Photo by Iain Bagwell

Just a few more days until kickoff, and you can feel the excitement in the air. We've already voted for our school in The South's Best Tailgate and now we're planning out the perfect game-day spread - because we all know the most important thing is winning the game and the second most important is having the best food. Here's our strategy:

Pre-Game: Start your party off with a bang. Have one or two dips ready to go for casual munching, like our Loaded Baked Potato Dip (served with a side of waffle fries) or our Warm Gumbo Dip. And generate some pre-game buzz with a team-themed spritzer, like the Ole Miss "Ole" Fashioned.

Kickoff: Everyone's glued to the screen. You need finger food that won't interrupt their concentration. Deviled Eggs and Hush Puppies are Southern must-haves, but we've got a little something up our sleeves for this weekend: Sausage Poppers and Mini Corn Dogs. Here's an exclusive Southern Living recipe:

Sausage Poppers Makes: 24 poppers

  • 12 large fresh jalapeño peppers
  • 1½ cups all-purpose baking mix
  • ½ (1-lb.) package ground pork sausage
  • 1 cup (4 oz.) freshly shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 2 oz. cream cheese, softened

1. Preheat oven to 400°. Cut peppers in half lengthwise. Remove and discard seeds and membranes. Pat dry with paper towels.

2. Stir together all-purpose baking mix and next 3 ingredients in a medium bowl until thoroughly blended.

3. Stuff peppers with sausage mixture. Place peppers on a lightly greased wire rack in a 15- x 10-inch jelly-roll pan.

4. Bake at 400° for 15 to 18 minutes or until golden brown and thoroughly heated. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Mini Corn Dogs Makes: 16 servings

  • 2 (8-oz.) packages refrigerated crescent rolls
  • 1 (14-oz.) package cocktail-size smoked sausages
  • ¼ cup plain yellow cornmeal
  • 32 (4-inch) wooden skewers

1. Preheat oven to 375°. Unroll crescent rolls, and separate into triangles. Cut each triangle in half lengthwise. Place 1 sausage on narrow end of dough triangle, and roll up, pressing dough around ends of sausage to enclose completely. Repeat procedure with remaining dough triangles and sausages.

2. Lightly roll each enclosed sausage in cornmeal. Place sausages 2 inches apart on a lightly greased baking sheet.

3. Bake at 375° for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown. Insert a wooden skewer into one end of each wrapped sausage, and serve with spicy ketchup.

Half Time: It's still anybody's game and nerves are flying high. Move on to more serious grub, like these Chicken & Honey Sandwiches. You can prepare a super version of this sandwich in a foot-long baguette and cut it up for everyone to grab.

Touchdown! Whether you're looking to celebrate a victory or drown your sorrows, we say chocolate is the answer. Finish the night with our All-Time Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies. They'll fly off the platter before you can even say "Who's ready for next week?"

For more tailgating menus and party ideas, head over to And if your team's in the SEC, our new Official Tailgating Cookbook is a football season necessity.