The 5 Best College Football Rivalries to Tailgate

24th May 2024

5 best college football rivalries to tailgate

There is nothing better than waking up on a Saturday morning in the fall, taking in the fresh air and getting your game day face on. Tailgating college football is a time-honored tradition shared by college kids, alumni, and fans alike. While you can find a tailgate popping off on any old Saturday in the fall, when rivalry week rolls around, people show up and show out.

Here are the 5 most legendary college football rivalries.

The Red River Showdown (Oklahoma vs Texas)

the red river showdown oklahoma vs texas

The Red River Showdown — Rivalry, Classic, Shootout, whatever you may call it — is the biggest interstate college football rivalry. While it may not be the oldest D1 football rivalry, an honor that goes to a different rivalry on this list, the animosity has been brewing between the University of Texas Longhorns and the Oklahoma Sooners since 1900.

History of the Red River Rivalry

history of the red river rivalry

The first game was played back in 1900, a full seven years before Oklahoma was even granted statehood, and the Longhorns beat them 28 to 2. The Longhorns dominated the series early, winning eight of their first ten matchups. In 1912, the rivalry game was permanently moved to neutral ground in Dallas, which was equidistant from each school and since 1932, the Red River Showdown has been held in the Dallas Cotton Bowl. The Longhorns have a 62-49-5 record against Oklahoma, but the Sooners have won the last three meetings.

golden hat the red river rivalry trophy

The winner of the rivalry is presented with three trophies, the Golden Hat, the Red River Rivalry Trophy, and the Governor’s Trophy. The golden hat is the most famous of the three: it’s a ten-gallon gold cowboy hat that’s presented to the winning team and worn by the winning players after the game.

Tailgating & The State Fair

tailgating the state fair
One of the unique features of the Red River Rivalry is that it coincides with the Texas State Fair in Dallas, which makes for the most unique tailgating experience in all of college football. Unlike your typical pregame tailgate in the stadium parking lot with tents, beers, and home-grilled food, Longhorn and Sooners fans wander the fairgrounds tasting the best and strangest fried foods and beers Texas has to offer. Yes, you read that right: fried beer. After tasting the best food and drink Texas has to offer, Sooners and Longhorns fans are corralled to their designated sides of the stadium to cheer on their respective teams and bands.
white and burnt orange game bibs

If you want to stand out from the crowd at this year’s Red River Showdown, then you’re going to want to pick up a pair of white and burnt orange or crimson Game Bibs today! And don’t forget to tag us on Instagram with your awesome game day outfit.

The Iron Bowl (Alabama vs Auburn)

the iron bowl alabama vs auburn
The Iron Bowl is one of the fiercest rivalries in all of college football. Alabama and Auburn have duked it out 85 times since 1893, with the Crimson Tide holding a 47-37-1 record over the Tigers.

The rivalry started all the way back in 1893 when the Auburn Tigers and the Alabama Crimson Tide met in Birmingham Alabama, where Auburn beat Bama. While the two are historic college football powerhouses who hate each other's guts on the football field, The Auburn Alabama rivalry extends far beyond the gridiron.

History of the Iron Bowl

history of the iron bowl
To get to the root of the Alabama Auburn rivalry, you need to venture all the way back to 1862, reconstruction Alabama, where the cities of Tuscaloosa and Auburn fought over the location of the new state college granted by the Morrill Land Grant Act of 1862. Legislatures who were Alabama alumni wanted the new school to be in Tuscaloosa, where it would be under the control of the long-existing Alabama University. The debate over where the new school should be built raged on for four years before the city of Auburn finally won in 1872 when they donated over 100 acres and existing buildings from the East Alabama Male College.

The Alabama Legislature was not too pleased that their alma mater didn’t win the land grant and decided to withhold funds from Auburn and push them to the verge of financial ruin. If Auburn collapsed, the University of Alabama would gain control over the land and profit off of it. In 1907, the Alabama alumni in the Legislature tried to move the land grant school to Birmingham and when that failed, they again attempted to sabotage funding to Auburn. Then again in 1915, funding was withheld from Auburn because the Alabama alumni were not too pleased that their “illegitimate child was sticking around.” The rivalry between Alabama and Auburn was born out of post-Civil War animosity and a long-standing tradition of powerhouse Alabama football teams.

The first Iron Bowl was held in Lakeview Park in Birmingham, AL, on February 22, 1893, with Auburn (known as the Agricultural and Mechanical College at the time) beating Bama 33 to 22 in front of 5,000 fans. Later that year, on November 29th, the teams faced off again and three more times around the turn of the century, each team splitting the series with two wins each.

