College football party planner: The best gameday foods, drinks and fun

The 2017 college football season is officially here. Starting Saturday and ending in January, more than 1,500 college games will be played. It's our job at CBS Sports to cover as many of those games as possible -- or at least as many worthwhile ones as possible.  It's a great job, and we are #blessed to do it, but it's a job nonetheless. 

As such, we rarely get to actually sit and watch football games for the sheer joy and relaxation of it. Make no mistake: covering college football is enjoyable but there are so many things happening simultaneously on fall Saturdays that it's too hectic to kick your feet up with a cold one and watch as a fan. Besides, that's drinking on the job. 

However, our team enjoys football fandom as much as the next person. We love gorging ourselves on foods that are likely terrible for us, tossing back beers or various adult beverages and playing a rousing round of cornhole. Some might even say our collective hearts grow three sizes on those days. 

With college football getting underway, here are our staff's best picks for gameday food, drinks and games. 

Best football-watching food

BBQ sandwich: Chopped Eastern NC style swine with slaw and extra sauce on the sandwich. If your tailgate has the BBQ and slaw and rolls instead of buns, just know that I'll make like four mini-sandwiches because I need my football food to be handheld. -- Chip Patterson

Pot stickers (from Dean & Deluca): They're expensive ($15 a pound) and probably absolutely bad for you. But they are the ultimate comfort food. You can pop them like Starburst and feel half as guilty. Well, that is until you get on the scale and find out years down the line whatever damage you've done to your heart. Notice that at all times the term "pot stickers" never refers to "what is in pot stickers". They are the hot dog of finger foods. Could be pigeon wings, could be rat necks. But it's aaaaallll good. -- Dennis Dodd

Handheld, non-dipping, meat-based product: I realize that is very specific, so let me explain. Chips and dip are nice, but you have to take your eyes off the TV to dip and you never know if you're going to miss something, have a chip malfunction in the dip or suffer from unexpected spillage. Wings don't count in this category either because some people dip in ranch or blue cheese; plus, discarding the bones causes momentary, yet concerning distractions. Sausage-cheese balls, pork sliders, dry-rubbed chicken fingers, etc. are the move. No dipping distractions, culinary creativity and meat. This is not debatable. Don't @ me. -- Barrett Sallee

Dry foods: It depends on the environment you're in, but when in groups I prefer food that isn't as messy. You know, if you're going to be handing out a high-five or something to a fellow viewer, you don't want to have sticky fingers from what you've been snacking on, or sauce slowly congealing in your beard, which is why I prefer to keep it simple. Whether it's nuts or chips and dip. Hell, even a veggie tray works for me in that situation. -- Tom Fornelli

Chicken wings: I'm quite passionate about this. Wings are so quintessentially football, yet their variety caters to every taste. Me? I'm a classic bone-in buffalo wings guy. Not too spicy -- I like to enjoy food, not loathe it -- but enough kick to wake you up. But I'm also a purveyor of different flavors, including Austin's own Chi'lantro Korean BBQ wings (rooster sauce FTW). Go boneless if you want. It's your life. Live it the best way you know how.  -- Ben Kercheval

Chips and guacamole: Homemade guac! I don't know how many TV-front lunches have been me just crushing a bag of tortilla chips. When I'm watching a game, I need to expend some energy. I need an activity. Dipping chips gets the job done. Queso or salsa work but some homemade guacamole is the standard. -- Barton Simmons

Fries: They're hot. They can be made from a variety of foods (potato, sweet potato, yuca, etc.). There's a diversity of textures (straight, waffle, tots, crinkle cut, etc.). They can be seasoned differently and dipped in an endless number of sauces. Simply put, they're the most versatile and delicious food you can eat while watching football. They're also easy to consume, and while they may not be as "clean" as, say, pretzels, don't fool yourself over which you would rather eat. -- Adam Silverstein

Pizza: Pepperoni and mushroom, please. There's nothing better than sitting down with a big pizza and some friends and watching Alabama and Tennessee play to a 6-3 thriller. -- Kyle Porter

Adult beverage of choice

Trophy Wife: Homer pick, but I'll put it up against anything you're bringing to the table. It's a session with lower ABV (ideal given the era of four-hour games in college football) but there's no sacrifice on flavor at all. Also: water. #TeamHydration. -- Chip Patterson

Boulevard Pale Ale: Missouri's second-biggest brewery -- three guesses who's No. 1 -- was one of the nation's first craft breweries. Founded in 1989, it continues to pump out brews for every palate. (Arizona Wilderness Oak-Aged Lager with peach, lemon zest, riesling grape juice Collaboration 7 anyone?). Anyway, my favorite is the Boulevard original, Pale Ale. Tart with a bite. Smooth, unpretentious unlike the poser hipsters who have hijacked the craft brew movement. (Brew tip: Boulevard is such a national brand now, wherever you're reading this from, you probably have access to it at your favorite establishment.) -- Dennis Dodd

Jack & Coke: Nothing feels more like college football than Jack and Coke. It can't be another brand of whiskey, and since I'm from Atlanta, there are no other kinds of cola. You can substitute Diet Coke or Coke Zero if you wish, but all of them are called "Gamedays." Nothing says college football like hard liquor, put it on ice to make it refreshing on a hot fall day and the Coke gives you the caffeine you need to make it through a 20-hour college football day. -- Barrett Sallee

