It’s the first week of Michigan State preseason camp and the football team is preparing for another season. Which means it’s the perfect time for students heading to East Lansing to start planning out the best way to attack this year’s tailgates.
It may sound easy – wake up, drink, watch football, rinse, repeat – but the seasoned veteran knows not every Saturday is made the same, and different weeks require different battle plans. You can’t tailgate the same way in November as you did in September. You can’t tailgate before the Notre Dame game the same way as the Indiana game.
We’ve broken down the season game by game, home and road, with the best ways to get after the tailgate.
Week 1: Bowling Green, September 2
It’s the first week of the season, the weather is at its best and the opponent is, theoretically, the weakest. Students across East Lansing will be ready to go hard before the noon kickoff. But there is cause for concern, and it’s all about party planning. Many fans won’t have their designated tailgate house yet, freshman will barely know where they are. The most important part of the first week of tailgating is planning, or everyone will throw their own party with no one actually in attendance. Don’t be a week one hero, head over to your friend’s with the bigger house. Start off on the right foot.
Week 2: Western Michigan, September 9
This has the potential to be the sloppiest tailgate of the year in East Lansing. Sure, Notre Dame and Michigan are on the schedule, but everyone knows their friends from Kalamazoo are coming in for this game and want to rage – MACtion style. Western is going to bring the noise during the tailgate and that’s just going to rev-up State fans. This means more drunken stupidity and likely more fights. What truly makes this game dangerous for fans is the start time. Kicking off at 3:30, it’s a marathon of a drinking day. Don’t take the bait, live to see another day. No one wants police attention in the first few weeks of the semester. Also, the game may be too close to talk too much ish during the tailgate.
Week 3: Notre Dame, September 23
Week three has the potential to be the most fun tailgate of the year. The weather should still be nice and playing a rival means everyone on campus will be focused in. Friends from other schools (probably not ND) will come in rocking shamrocks and telling stories of their great grandfather who “played” for Notre Dame. By now, tailgating should be second nature. You have a plan and know how to execute. This is, however, where the veterans make themselves known. The temptation for an 8:00 start is to start drinking just as early as a normal game. Don’t do this. Take the opportunity to sleep in, watch the first round of games. It’s going to be a long night of partying, don’t be the one falling asleep at halftime.
Week 4: Iowa, September 30
Likely a noon start, Iowa is the first Big 10 game of the year. But for fans, it’s coming at the end of a grueling month of tailgating with something big looming a week later. Take this as an opportunity to work on your long game. Space your refills out, work on your ability to both tailgate and enjoy a Saturday night after a game. That doesn’t mean take this week off from tailgating, that’s not what we do. Enjoy what could be one of the last days of outdoor drinking that does’t require five layers and a spiked coffee.
Week 5: at Michigan, October 7
Regardless of when this game starts, there are going to be two clear options for MSU fans – 1. pile into a car with friends and head to Ann Arbor. Everyone either has or is close with someone who has a friend at Michigan with room on the floor to spend the night. The Spartans will be well represented in AA, but anyone making the trip needs to have their trash-talk ready to roll. Don’t go to personal insults or stereotypes, educate yourself and have it planned out so drunk you can spit it out with ease. Option 2. enjoy an East Lansing party. There will be enough parties across campus to make it look almost like a home game, and there is no shame in staying home and watching the game amongst friends. This will still be a heavy day of drinking, so don’t take it lightly.
Week 6: at Minnesota, October 14
The first true road game of the year and it’s totally ok to treat it as such. If it’s an early game, as it likely will be, sleep in, watch the game in a cheap pair of shorts and a tee shirt. This could be the first normal Saturday night in East Lansing all semester, so enjoy your day and soak in an entire day of football.
Week 7: Indiana, October 21
INVITE YOUR FAMILY TO THIS GAME! Your parents have been trying to pick which game they should head to East Lansing and are looking to you for an answer – this is that answer. There isn’t the craziness in the Indiana as there is in other Big 10 opponents and the early season jitters are out of the system. Invite them up, take them to the tailgate held by your friend’s parents tailgate by the library, or your one senior friend who can somehow schmooze with adults even a few drinks in.
Week 8: at Northwestern, October 28
This game is essentially alumni week for Michigan State. Students will understandably have their attention divided between football and Halloween weekend, and that’s ok, the alums got this. So, sure, watch the game on TV and enjoy, but don’t feel bad about working on your costume as the Spartans play. Just north of Chicago, the huge MSU alumni base will be invading Ryan Field as they always do. Spartans fans will literally be bussed in and could turn it into a defacto home game. Alumni, don’t drop the ball here, this is a chance to relive those East Lansing tailgating days, so go for it all the way.
Week 9: Penn State, November 4
Depending on how the Spartans have faired to this point, there is a good chance the Penn State game could be at night. So remember what you learned against Notre Dame and Western Michigan. There is a chance this game could have major implications on Michigan State’s postseason plans, so don’t diminish the importance of this game by going too hard too early in the day. Between the assumed cold weather and tailgating, the weaker of the group may want to just watch from home, but you know this isn’t an option. Get the job done and get rowdy in Spartan Stadium.
Week 10: at Ohio State, November 11
I don’t mean to be a wet blanket here, but all I will say is save yourself. Listen, Ohio State is really good and the odds are slim that this year’s State team can pull off the upset, especially on the road. Watch the game, and cheer your heart out, but know that regardless of the outcome, the bigger party comes after the game. Either State will lose and the entire campus will need to get their minds off things with a full Saturday night, or the campus will be in full party mode after an upset win. Lets cheer for the latter and assume everyone will want to celebrate an enormous victory, but even if that doesn’t work, you still have Saturday night in East Lansing, which isn’t half bad.
Week 11: Maryland, November 18
It’s the last home game of the season, go for gold. Don’t let the cold weather slow anything down. Michigan State could be earning a bowl bid this week and it won’t be the same if you aren’t tailgating and screaming like an idiot throughout the game. Maryland could be decent this year, so it’s not a guaranteed win, so don’t hold back as the home schedule comes to a close. Plus, it’s the Saturday before Thanksgiving, so there is a short week of class ahead.
Week 12: Rutgers, November 25
The Saturday following Thanksgiving means most students will still be at home. For those that can get back to East Lansing, it’s a great party day. Everyone is in a good mood to see friends again and tell stories of their drunk uncle falling asleep at the Thanksgiving table. Watch the game while eating turkey and bring the regular season to an end with a smile on your face.