Call up the boys of fall, and clear your Saturday (and sometime Thursday) slate. College football has returned.
That’s right. Football (or hand-egg, as we should be calling it) is back. I, for one, am excited. I missed the end of last season after I was tragically assaulted by an errant Anthony Boone pass. I blocked out everything that took place after the Duke-UNC kickoff in Durham last fall. Thankfully, I woke up just in time to see the Devils thump Carolina in Cameron.
This is football though. This is America. This is beer, and hotdogs, and tailgates.
We here at Raleigh & Company feel that it is our duty to provide you all, Triangle football fans, with a comprehensive ranking of the best games to tailgate for. Obviously, this list will only include Triangle teams, and their home games. This also isn’t a ranking of the best games. While matchup will be taken into account, it will only be used to factor level of enthusiasm of the home fans. How good the game is doesn’t really interest me. I only care how #turnt fans can get before their heroes disappoint them, and they drink themselves to sleep.
With that, I’m proud to present the 2015 Triangle Tailgateability Rankings.
NOTE: This is not an endorsement of binge drinking. Don’t do that. Please drink responsibly. Never drink and drive.
Also, a disclaimer. I’m a Duke student. Feel free to call me out for my bias, and tell me that I’m wrong and a transplant and a “Dookie” and whatever other slur you want to throw at me. I’ll just be sitting here with the most recent ACC division title in the Triangle. It’s real, and it’s spectacular.
OKAY, TIME FOR TAILGATES.
20-15: I guess this counts as football?
North Carolina v. Delaware, Sept. 26; North Carolina v. North Carolina A&T, Sept. 12; NC State v. Eastern Kentucky, Sept. 12; NC State v. Troy, Sept. 12; Duke v. Northwestern, Sept. 19; Duke v. North Carolina Central, Sept. 12.
So these aren’t the best games. Like most squads in the country, Triangle teams are opening their seasons with cupcakes against some of the less talented crews to grace the gridiron. Absence of skill doesn’t necessarily mean absence of a good tailgate, though. Each of these games occurs in September, meaning Mother Nature will likely still be smiling upon the Old North State. Hot tailgates > Cold tailgates. I can promise you that. Growing up in Michigan, I attended my fair share of arctic pregames. Most are spent pretending you’re not so cold you can’t feel your toes, and trying not to come off as weak in front of the girl you’re cheezing on because if she knew you were shivering she wouldn’t respect you enough to be your date to prom.
The midwest is a strange place.
Anyway, these games all sort of suck, meaning the atmosphere will be pretty meh. The only game here with any chance of being remotely interesting is Duke v. Northwestern, and that’s because we (Duke students) tore down our goalposts after winning AT Northwestern nearly a decade ago.
Remember when Duke was bad at football? I bet the rest of the Triangle does.
POTENTIAL TAILGATE SCORE: 5.5/10
14-11: Now we’re getting somewhere.
North Carolina v. Wake Forest, Oct. 17; Duke v. Boston College, Oct. 3; North Carolina v. Virginia, Oct. 24; NC State v. Syracuse, Nov. 21.
This eclectic assortment of ACC games should be a little more entertaining than the previous six showdowns. These games have real implications for where Triangle teams end up in the post-season, or if they get there at all. Four games. Four assumed wins for Triangle squads. So at the very least, you can anticipate some solid tailgates. These games happen nearly every fall, and so bad blood consistently boils below the surface. Sure, tempers are probably more controlled in a game between Carolina and Wake than one between Duke and Carolina, but these matchups should offer a higher quality pregame than the aforementioned games despite the fact that they’ll take place in slightly colder temperatures.
North Carolina v. Virginia could have the highest concentration of khakis in the world outside of Jim Harbaugh’s closet. Wild stuff, guys.
POTENTIAL TAILGATE SCORE: 7/10
10-7: Good ACC games! No, seriously!
Duke v. Pittsburgh, Nov. 14; Duke v. Miami, Oct. 31; North Carolina v. Miami, Nov. 14; NC State v. Louisville, Oct. 3.
