SIOC's Tailgate Awards - Sports Illustrated

SIOC's Tailgate Awards

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Winner: Clemson. Tailgates directly on campus always seemed to have a leg up in this category. When a campus is placed on the slopes of Appalachian hills, it's going to be hard to beat. At Clemson, all lots are small enough to be intimate, but most provide enough space for kids to toss footballs to each other. Plus, no matter where you find yourself, you're never far from Death Valley. Runner Up: Tennessee At the bottom of The Hill and on the banks of the Tennessee River, tailgaters stake out spots in lots near Neyland Stadium or other campus buildings. The only way to improve one's location is to know someone with a boat. Honorable Mention: LSU

Winner: Notre Dame. Every domer in South Bend not only knew all the Fighting Irish lore, but could discuss the details of any program across the nation. Their enthusiasm for all college football matches their fervor for their home team. One can only assume that came in handy during this trying season.Runner Up: Nebraska. 'Huskers have been given the distinction of "the country's best fans." This title primarily applies to their respect for the game of football and their opponents. Whether it's talking about the finer points of the sport or opponents from around the nation, Nebraska fans are on point. Honorable Mention: Auburn, Michigan

Winner: LSU. Even if you don't appreciate cajun cuisine, you'd still find plenty of tasty grub in Baton Rouge on game day. But what a shame it would be to miss out on all the jambalaya, gumbo and boudin. Of all the fervent revelry on display at LSU, food is the most important, and something everyone should experience at least once. Runner Up: Michigan. Wolverine fans dealt with the freezing temperatures by stuffing their faces, much like animals preparing for hibernation. The importance of the day's food was evidenced by how many people showed up before the sun to start cooking. Honorable Mention: Bridgewater College, USC

Winner: Wisconsin. The beer capital of the United States may be found within their state, but Badger fans did not limit themselves to the suds. Extensive bars turned up at nearly every tailgate, serving everything from mojitos to champagne. Students frequented house parties where drinking was the main order of business. Runner Up: Worlds Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. No matter what the schools want the party to be called, the Florida-Georgia clash in Jacksonville featured enough bourbon to drown a small country. Nobody complained.Honorable Mention: Harvard, USC

Winner: Rutgers. Though the team has only been playing at a high level for a couple seasons, Rutgers fans are surprisingly well-equipped for their tailgates. This included a wide variety of games, with everything from Guitar Hero to horseshoes played with actual metal shoes -- probably not safest activity for the cars parked nearby. Runner Up: Notre Dame. The most frequently played game around the country has to be cornhole. It's really the ideal tailgate contest, being safe, easy to learn, and pretty darn fun. And nobody plays more cornhole than The Fighting Irish. Bags were flying all day, across every inch of the tailgate lots.Honorable Mention: Ohio State, Washington

Winner: Ohio State. Between painted faces and chests, poofy scarlet wigs and students of both genders donning sweater vests that spell out "TRESSEL," the superfan contingent was well represented in Columbus by fans both young and old. Expect to see many of these characters running around New Orleans in early January. Runner Up: Nebraska. Scores of students painted themselves red and black, with many incorporating corn into their costumes in various ways. That's a double-dose of school pride. Honorable Mention: LSU, Michigan

Winner: World's Largest Cocktail Party. After taking in the loss, a female Gator fan wearing a jersey and denim shorts yelled at two Georgia gals walking by, "Boooo! Why do y'all wear dresses? I don't understand!" The red-clad ladies shouted back, "'Cause it's classier!" One could fall on either side in the debate for fashion supremacy, but for those only interested in the Eye Candy, the diversity and sheer number of southern girls makes Jacksonville the greatest array of young ladies in the country. Runner Up: Clemson. Generally falling on the Georgia side of the above argument, Clemson girls are classy, cute and way into football. That's not a bad combo. Honorable Mention: Georgia Tech, USC

Winner: Michigan. A visitor could easily get sick of hearing The Victors over and over, but it's clear that the home fans in Ann Arbor never tire of singing it. When in the mood for something shorter, a hearty "Go Blue" was used in its place. Runner Up: World's Largest Cocktail Party. The neutral site brings with it the opportunity to razz a greater number of opponents. Both Bulldogs and Gators claimed their supremacy before the game, many with such ferocity that their voices were toast by the time kickoff arrived.Honorable Mention: Auburn, LSU

Winner: Nebraska. Easily the most loaded setup of the year, Jerry and Joe's double-decker trailer features taps on both levels, four TVs, an ice-maker, and a full bar. Of course, there was a sizable grill and a cornucopia of eats. But the most noteworthy piece of gear was the toilet hidden inside the trailer. They'd clearly thought of everything Runner Up: Stagg Bowl. The Stone Station crew from Bridgewater College showed they could hit the road with the best of them, feeding hundreds of hungry people at the Division III Championship Game. Over a dozen people contributed their culinary creations to the mix. The result was full bellies and happy faces on everyone in attendance. Honorable Mention: Red River Shootout

Winner: Tennessee. There are only two stadiums in America at which one can arrive via boat. That's an X-factor that truly can't be topped. If you're either well off or well connected, you can sail to Knoxville via the Tennessee River and have yourself a floating tailgate party.Runner Up: Washington. Same goes for Saturdays on Lake Washington. So why does U-Dub get relegated honorable mention? Much colder water. Honorable Mention: Auburn

Throughout the season, the most common question I've received has been, "Which place is your favorite?" Lucky for me the honest answer to that question happens to be a diplomatic one as well. Every campus possesses its own charms and strengths that make it unique. That said, in terms of an enthusiastic all-day party among fans who takes as much pride in their tailgating as they do in their football program, nobody surpasses LSU. They fared well in virtually all of our categories, but still complained that their grades were too low. Like any good valedictorian, these Tigers won't be satisfied until they get straight As. While you could argue about what needs improvement, as long as they keep serving up the Cajun cuisine, they won't stray far from the top.

To read more of Andrew Reed's tailgate reports, check out his Road Games blog.