There is nothing quite like a college football gameday in the South. You frequently hear the term “faith, family, football…and not necessarily in that order.” The SEC, undoubtedly plays home to some of the great traditions in all of sports and tailgating is a major part of the experience.
During the Fall of 2018, a group of documentarians hit the road to film the ultimate SEC football experience: Saturday SuprEmaCy. The film follows two sports fans as they attend a difference SEC football game each week during the 2018 season and showcases all the top-notch game day action, tailgating and nightlife that accompany SEC football Saturdays.
SEC Tailgating Rankings
Nashville, TN (9-1-18 Vanderbilt vs. Middle Tennessee)
There is no secret that visiting teams frequently perform (relatively) non-hostile takeovers of Nashville during Vanderbilt home games. The school has attempted to create a more unique game day atmosphere over the years but, by and large, the appetite just isn’t really there for Commodore football. There is an area called “Vandyville” that we couldn’t even locate prior to the game but did take in the Star Walk which featured adequate fan support and fervor. As a rule of thumb, if. you are attending a game at Vanderbilt Stadium, stick to Broadway Street for pre-game entertainment and you’ll never leave disappointed.
Lexington, Kentucky (10-20-18 Kentucky vs. Vanderbilt)
I was fortunate enough to be in Lexington during the 2018 season where the Kentucky Wildcats enjoyed their first 10-win season in 40 years. Kroger Field itself has gone through some tremendous changes over the past five years and the fans were out in full force despite a blustery cold day. The area around the stadium was teaming with fans but with high winds blowing tents over all day, it was certainly not the picture-perfect college football saturday so the tailgating suffered quite a bit.
Columbia, Missouri (9-22-18 Missouri vs. Georgia)
Admittedly, I’m a bit biased here growing up a die-hard Mizzou fan and attending games at Faurot Field since the early 90’s. Upon moving to the SEC in 2012, Missouri was tasked with stepping its game up on every level including the tailgating. While it’s always adequate, the lots are spaced out all over campus and with limited parking, many attempt to tailgate in the grass right off Stadium BLVD. Improvements have occurred in recent years with the addition of pre-game concerts and designated prime tailgate locations next to the stadium.
11. Mississippi State
Starkville, MS (10-6-18 Miss. State vs. Auburn)
One of the most pleasant surprises on our journey took place in Starkville last October as the Bulldogs pulled off a major upset over Auburn. Starkville may not garnish lots of national attention but the tailgating scene was largely impressive especially around the Junction. We encountered far more cowbells than should ever be allowed in a public gathering but the overall experience was tremendous.
Fayetteville, Arkansas (11-24-17 Arkansas vs. Missouri)
This was our first shooting location back in late 2017 and it was an unseasonably magnificent afternoon in Northwest Arkansas. The football team had long packed it in that season and coach Bret Bielema would be fired by night’s end but we were able to post up in the Gardens area near the stadium for a delightful day of food and beverage consumption. Arkansas fans still showed up in droves that day which heightened the pre-game atmosphere exponentially. Fayetteville is one of the more underrated college towns in America as a whole and a trip there is highly recommended.
9. South Carolina
Columbia, South Carolina (10-14-18 South Carolina vs. Tennessee)
You hear stories from fellow sports fans about how impressive Williams-Brice Stadium is on a game day. There was ample tailgating space as the stadium itself is located in the state fairgrounds, which diminishes a bit of the atmosphere that you get from an on-campus stadium. However, the tailgating was tremendous with several open lots surrounding the stadium filled with gleeful fans eating and lubricating until game time.
Gainesville, Florida (11-3-18 Florida vs. Missouri)
You can do a lot worse than spending a sun-drenched Saturday in Gainesville, especially when the Gators are good. You’ve got ample bars and tailgating areas outside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium and there’s something about that orange and blue under the warm Autumn sun that’s just glorious. The sights and colors are almost overwhelming and there is never a shortage of female Gator fans there soaking it all in as well.
Auburn, Alabama (10-13-18 Auburn vs. Tennessee)
There’s nothing quite like the majesty of a wedding on a college football game day…unless it’s a tailgate wedding right before the game outside the stadium. That’s just the situation we found ourselves in before watching Auburn host Tennessee on a sun-drenched October morning in eastern Alabama. The small town charm is undeniable as a stop at Toomer’s Drug hearkens you back to simpler days. There was no rolling of Toomer’s corner on this day as a result of the loss but there are nothing but positive memories of that October afternoon in Auburn.
Knoxville, Tennessee (11-17-18 Tennessee vs. Missouri)
The visual of 200 boats sitting outside Neyland Stadium on the banks of the beautiful Tennessee River is a sight to behold. At Tennessee, you really get the whole experience with an off-the-charts campus, top-notch stadium and tremendous fan support. The stadium may be 1/3 empty more often than not these days and the team is still attempting to return to late 90’s glory.
5. Texas A&M
College Station Texas (9-8-18 Texas A&M vs. Clemson)
Aggieland has it all when it comes to passion, pageantry and tradition. From the time we arrived on the Friday before the game, College Station was abuzz with anticipation of hosting the #2 team in the nation. From the alluring Midnight Yell practice the night before to the overwhelming support showcased on ESPN’s College Gameday the next afternoon, it was clear that this was one of the best overall atmospheres in college football. We were invited to one of the best tailgates on campus with Aggie Yell leaders from years past and it made for an unforgettable experience.
Tuscaloosa, Alabama (10-13-18 Alabama vs. Missouri).
A visit to, almost inarguably, the home of the premier college football program in the country provides everything a football lover could ask for. The tailgating on the campus Quad prior the game rivals even the famed Grove in Oxford as stunning sights and smells overtake you the minute you galavant into the area. The presentation of the cheerleaders and the infamous “Million Dollar Band” hours before kickoff on the Quad is spectacular and even fans of opposing teams rush to catch a glimpse.
Athens, Georgia (11-10-18 Georgia vs. Auburn).
Everything about a college football Saturday in Athens is phenonemal. There is a lot of class and sophistication about Athens from its upscale nightlife to the diverse arts and entertainment scene. Sanford Stadium itself provides a unique divide between north and south campus and never fails to be sold-out and raucous. The tailgating is pretty spread out from campus to downtown but these fans are tremendous and always accommodating.
Baton Rouge, Louisiana (9-29-18, LSU vs. Ole Miss)
It’s a cliche at this point to reference there being “nothing like a Saturday night at Death Valley” but there literally isn’t. Tiger Stadium is nothing short of a college football cathedral, hosting over 100,000 fans for every home game and boasts one of the most intimidating atmospheres in all of sports. The tailgating is nothing short of extraordinary with fans arriving as early as days before the game to pick their spots. The food and comradery is fantastic and the people are equally gracious and eccentric.
1. Ole Miss
Oxford, Mississippi (9-15-18 Ole Miss vs. Alabama)
You’ve heard it ad nauseam over the years but The Grove in Oxford, Mississippi is the greatest tailgate area in sports. It’s like its own tent city that welcomes tens of thousands of fans and it is truly a special experience. Oxford itself has that small town charm with a population of just over 23,000. Sources inside the Ole Miss AD claim that over 100,000 people make their way to Oxford for games, even if many of them never make it to the game itself. Unfortunately, on this night, Ole Miss found themselves hosting the defending national champion Alabama Crimson Tide and the game was a whitewash, lessening the crowd experience exponentially.