Miller High Life: Saturdays aren't a sprint, they're a marathon. I'm not sitting down for one game, I'm in there for 12+ hours of football, so you don't want to go too hard in the paint. I want something that will be enjoyable, keep me feeling good, but also keep me aware. When that's the case, I go with High Life. Don't get me wrong, I love all sorts of different beers, but even so, it doesn't get much better than a cold High Life and a football game(s) on the television(s). -- Tom Fornelli

Saint Arnold's Lawnmower: My all-time favorite. It is a refreshing beer that goes down so easy it should be a crime ... but without sacrificing quality. Best served ice cold, preferably in a frozen glass. As the name implies, it's the ideal brew after you've been outside mowing the lawn on a hot day. However, it complements bar food really well, too. Plus, it's a Texas #brand. -- Ben Kercheval

Bud Light: The beer snobs of the world may recoil in disgust but this is my fuel. On game days, I'm in it for the long haul. The beer doesn't need to be the centerpiece of my afternoon. It's supposed to complement the game. So let me run through a few watered down Bud Lights and I'll be in a good place by the fourth quarter. -- Barton Simmons

Caramel Cream Ale: The carbonation in beer may get to you after a while, but it's really the only beverage you can drink a significant quantity of and stay awake throughout the day. Also, just as with my pick of fries, there are so many varieties to choose from that you should never get bored. My favorite is the Caramel Cream Ale from Due South Brewery in Boynton Beach, Florida, one I consider head-to-head with Cigar City across the state in Tampa. It's not too rich but just sweet enough to keep you wanting more. Talk about easy drinking. Want a slightly lighter beer? Toasted Lager by Blue Point is more widely available. A stronger beer? Get yourself some Kentucky Bourbon Barrel (or Vanilla Barrel) Ale and have yourself a day. Plus, what Chip said -- lots of water. -- Adam Silverstein

COOP Ale: I think I'm contractually obligated to say that since they sponsor an Oklahoma State site I'm pretty heavily involved in. Oh, and it is absolutely delicious. They have a great story. Started in Oklahoma and now blowing up into Arkansas, Texas and beyond. Try the F5. You won't regret it. (I load up for Bedlam.) -- Kyle Porter

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Best tailgating/yard game

Kan Jam: Funny story about Kan Jam. One time I got the yips for like two weeks couldn't throw a Frisbee right. It was super embarrassing playing Kan Jam, a game that involves accurately tossing the bee your teammate for slam-dunking in a plastic can, but we got things worked out over time. Anyway, fun game. -- Chip Patterson

Wiffle Ball: You can start and stop at any point and the game remains compelling and relevant -- with the proper libations, of course. This is less an endorsement of plastic baseball and more about a rant against the scourge that is cornhole. First of all, the name itself needs an R rating. Try explaining to your kids what mommy and daddy are doing at the Michigan State-Notre Dame game next month. The "game" itself is one of those lowest common denominator time killers. Bags will with silicone thrown underhand into a slanted opening? Why not just bale hay and call it even? The worse that can happen with Wiffle Ball is a sore arm and spilled beer. Viva the curve! -- Dennis Dodd

Cornhole: Sure, the boards are bulky and take up space in your trunk, but the pleasant simplicity of a game where the only physical activity is an underhand toss of a beanbag 30 feet makes it perfect. It's relaxing, strategic, anybody can play and you're virtually required to play with the adult beverage mentioned above. -- Barrett Sallee

Cornhole: As a proud descendant of many an Italian, I've always loved bocce ball, but it doesn't really work in a lot of tailgating locales. You not only need to be on a lawn, but you need plenty of space or the game sucks. So I'll go with bags (or cornhole or whatever the hell you call it where you are). It's easy to set up, it's easy to understand, and I can hold my beer while playing with ease. I think that's critical to any tailgating activity. You have to be able to drink during it. -- Tom Fornelli

Football: Call me old fashioned, but the only thing better than watching football is throwing a football while watching football. A little pitch and catch amongst buddies can be as easy going or competitive as you want. You can even play it in tuxedos! -- Ben Kercheval

Cornhole: Is there any other option? Low key enough that I can hang onto my beer but still competitive. Individual performance matters but it's still a team sport. Clutch gene matters. Co-ed option allows you to chirp at a girl while getting your competitive fix. It checks all the boxes. -- Barton Simmons

Flip cup: While cornhole and beer pong are both fun, most of the time you're never playing those games with more than two people per team. Flip cup can engage your entire tailgate or watch party as long as you have a long enough table or can refill cups quick enough. It's also a fast game that you can fit in on a whim -- such as a commercial break -- and requires minimal setup, which is not the case for the other games. Plus, while some other games give you the opportunity to drink beer while you play ... you play this game by drinking beer. And what's better than that? -- Adam Silverstein

Cornhole: Whatever you want to call it. No other game elicits as much trash talk as this one. Tailgating games are all about the amount of trash you can talk to your friends. Also, I'm with Kirby Smart. I throw overhand. -- Kyle Porter

CBS Sports Writer

Ben Kercheval joined CBS Sports in 2016 and has been covering college football since 2010. Before CBS, Ben worked at Bleacher Report, UPROXX Sports and NBC Sports. As a long-suffering North Texas graduate,... Full Bio

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