The Iron Bowl was suspended because the two schools fought over travel expenses and it wasn’t until 1947 when the two faced off again. In 1947, the Legislature (the same one that fought tooth and nail to kill Auburn) had to pass a resolution to try and encourage the two teams to resume the Iron Bowl. Both teams refused until the Alabama Legislature threatened to defund both of them if they didn’t get their act together. Alabama refused to travel to Auburn, so the Iron Bowl was held in Legion Field in Birmingham, AL, a neutral ground.

Since the early days of the Iron Bowl, the rivalry has only grown stronger as the two traditional SEC powerhouses face off each year.

Tailgating the Iron Bowl

tailgating the iron bowl in orange black game bibs
Now that you fully appreciate the history of the rivalry, now it’s time for the fun stuff: tailgating! There is nothing quite like tailgating a fierce rivalry game, and the Iron Bowl is one of the fiercest, so you’re going to want to put on your game day face early and head out to the tailgate for some breakfast casseroles and yard games. As you move closer to the day, you’re probably going to want to stuff your face with some Alabama classics, such as Conecuh Sausage and BBQ nachos and some beer.

fans in crimson and white game bibs

Whether you’re a current student, an alumni, or a superfan, you’re going to want to deck yourself out in team gear. If you want to really stand out from the crowd and support your team, pick up a crimson and white, or a blue and orange pair of Game Bibs today! and don’t forget to tag us on Instagram with your awesome game day outfit.

Battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe (Minnesota vs. Wisconsin)

battle for paul bunyans axe minnesota vs wisconsin
One of the Big 10 West’s oldest rivalries, the Battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe dates back all the way to 1890. What makes this rivalry so intense is that the two have been pretty evenly matched over the duration of the rivalry with Wisconsin narrowly beating out Minnesota 62-60-8.


minnesota steamrolled history

Minnesota steamrolled their rivals 63-0 in their first-ever matchup back in 1890 and dominated the next three years before Theron Lyman led the Badgers to their first win in 1894. This rivalry was so heated that in 1906 President Theodore Roosevelt actually suspended all college rivalry games for a year after a player literally died on the field. This was the only year that Wisconsin and Minnesota did not face off. The two schools have the longest uninterrupted rivalry in FBS D1 college football history.

From 1933 to 1982 the Battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe was traditionally the final game of the regular season and as of 2014 (with the exception of this year 2021) is again the final game of the year for the two teams.

While the prize for winning the rivalry game is now Paul Bunyan’s Axe, it wasn’t always that way. The original rivalry trophy was the “slab of bacon,” a black walnut wood with a football at the center bearing a letter that could be an M or a W depending on who took home the trophy that year. The slab of bacon was in use from 1930 to 1943 when it was lost when fans rushed the field after Minnesota’s win and Wisconsin student Peg Watrous was unable to find Minnesota's representative in the chaos. Allegedly, the bacon was sent to Minnesota’s locker room but was lost and replaced by Paul Bunyan’s Axe in 1948. 51 years later, a Wisconsin intern stumbled upon an old storage locker at Camp Randall Stadium, where the bacon was left. It’s now on display at Camp Randall Stadium Football Offices.

In 1948, the Gophers-Badgers rivalry gained a new trophy, Paul Bunyan’s Axe, and the Battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe was born. The scores of each matchup are etched into the axe’s six-foot-long handle and a new axe had to be constructed in 2000 to accommodate future meetings. Until 2014, the winner of the rivalry game would run to their own sideline and “chop down” their goalposts with the axe. If the team was not holding the axe, they were allowed to steal the axe from the opponent's sideline. Unfortunately, after a skirmish broke out in 2013, the axe is no longer allowed on the field until after the game is over.

