It’s two weeks ago that Georgia and Clemson met on the field in one of the season’s best nonconference matches. The Bulldogs won 10-3, but how do they stack their home — Athens, Georgia — up against the Tigers’ town up north: Clemson, South Carolina.
This off-field match is one of eight in the Football Town Showdown, as fans will decide which university town across the country is the top. From fierce rivalries like Auburn, Alabama, against Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to nuanced matchups like Ames, Iowa, against Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the field of 16 teams brings a bit of everything when it comes to college football culture.
Outweighs State College’s ice cream from Creamery Ann Arbor’s Big House? How is the view of the Appalachian Mountains in Boone compared to the ongoing party at The Grove in Oxford? And what’s the better tune: “Rocky Top” or “Enter Sandman”? It’s up to you, the tab, to decide which university town is the best in football this fall.
You can vote from every Wednesday d Twitter and Instagram @ESPNCFB
Auburn, Ala. Mod Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Why Auburn is a fantastic university city: They do not call it for nothing the most beautiful village on the plains. Although the city has certainly grown in recent years, it has done a good job of preserving much of its small town’s charm. The red brick buildings, the massive oak trees and the picturesque center feel like stepping back in time. But where Auburn has improved the most in the last decade is its food scene. Don’t get me wrong, old standbys like Amsterdam Cafe are excellent and worth a visit. But newer restaurants like Acre and The Hound have risen up and elevated the entire food scene. – Alex Scarborough
Why Tuscaloosa is a fantastic university town: You can get a fabulous pork chop at Five and good sushi at Chuck’s, but the real appeal of a home visit at the University of Alabama is the sense of college football history it offers. On Waysider you can eat biscuits and gravy where Paul “Bear” Bryant once sat. At the Bryant Museum, you can see dozens of football items, even a Waterford crystal replica of the bear’s famous houndstooth hat. And as you enter Bryant-Denny Stadium for the kickoff, you can stroll through the Walk of Champions, home to statues of Bryant and Gene Stallings and every other Bama head coach to win a title, including Nick Saban. – Scarborough
Boone, NC vs. Oxford, Miss.
Why Boone is a fantastic university city: Getting to the home of the Appalachian State is not easy, but visitors are greeted by breathtaking views of the Appalachian Mountains when they are there. Few college towns in America offer more for students to do than Boone, located in North Carolina’s High Country. With skiing on the nearby slopes in winter, rafting in summer and hiking and camping in between, Boone is one of the most popular outdoor destinations on the East Coast. Blue Ridge Parkway provides students with an easy route for weekend getaways. And mountaineers are not bad at football either. Just ask Michigan. – Mark Schlabach
Why Oxford is a fantastic university city: The Grove, complete with majestic oak trees and sprawling green grass in the middle of campus, is legendary for its tailgating. Talk about a big party. It never gets old, no matter how good or bad Ole Miss’ football team is that season. And if you want to go back in time, check out the square right on campus, where eateries like Ajax Diner offer the best in true southern soul food, and about 20 minutes outside of town there is the Taylor grocery store. Get catfish! Oxford is hardly a big city. The university is very much the heart of this cozy town with 28,000 people and there is a sense of nostalgia, anticipation and good old fashioned fun whenever the Rebels are at home at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. – Chris Low
Boulder, Colo vs. Morgantown, W.Va.
Why Boulder is a great university town: Boulder sits at the base of the Rocky Mountains and has a natural beauty that few university towns in the country can hope to compete with. And that is before a food and drink scene is included that is worth making the trek at any time of the year. As a combination, it is a holiday-worthy destination, even without football in the equation. On game days, however, Boulder comes to life. The crisp autumn weather oozes football and increases the hum as the day builds up towards kickoff. – Kyle Bonagura
Why Morgantown is a fantastic university town: West Virginia’s rolling hills on the banks of the Monongahela River set it apart from the many large 12 schools that live on the plains. This is one of college football’s great tailgating venues, known for pepperoni rolls and a long, proud tradition of moonshine, available in all different varieties. Classic college bars like Kegler and Mario’s Fishbowl are noisy, and singing along with about 60,000 friends to “Country Roads” after a big win will cap the experience – unless you stumble across a couch or two that gets burned afterwards. – Dave Wilson
Ann Arbor, Mich. Vs. State College, Pa.
