE FOOD: Crabcake Sandwich
Tailgates, at their best, are a perfect “shot” of culture. A representation of team spirit, local customs, and regional fare. Can there be another answer but “crab”? Specifically, a tasty, Maryland-caught crabcake sandwich?

You’ll need crab, of course. But you’ll also need an egg, breadcrumbs and plenty of seasoning. Here’s the full recipe from MyRecipes.com. You’ll want to get that crab cake mixture assembled ahead of time, but feel free to grill at the game itself. (Just make sure to have a quality grill ready to go.)

Once those beautiful crab cakes are grilled up, you’ll need to assemble your sandwich. But where to keep the accoutrements?

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THE BUILD: Customized Grill Cart
DIY grill carts are great for holding all your rolls, Old Bay, lettuce, tomato and mayo/remoulade/creamy dressing of your choice up top. The second and third shelves are perfect for plates or silverware, or even grill tools.

For each of these options, you’ll need plywood, paint (pick out your team colors!) and grill accessories as a baseline. Customize your cart according to the style of your choice.

With that—happy grilling, and Beat Army! Beat Navy!

Rivalries Are Everywhere…
Make Sure You Tailgate Like the Best

While these rivalries are some of the best in college football, they are not the only ones in college football. We hope we’ve encouraged you to view these rivalries and how to celebrate them in a new light. Start with gathering all the supplies you need for a perfect day of fun in the sun, from comfortable portable chairs to a generator to keep your favorite toys running all day. Don’t forget your outdoor games too (here are some ideas).

If you can’t make it to one of these games, just remember that any game can be vastly improved with the right dish, and the right DIY project. Happy grilling, happy building, and enjoy the season!

About :

Brian Cullen is a writer living in New Jersey with his wife and his dog, Shay. His work has appeared on Tailgate Fan, McSweeney’s, MTV’s Guy Code Blog and more. As an alumnus of the University of Notre Dame, he’s certain that the best tailgates happen in South Bend, Indiana. He wrote this piece for The Home Depot, which has a large selection of tailgating gear.

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