These are legitimately good football games, meaning that tensions will be high, and fun will be had. Duke v. Pitt was one of last season’s most #GoACC games, and sort of in a good way if you’re a Blue Devils’ fan. Duke v. Miami in 2013 was explosive and exciting, and that led to great parties post-game. Who’s to say this year’s iteration won’t produce some high quality tailgates. UNC v. Miami is a game made for tailgating, as it’s filled with constant disappointment and underwhelming results — the perfect cocktail for heavy boozing. Again, this slate of games will come mid-season, meaning shorts will be replaced by pants, and tanks will be replaced by actual articles of clothing.
POTENTIAL TAILGATE SCORE: 7.5/10
6-5: Turn down for what?
North Carolina v. Illinois, Sept. 19; Duke v. Georgia Tech, Sept 26.
Two early games. Two very different attitudes.
Illinois fans are likely to be that weird mix of happy and bummed that occurs when an awful coach is fired. Place your bets on these downtrodden, orange-clad Midwesterners to fill the void with Busch light, Rolling Rock, and beers that down taste like sewer water.
Don’t be surprised if the second game — Duke v. Georgia Tech — turns into the social gathering of the year. An overwhelmingly nerdy school with a drinking problem that just found out it’s good at football going up against ACC Coastal royalty. It’s a classic sitcom story. Boy meets girl. Girl is actually mean. Mean girl is opposing football team. Girl and Boy get drunk then watch their schools fight.
POTENTIAL TAILGATE SCORE: 8.5/10
4-1: I CAN’T FEEL MY FACE
NC State v. Clemson, Oct. 31; North Carolina v. Duke, Nov. 7; North Carolina v. South Carolina, Sept. 3; North Carolina v. NC State, Nov. 28.
OH GOD I’M SO EXCITED. SOMEONE HOLD ME. Let’s do this one by one.
4. NC State v. Clemson:
This is a battle between NC State, and the program that NC State desperately wishes it was. Think about it. Southern school with an above average athletics program and similar academic stature that recruits well and consistently produces top-15 seasons. There’ll be a lot of angst in play here. Angst means angsty beer pong, and angsty beer pong means liquor.
3. North Carolina v. Duke:
I’m actively trying to forget last season’s game, but that doesn’t mean I don’t remember the tailgate. It was phenomenal. And it was in Durham! Now imagine that same level of intensity, but in Chapel Thrill. I’ll be there to report/engage/be obnoxious in person. Don’t let me down, UNC. I’m putting a lot of trust into the argyle.
2. North Carolina v. South Carolina:
This game was dangerously close to overthrowing my number one pick. Everything about it is appealing. The weather (September 3rd! It’ll be like grilling on the surface of the sun!). The location (Charlotte is beautiful). Even the game! I might actually watch this one without someone dragging me to a television. Two teams that desperately need a win to distract from a pretty meh offseason, facing off for the iron throne. WHO WILL BE CROWNED KING OF THE CAROLINAS?
Expect lots of booze, and a dozen different definitions of the word “barbecue”.
(For reference, up north, it’s a grill. Also “Raleigh-Durham” is a place. Like I said, the Midwest is strange).
1. North Carolina v. NC State:
This is it. The granddaddy of them all. Royalty v. the serfdom.
I’m already terrified of how chippy this tailgate will be. Carolina fans have had a rough year. Add in some salty Wolfpack groupies hungry for their next kill, and you have the ingredients for a gameday brawl. Hopefully it won’t come to that, but you can bank on some aggressive drinking, angsty stare-downs, and impressively consumed brats come late November.
This could break the tailgate-time continuum, trapping us all in an everlasting web of pregames and corn hole until each and every last one of us can say no more than six words:
Are you ready for some football?
Yes. I am. It’s go time. Happy fall, y’all.
POTENTIAL TAILGATE SCORE: 1000000/10
Correction: An earlier version of this article stated the location of the North Carolina v. South Carolina football game on September 3 was Chapel Hill. The game will be held in Charlotte. The article has been altered to reflect this.