Tailgating the Battle for the Axe

Game bibs fans tailgating the iron bowl in maroon & orange adult game bibs
Tailgating the Battle for Paul Bunyan’s axe is a little different from the rest of the rivalries on this list in that it gets really cold in the Midwest during the winter. Luckily, Midwesterners know a thing or two about the freezing cold and still find a way to tailgate through the bitter cold. We recommend wearing around seven layers to make sure you stay warm throughout the duration of your tailgate. On top of your hat, scarf, jacket, gloves, sweater, pants, and layers of shirts, you can also throw a pair of Game Bibs on top to add an extra layer of warmth. We have a great selection of Maroon and Gold and Red and White Game Bibs.
game bibs fans university of wisconsin vs the minnesota beer brat

Once you’re all decked out in your Gophers or Badgers gear, make your way to the parking lot where you can fight a much different battle: the battle for the best beer brats. One of the biggest tailgate food rivalries has to be the Wisconsin versus the Minnesota beer brat. Do you like your brats boiled in beer before they’re cooked like they do in Wisconsin? Or do you prefer the Minnesota way of grilling the brats then boiling them in beer? While the rivalry game might have a definitive winner, this tailgate bratwurst rivalry likely will not.

The Rivalry (Lehigh vs Lafayette)

the rivalry lehigh vs lafayette
While you might not think of the Patriot League when you think of traditional college rivalries, Lehigh Lafayette is the longest-running college football rivalry, with each team meeting 157 times. Lafayette leads the series 80-71-5 and has won the last two matchups.

History of “The Rivalry”

history of the rivalry image
While the longest-running college football rivalry known simply as “The Rivalry” started all the way back in 1884, Lehigh and Lafayette's rivalry dates back until at least 1869, when the two colleges faced off in a baseball game ending in a 45 to 45 tie.

In 1884 Lafayette’s manager (coaches used to be called managers back in the day) Theodore L. Welles approached Lehigh and offered to play them in football. Richard Harding Davis accepted his offer and created the Lehigh football team and faced off against Lafayette twice, where the team got crushed by the actually experienced Lafayette football team.

After winning their first matchup in 1887, the Lehigh freshmen celebrated burning down the rickety stands built for the event in Bethlehem to protest the lack of support for the team. Since 1884, there has only been one season in 1896 where the two teams did not meet. Prior to the creation of modern football in 1902, Lehigh and Lafayette matched up twice a year, with each team hosting. This was by and large because it was very difficult to transport a football team long distances via horse and buggy and the two colleges were only 13 miles apart. The only two times the teams faced off somewhere other than their home stadiums were in 1891 when they played a third game in Wilkes-Barre in front of a crowd of 3,000 and in 2014, when they faced off for the 150th time at Yankee Stadium.

Before 1991, it was a tradition for the fans of the winning team to tear down the temporary wooden goalposts and keep pieces as souvenirs in fraternities in each school. Unfortunately, things got out of hand with students fighting over pieces of the goalposts and even trying to take them down at halftime, so in 1991 new rules were imposed and the goalposts were now made of steel and anchored to the field.

Morning Cocktails

While there is nothing particularly fancy about tailgating “The Rivalry,” Lehigh and Lafayette students and alumni don’t call it a tailgate, they call it morning cocktails. The weather can be a little nippy in Pennsylvania around Thanksgiving time so we’d recommend layering up as you get ready for the matchup. We’d recommend supporting your team and staying warm in the brisk northeast air with a pair of Game Bibs.

The two campuses are in close proximity to each other so you will often start the day tailgating on campus or outside one of the many off-campus houses before you make your way to the big rivalry game. Once you’re at the game you can expect to see your usual tailgate fair, barbecue grills going, lawn games, and fans of each team bundled up in their Lehigh or Lafayette gear trash-talking and waiting for “The Rivalry” to start.

Army Navy

us military academy vs us naval academy

Easily the most famous rivalry by name alone, Army Navy, the annual football matchup between the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and the U.S. Naval Academy. Currently Navy leads the series 61-53-7, but Army currently holds bragging rights.

Army Navy History

Army and Navy first met on the gridiron on November 29, 1890, and have faced off annually since 1930. At their first meeting, the already established Navy Football team steamrolled the newly established Army team 24-0. The rivalry grew thicker over time because for most of the first half of the 20th century, Army and Navy were college football powerhouses and the matchup often had championship implications.

A long-standing tradition of Army Navy is the “prisoner exchange” where cadets and midshipmen spending the semester studying abroad at the sister academy get to spend the afternoon with their respective classmates. Once the game is over, the winner not only takes home bragging rights but gets the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy.

Army Navy Tailgate

Army Navy is held on neutral ground so make sure you book your tickets and hotel room in advance if you want to go to the game and take full advantage of the tailgate. Unlike a traditional tailgate, you’re less likely to find your rowdy college game day tailgate, but that doesn’t mean fans, and veterans don’t tailgate the event. You can still find traditional grilling and some yard games. Just don’t expect to see any students (cadets) getting rowdy before the game.