Tired of the traditional tailgate? Make hosting MVP this season with these creative and fun ideas.

1. Be fearless. Your pigskin party can be anything you want it to be. Dial it up a notch by adding an outdoor fire pit and corn hole games, or make it a girls-only “brunchgate” with sophisticated small bites—like French Onion Mushroom Tarts and Prosciutto-Wrapped Breadsticks and Asparagus.

2. Substitute wisely. Lightening up the menu is always a good call, but too many drastic moves will put guests on the defensive. Serve the favorites everyone's expecting with a few subtle (yet significant) tweaks. Use leaner ground turkey breast instead of beef in the chili, offer air-popped popcorn instead of chips, and try these tasty Blue Cheese Vegetable Snacks instead of traditional fried appetizers like mozzarella sticks and jalapeno poppers.

3. Keep fumbling to a minimum. Rise to the occasion by offering easy pick-me-up fare. Instead of the standard crudité platter, serve your farmer's market-fresh veggies in clear plastic glasses with Ranch Veggie Dip on the bottom. For a great hand-held dessert, serve in-season fruit kabobs that guests can enjoy while they mix and mingle.

4. Add some colorful commentary. Get party “players” even more fired up about your menu (and stimulate conversation) by giving clever football-themed names to buffet items. Think a “Super Bowl” of pretzels, a “Red (Pepper) Zone,” a square platter of “Field Greens,” and a “Chop Block” of cut vegetables. Instead of place cards, label dishes using pennant-style flags made out of toothpicks, paper strips, and glue dots.

5. Drink one for the team. Let guests young and old raise a glass to their favorites by offering signature beverages that play off of team colors, hometowns, and mascots, like “Denver Orange” soda, “Georgia Peach” iced tea, and Arizona “Big Red” fruit punch.