Come the waning days of August, when the weather cools ever so slightly and anticipation hangs in the air thicker than all the gooped-up butter on Paula Deen's kitchen utensils, there’s an unspoken understanding here in the South: Plan a wedding during college football season at your own peril.

Because when the first SEC game kicks off this Thursday, August 28th, weekends stop revolving around the norm and start revolving around what time your team is playing, where you'll watch the game, and how staunch a student of the school of moderation you are [SPOILER ALERT: I skipped those classes]Because no one is going to miss their team's games, even if it means skipping a sibling's wedding or a friend's Caribbean birthday bash (I wonder if St. Croix has the SEC network, though...).

But it isn’t just here in SEC country that college football ignites people into a sea of passionate, albeit at times overzealous, goose pimples. We ‘Muricans love rooting for our football teams. And rightly so. In a word, it’s…AWESOME! The camaraderie, the palpable excitement, the highs, the lows, the miracles, the athletic wunderkinds, the drum lines, the oddball coaches, the hype videos, the cheerleaders, the euphoric sense of being a part of something bigger than oneself, the silly mascots, and the tailgating.

Oh, do we ever love the tailgating! From hallowed venues to longstanding traditions and all the delectable dishes and cocktails in between, we’re (yours truly and yourselves) going to be taking a season-long journey together, exploring tailgating recipes old and new from the PAC12 all the way to the ACC; talking tailgating with fans and alumni that share our collective school spirit; glossing over weekly marquee match ups, sharing tailgating must-haves; and generally just indulging in all things college football. It's going to be more fun than watching Les Miles shopping around for new sod.

Oh, and there's that whole playoff thing this year. Excitement, thy name is College Football. Let's get started!

Marquee Matchup: #18* Ole Miss Rebels vs. Boise State Broncos, 8/28, 8PM ET on ESPN*Rankings all season long will come from the AP Top 25 PollUnderdog meets underachievers in part one of the Chik-Fil-A Kickoff Classic at the Georgia Dome. Contrary to what you may believe after the next part of this sentence, I didn't choose this game based solely on the fact that I went to Ole Miss (Go Rebs). Rather, since this blog series will focus to a great extent on tailgating, I thought it important to start the season off with a school that does tailgating arguably as good as anywhere else in the country. In all seriousness, there's a saying in Oxford, MS, that gets far too much credence: "We may not win every game, but we've never lost a party." And as much as I hate that aphorism, it's sadly true. The Rebels are on the rise as of late after many years of being just awful, but our tailgating has maintained a consistently unrivaled degree of awesomeness. And it's all thanks to The Grove, our 10-acre patch of pristine grass and large, shady oaks, magnolias, and elms smack-dab in the middle of campus.

It's such a slice of tailgating-heaven-on-earth that national news outlets  and even other fans wax poetic about the good times to be had there. If you're ever down South during football season, make sure and check out what The Grove has to offer. Prediction: Rebels 35, Broncos 14

To bring everything full circle, here's a Hot Toddy recipe to sip on while you're listening to all the Hotty Toddy chants filling the Georgia Dome this evening. And yes, I went to Ole Miss, but no, I have no idea what Hotty Toddy means. Enjoy the "first" day of the college football season, y'all!

  • 8 cups water
  • 2 cups fresh lemon juice (about 14 small lemons)
  • 2 cups honey
  • 5 tablespoons finely chopped crystallized ginger
  • 1 (3-inch) piece peeled fresh ginger, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 3/4 cup golden rum
  • 3/4 cup brandy
  • Lemon rind strips (optional)

2. Stir in rum and brandy. Ladle mixture into mugs, and garnish with lemon rind strips, if desired.