Why Ann Arbor is a fantastic university town: Ann Arbor is your typical university town with everything from a great game-day atmosphere to food and restaurants galore and a beautiful campus spread across the city. Almost everything is geared around the university, and even those who live in Ann Arbor but do not attend classes are still part of the college town. On a given game day, you can walk from the center to the stadium and see the support the community has for the football program and the university. – Tom VanHaaren
Why State College is a great college town: State College is an oasis in the middle of Pennsylvania. It is far from most of the major cities, but once you get on campus, it is like very few in the country. On any given Saturday, Creamery will have a number of avid fans packed around the block waiting for the famous ice cream. These fans wind their way through tailgates and parties to finally arrive at the stadium, and the focus on these Saturday afternoons is all about the football team. – Tom VanHaaren
Athens, Ga. Vs. Clemson, SC
Why Athens is a fantastic university city: With its unrivaled music scene, eclectic food and famous nightlife, Classic City is a smaller version of Austin, Texas or Oxford, Mississippi, on steroids (only better). The city that gave us REM, the B-52s, widespread panic, Drive-By Truckers, and so many other musical acts once offered visitors 80 bars per square mile — more than any other city in America — and it has only gotten better with addition of local breweries. And the best part is that it’s all within walking distance of the UGA campus. Before Mark Richt and Kirby Smart arrived to train the Bulldogs, Athens was the party town with the football problem.- Schlabach
Why Clemson is a great university town: Clemson is a university town in every sense, beginning with the fact that the university is located in Clemson, SC Everything in and around Clemson revolves essentially around the school. Orange tiger paws are marked on the roads leading to campus. But beyond the relationship between the city and the school, Clemson has the best traditions, paired with iconic local businesses known beyond borders. Seeing Clemson’s players and coaches touch the cliff and run down the hill should be on every college football fan’s bucket list. It makes a drink or two at the local Esso Club before or after kickoff. – Andrea Adelson
Baton Rouge, La. Vs. Ames, Iowa
Why Baton Rouge is a fantastic university city: The atmosphere in Louisiana is different from elsewhere. The Cajun are serious about their food, their drinks and their football. And all of these things collide beautifully in Baton Rouge, which is home to more than its fair share of quality bars and restaurants. But to really appreciate the city, you have to see it come alive on game day. You need to go on campus, visit Mike the Tiger and drop in as many tailgates as you can, and try every cup of gumbo you happen to be offered. The chances are that it will be good. The pre-game energy is tangible, and the stadium experience is without a doubt the best the sport has to offer. – Scarborough
Why Ames is a great college football town: University students make up about half of Ame’s population, so they want to keep you young there. The faithful cyclones are some of the most devoted in the country. Kl. 6 on the day of the game, they are already singing in the Tip Top Lounge, and motorhomes and buses are queuing outside Jack Trice Stadium. The tail scene is amazing, with food and drink – especially their beloved Busch Light – everywhere. Fans appreciate a winner, but do not spit vitriol after a loss, and they stick to their motto: “Win or lose, we eat.” Nearby Welch Avenue has a busy bar scene in an area known as Campustown. – Wilson
Blacksburg, Va. Vs. Knoxville, Tenn.
Why Blacksburg is a fantastic university city: Tucked away in the northern Blue Ridge Highlands region of Virginia, Virginia Tech is not only a beautiful place to hang out on a college football weekend, but also provides one of the coolest game day experiences in the country. Do not believe me? Google “Enter Sandman” before the season opener against North Carolina. A sea of orange fans jumped up and down in time to the music and roared as soon as the Hokies entered the field. It is a tradition that is among the best in the nation. No trip to Lane Stadium is complete without a turkey leg, smoked right there in the stadium, to the delight of all who have been waiting in line since they started being offered more than 20 years ago. – Adelson
Why Knoxville is a great university town: Neyland Stadium towers famously across the banks of the Tennessee River, making it one of the few stadiums on campus in college football available for both land and water (Washington and Baylor are others). The site of the Vol Navy, which floods in on a Saturday afternoon, is topped only by “Rocky Top,” which rumbles across campus as orange-clad tailgaters revel in partying and partying. And right there close to campus are all kinds of restaurants and ponds imaginable, both on the Cumberland Avenue Strip and in the renovated Market Square and Old City areas. The Smoky Mountains, hovering in the distance combined with Knoxville being one of the largest cities in the state of Tennessee, make it a prime location to enjoy the sights and sounds of college football. – Low
Madison, Wis. Vs. Pullman, Wash.
Why Madison is a fantastic university city: You will not really know how beautiful Madison, Wisconsin, is until you see it for yourself. If you drive in from the east, you will eventually split through Lake Mendota and Lake Monona, which set the stage for the city, making it look like a real postcard. Once on campus, people flock to Mickie’s Dairy Bar for an old-fashioned breakfast or spread out across town and eventually gather at Camp Randall Stadium. – VanHaaren
Why Pullman is a fantastic university town: With just shy of 33,000, the capacity at Martin Stadium is relatively small, but just looking at the total lacks important context. The stadium, which sits as the center of the campus, is nearly large enough to host the entire population of Pullman and about two-thirds of Whitman County. On the west coast, where most major football-playing schools are in urban environments, Pullman is unique. It really is a university town — Washington State is its largest employer — and it swells with visitors from all over the state as tailgating and other foreplay activities pop up all over the city.- Bonagura