November 15th, 2013
12:00 PM ET
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Kate Krader (@kkrader on Twitter) is Food & Wine's restaurant editor. When she tells us where to find our culinary heart's desire, we listen up.

Here comes college football's bowl season.

So exciting! Equally as exciting are the dispatches from the BCS tailgating front lines. Since the University of Alabama is No. 1, and since the South takes its football - and tailgating - very seriously, we got intel on the top five parties in the Southeastern Conference, according to the most recent power rankings.

Just look out for life-size Jell-O molds of Alabama coach Nick Saban’s head.

1. The University of Alabama
Alabama dominates college football rankings. It also has loyal tailgaters, like the Campus Veterans Association, which sets up a weekly party for people in the military, with supplies of food, beer and cornhole. But the Crimson Tide has some competition in the tailgating department, especially from rival Louisiana State University, which they recently beat. In UA’s campus paper The Crimson White, UA alumnus Tyler Cummings said: “'Bama tailgates lean toward barbecue, burgers, hot dogs and sausages - I suppose more of the typical game-day cuisine. Even as a 'Bama alumnus, I’d have to say LSU has 'Bama beat hands down on the food at tailgates.”

2. Auburn University
Auburn residents who are devoted to the team but not so handy in the kitchen can contact the Tailgate Guys, a company dedicated to the art of tailgates. They’ll set up all the equipment - tents, tables, coolers full of ice, beer koozies and even televisions - for groups of up to 60 people; they’ll also clean up afterward. Customers can either pack their own food, or hire one of the Tailgate Guys caterers: Tailgate Chef, Chick-fil-A, Tiger Catering or Country’s Barbecue.

3. University of Missouri
Mizzou tailgaters can plan their tailgate while supporting the school’s College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. The Mizzou Meat Market (nice name!) sells signature Tiger Tail brats and Tiger Tail burgers (both smartly striped with cheese) in addition to a huge variety of pork, beef, lamb and goat. Wine drinkers can pick up Mizzou Cellars Wine, made by local Missouri winemakers in collaboration with the school’s Grape and Wine Institute.

4. Texas A&M University
In its September/October 2013 issue, Tailgater Monthly named Texas A&M the No. 1 tailgating college of 2013. No surprise: The school’s College of Agriculture and Life Science has a Meat Science program, which offers coursework in meat science, meat selection and grading, food safety and more. The school’s Texas Barbecue website is a comprehensive barbecue guide, from rub recipes to scientific explanations of why brisket and pork butt barbecue are so popular (it’s all about the collagen in the muscle fibers).

5. The University of South Carolina
Gamecocks fans Chris and Kathy Fulmer recently won the 2013 National Collegiate Tailgating Championship in Atlanta, Georgia. There are competitions in dozens of categories: barbecue, drinks, clothing, pet clothing(!), jewelry, pet games, home brew, etc. The Fulmers won in 25 categories, spanning food, memorabilia and equipment. They operate Ultimate Tailgaters BBQ in Aiken, South Carolina, and they’ll cater game-day events with beef brisket, pulled pork, spareribs, macaroni and cheese, banana pudding and more. All this makes me think I need to become a South Carolina fan.

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Filed under: Content Partner • Culture • Food and Wine • Tailgating

soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. Hotty Toddy

    I'm sorry, but you would be hard pressed to find a better tailgating atmosphere in the SEC than the one at OLE MISS. It's almost blasphemous to put Mizzou and A&M in the top 5 of all SEC tailgating when it's only their second year in the conference! In fact, people from BOTH of those schools (who had to play Ole Miss twice in Oxford the last two years) have raved about how colossal the tailgating experience is at Ole Miss (which, incidentally, is the smallest public university and in the smallest town in all of the SEC I might add). Bless your heart, ALL of the pictures you show in this article are not even of people tailgating?!? Come on, now! All I know is... at Ole Miss... we might not win every game, but we ain't NEVER lost a party! Hotty Toddy, y'all. Come on down to Oxford and let us show you how it's done in our town.

    November 26, 2013 at 10:29 am |
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