We Know What College You Went To Based On Your Tailgate Spread

Barbecue nachos are a dead giveaway.

Super Bowl Party Food
Photo: Hector Manueal Sanchez; Food Styling: Marian Cooper Cairns; Prop Styling: Caroline M. Cunningham

When you live in the South, football season isn't just a time of year, it's a way of life. Saturdays are right up there with Christmas morning when it comes to days we wait all year long for. And it goes far beyond whatever matchup is happening that week—even if it's a rivalry as fierce as Alabama vs. Auburn in the Iron Bowl.

In SEC Country, gameday traditions run deep, and it all begins with the art of the Southern tailgate. While tailgating isn't exclusive to the South, the fact that we do it best is as certain as the sun rising, the SEC topping the conference pyramid, and the Crimson Tide making it to the playoffs. The tailgate isn't just a pre-game party, it's the main event.

Of course, the most important component of a tailgate is the food. And unlike Clemson and Florida's 2021 seasons, the spread at a tailgate never disappoints. From barbecue and burgers to a dizzying array of dips, there's a healthy list of staples you can expect to find at any self-respecting shindig, but what makes a tailgate truly special are those regional dishes that pop up depending on whose neck of the woods you're in. From Cajun fare in Baton Rouge to Tex-Mex in Austin, we bet we can guess your Alma Mater based on your tailgate spread. Here's what we're working with.

Brisket and Smoked Beef Sausage: Texas A&M or University of Texas

Yes, you'll find barbecue at every tailgate in the South, but in Texas it's all about the beef. Pulled pork is thrust aside in favor of juicy brisket and snappy sausage, smoked for long hours over mesquite, which happens to be the official smoke wood of the Lone Star State. It's not uncommon to see clouds of smoke billowing over the tops of tents, as experienced tailgaters prefer to smoke their meats onsite.

Stuffed Jalapeños: Texas A&M or University of Texas

You can't beat a jalapeno popper. Stuffed with cream cheese and wrapped in bacon, it's the ultimate one-bite finger food, which makes it perfect for snacking on while you're in the middle of an intense game of cornhole—or just need the other hand to hold your ranch water.

Breakfast Tacos: University of Texas

Breakfast tacos are big in Austin, and Longhorn tailgates have gotten in on the citywide trend. If kickoff is scheduled for any time before noon, you can bet your bottom dollar there will be breakfast tacos. Bloody Marys and mimosas are also highly likely.

Barbecue Pork Nachos: The University of Alabama

T-town blends two classic football foods into one delicious, if not genius, dish. Tender pulled pork, crunchy tortilla chips, and salty nacho cheese—it's got all the makings of a perfect gameday meal. Students and longtime fans know to get in line early if you want a serving from Big Bad Wolves BBQ; they serve exclusively from the patio of a bar on The Strip on game days. Otherwise, Dreamland makes a pretty good version you can get inside the stadium and at their food truck on the Quad.

Sausage Balls and Pimiento Cheese Sandwiches: Ole Miss

The Grove is known for having one of the best tailgating cultures in the South. There's something about sipping bourbon from a red Solo cup under the shade of a century-old magnolia tree that just can't be beat. Ole Miss is all about tradition, so you'll find only the most traditional Southern dishes at their tailgates. We're talking chicken salad, potato salad, and lots and lots of pimento cheese. And because no true Southerner can resist a good sausage ball (especially the kind made with Bisquick), there are always plenty on hand.

Fried Chicken or a Chick-fil-A Nugget Tray: Georgia

Fried chicken is a quintessential tailgate food because it's not fussy. It's delicious hot and fresh out of the fryer, but it tastes just as good at room temperature and even cold the next morning. Georgia fans are committed to a 12-piece bucket, but they've also bent the rules a little to honor one of the South's greatest treasures, Chick-fil-A. Founded and headquartered in Georgia, Bulldog fans know you can never go wrong with a Chick-fil-A nugget tray. Just be sure to ask for extra sauce.

Gumbo, Jambalaya, Boudin: LSU

Cooking is an all-day affair in the Bayou. From gumbo and jambalaya to etouffee and boudin, name any Cajun or Creole dish and you can probably find it at a tailgate in Baton Rouge. LSU fans take the "go big or go home" approach to tailgating, so don't be surprised if you see a whole roast pig smoking away in a contraption known as a Cajun microwave—a big, insulated box with a heating source at the top. And for the team's rivalry game against Florida, alligator is always at the top of the menu.

Smoked Turkey Legs: Virginia Tech

Serving a rival team's mascot as part of your gameday spread is standard practice at Southern tailgates (alligator bites if you're playing Florida, barbecue chicken if you're taking on the Gamecocks, and pork if you're up against the Razorbacks), but Virginia Tech flips the script by serving a version of their own team's mascot. The school's mascot is the HokieBird (similar to a turkey), and for the past two decades, fans have chowed down on smoked turkey legs. The tradition may seem a little odd, but there's no doubt it's delicious.

Pepperoni Rolls: West Virginia

The favorite treat of West Virginia's Mountaineers pays homage to the town's coal mining roots. What started as a portable, but filling lunch for miners in the early 20th century is now a staple dish for hundreds of ravenous football fans looking to fuel up before getting in on the game … or at least watching it. Pepperoni rolls consist of soft, slightly sweet yeast rolls stuffed with sticks of pepperoni, and a little provolone or mozzarella if you're bold. They pair perfectly with another West Virginia tradition: moonshine sipped straight out of the Mason jar.

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