The scene on a Saturday in Columbus can be quite different depending which section you find yourself in. The areas nearest the stadium are often corporate-sponsored affairs with fancy food, but fail to capture much of the enthusiasm of a more typical gathering of fans. Once you get farther away from the 'shoe, tailgating becomes more authentic. All spots were crammed tightly together and largely located in cement parking lots. Those that arrive early are able to stake out spots along the Olentangy River, which is lovely and serene. Grade: B-
The devotion to the fans' beloved Buckeyes is not derived solely from what they've done for them. Even the younger fans are steeped in Ohio State lore, talking up Archie Griffin and openly lamenting the John Cooper era. The profound adoration of Jim Tressel is everywhere all the time in Columbus, but particularly unbridled on gameday. The fans take their football seriously and are up on all the happenings around the country.Grade: A-
With a noon kickoff, tailgating for many began at first light. That meant hot breakfast and lots of it. The aroma of fried egg sandwiches, scrambled eggs and sausage wafted across the grounds before bellies were filled. From that point on, it was mostly burgers with one significant exception which we'll come to in a minute. Grade: B-
A relatively recent rule dictates that no alcohol is allowed on campus, which means that the tailgates nearest to the stadium are either serving soda pop or being extremely discreet. But farther away, more adult beverages became available. Buckeyes most likely hold the record for most jello shots per capita, particularly impressive given the cold weather. Beer was readily available and the most popular option on the day. Grade: B-
Cornhole was supposedly invented in the Cincinnati area or perhaps southern Indiana. Or maybe a farm in Germany. It depends on who you ask. It's clearly the game of choice in Columbus, with an abundance of boards and bags. With scant few exceptions, every set is decorated in Ohio State colors or with a cartoon Brutus. The owner of the lone Bengals set I encountered must be so embarrassed. Even the few ladder golf sets were adorned with OSU flags. Whether homemade or collected form custom shops, the uniformity of style was a notable display of school spirit. Grade: A-
The "O-H!" "I-O!" chants echoed across campus throughout the day. While the repetitious four-letter chant grew a bit stale to the impartial observer, the local fans' enthusiasm appeared to grow with each shouted letter. Also heard were various versions of Hang on Sloopy, and both a capella and remixed renditions of We Don't Give a Damn for the Whole State of Michigan. Never mind that the game was against Wisconsin. Grade: A-
It was cold right up until kickoff. Consequently, men, women and children were all bundled up. Straight-haired lasses wore Buckeye jerseys and jeans. It's not the kind of party where people get gussied up, and I'm sure that the noon kickoff didn't help matters on this end of things. The girls were cute enough, but did little to distinguish themselves in terms of sex appeal. Grade: C+
When you're the number one team in the country, people are going to get excited. Students, particularly those in the Block O club, spared no expense in getting themselves into character for the game. There were enough kids dressed like Tressel to spell his name across their sweater vests, and various others wore face-paint, wigs, and scarlet long underwear. Grade: A
The Manahan Tailgate won me over immediately upon offering Lake Erie-caught Perch and Walleye. With three deep fryers operating in concert, a new batch of some greasy perfection continuously arrived on a paper towel lined basket throughout the morning. Aside from the fresh fish, mushrooms and onion rings also emerged from the oil, ready to be eaten. Other compelling features included a long visit from renowned superfan Big Nut and a large batch of "Jerry Juice," a concoction which consisted of gin, vodka, rum, tequila, Everclear and a "little bit of juice." Grade: A-
In their version of RV City, there appears to be an arms race on the detailing of old school buses. Loads of painted vehicles display images of Woody Hayes directing from the sidelines, Eddie George charging through a line or Brutus carrying a football with a determined grin. These movable murals are on display for all to observe, with new versions arriving each season. Grade: B
It probably wasn't the greatest day to be in Columbus for tailgating, what with the morning frost and noon kickoff. But that didn't deter any of the proud fans from arriving early to get their eat, drink, and Wolverine hate on. They're a proud bunch, firmly convinced they have the best coach, best band, and the belief that they deserve the number one ranking they currently hold. While that brand of enthusiasm may not endear them to the rest of the nation, as long as the team continues to win, it's hard to fault them for it.
To read more of Andrew Reed's tailgate reports, check out his Road Games blog.