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Ranking The Best Big Ten Football Pregame Experiences

Dan Kilbridge for Bookies.com

Dan Kilbridge  | 8 mins

Ranking The Best Big Ten Football Pregame Experiences

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When it comes to pregame experience, nothing beats college football. The tailgating and build-up are more important than the actual games in some towns, and everyone wants bragging rights as the top partiers in the conference. 

These tailgating and pregame traditions and rituals become engrained in the campus and town itself, showing off for visiting fans and setting the tone for a beautiful day for football. Nothing says fall in the Midwest like a few cold drinks and good times as another Big Ten season kicks off. And that now includes a little college football betting, with wagering legal in many of the states that contain Big Ten schools.

The conference boasts some of the biggest stadiums and best pregame experiences in the entire country, though some deliver more than others in terms of the overall vibes. 

Bookies.com compiled a rankings list for every Big Ten school regarding college football pregame experience. An algorithm based on different factors determined the ranking pregame experience, the factors include the following:

  • Location: Close to the action, accessible to fans
  • Tailgating: The ability to park and enjoy a crisp fall day with a beverage and grill
  • Entertainment Around Stadium: A vibrant bar and restaurant scene within walking distance of your seat
  • Family Sentiment: Is the area safe and entertaining for kids and those with kids?

Best Big Ten Football Stadiums To Visit By Pregame Experience

Here are all the Big Ten football stadium pregame destinations, ranked. 

Ranking The Best Big Ten Football Pregame Experiences 1

14. Rutgers 

There’s not really one pregame element in which Rutgers excels. It’s one of the most difficult stadiums in the Big Ten, traffic-wise, and all of the fun campus bars are mostly out of walking range, across the Raritan River. Add in the fact that the Knights have been to just one bowl game since 2014 and you have all the makings of an underwhelming gameday. 

13. Maryland 

The Terrapins do have a lot going for them – the campus is scenic, not far from the Naval Academy, making for an enjoyable walk. The problem is it’s a pain to get to, much like Rutgers, and traffic is notoriously troublesome throughout the area. Also, it suffers from never being the biggest show in town, with so much going on in D.C., but at least the team is beginning to show signs of life and has high expectations for 2023.

12. Purdue

While Rutgers and Maryland lose points due to their proximity to big cities, Purdue has the opposite problem. The campus is in the middle of nowhere and West Lafayette will never top any ‘best college campuses’ lists. It scores well for family sentiment, but can’t compete in the rest of the criteria – especially considering the football at Ross-Ade Stadium has been mostly lackluster. 


RELATED: Ranking Best Big 12 Football Stadium Pre-Game Experience


11. Illinois 

We give Illinois credit for a scenic stadium and solid logistics, but it just doesn’t add up to a weekly pregame rager. There are plenty of nearby watering holes to hit and options for families, two areas where Champaign scores highly. In terms of location and tailgating environment, it’s just not up to par. 

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10. Northwestern 

We’ll see where the Wildcats sit in our rankings after the new Ryan Field is completed in a few years. For now, Northwestern is still wildly below average in every category other than family sentiment. The offseason controversy and firing of coach Pat Fitzgerald won’t inject any life into the atmosphere in Evanston. Everyone knows what to expect here – it’s a small stadium, commonly hosting 11 a.m. kickoffs for sleepy crowds and a lousy football team. 

9. Indiana 

We do love Bloomington as a college town and highly recommend a visit for a big-time basketball game. But you won’t be missing much on the football side of things. The stadium is outdated, the team stinks and the coach might not survive the season. Indiana is still a hoops school and has a ton going for it, but it just doesn’t translate to an unforgettable pregame experience. 


RELATED: Ranking SEC Football Stadiums by Best Pregame Fan Experience


8. Michigan State

East Lansing always ranks near the top in terms of party schools, and that atmosphere is heavily apparent around Spartan Stadium on gamedays. But it suffers from a lack of quality tailgating real estate. 

Donor lots surround the stadium and a perfect tailgating location – the adjacent all-grass Munn Field lot – isn’t allowed in use because people had too much fun there in the 1990s. It’s not the best or the worst family atmosphere, the surrounding bar scene is average and, overall, this is a party-heavy atmosphere that leaves a lot to be desired in terms of surroundings. 

7. Michigan

Michigan scores big points for location – even diehard Spartan fans have to admit Ann Arbor is an awesome college town. It also takes advantage of the campus golf course, on which tailgating is allowed in a beautiful, tree-filled atmosphere. Also, traffic is an absolute hassle on gamedays and the campus bars aren’t all that close to the stadium, but overall this remains a very solid pregame experience for one of the best teams in the country. 

6. Minnesota 

There’s truly no shortage of entertainment around Huntington Bank Stadium, including a TopGolf and countless restaurants and bars just down the street. Minneapolis is a lovely town, with big-city vibes and an easier travel ask than most. This is a friendly, dedicated fan base. It’s not known for raucous tailgates but a more subdued atmosphere, which doesn’t blow you away with excess but provides a nice opportunity for an above-average tailgating experience. 

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5. Nebraska 

This is one of the more unique pregame experiences in all of college football. The history, the traditions, the rural surroundings, the absolute love of all things Cornhuskers football. 

Opposing fans will be welcomed with open arms. Beers and donuts will be offered free of charge, and they will thank you for making the trip to their Stadium. Nearby Misty’s Steakhouse is a great postgame option, and overall this is a downright pleasant pregame atmosphere with no shortcomings anywhere. 

4. Penn State

Location is everything, as they say, and Happy Valley is about as good as it gets for a true campus experience. It’s not the easiest place to get to, but once you arrive you’re in a college bubble with no mistaking your environment. 

The fan base is extremely passionate, there’s tons of real estate to move about freely and the stadium itself is an absolute behemoth that serves as an appropriate backdrop to remind you what this whole thing is all about

There weren’t exactly jumping for joy over the Hawkeyes offense in 2022, but Iowa City remains one of the best college football environments in the country. There’s no shortage of nearby bars and entertainment, lodging isn’t hard to find and the students party hard in a way that somehow seems more responsible than others. With high expectations again for 2023 and one of the best campuses in the conference, you’ll want for absolutely nothing in a memorable pregame experience.

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2. Ohio State 

The Buckeyes score highly everywhere except for family sentiment – the language and vitriol created by such high-stakes games week after week means you’ll need to earmuff it for the little ones throughout the tailgating experience. 

Otherwise, Columbus is a fantastic town with some of the best entertainment options in the conference. The tailgating scene is massive and students and Buckeyes faithful are all-in from the start. Plus, now that sports betting is legal in the state, you can have some fun placing wagers on the Ohio betting apps.

Other than a slightly industrial feel amid the massive campus and athletic facilities, there’s hardly anything to complain about on gameday at Ohio Stadium. 

1. Wisconsin 

The Badgers weren’t given their reputation as one of the best football schools in the nation. They earned it, one Spotted Cow at a time.  Madison is a gorgeous capital city with water views and some of the tastiest midwestern cooking you’ll find anywhere. The students don’t let it go to waste, waking up in the wee hours for an all-day rager. 

The stadium is a must-see for college football enthusiasts, the team is usually competitive and the party lasts long after kickoff – reporters can feel the press box physically shaking back and forth as the student body dances to “Jump Around” to start the fourth quarter. Pound-for-pound, you won’t find a better atmosphere in the conference. 

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About the Author

Dan Kilbridge for Bookies.com
Dan Kilbridge
Handicapper Dan Kilbridge writes about college football, MLB and other sports for Bookies.com after spending three years covering Tiger Woods’ comeback and the PGA for Golfweek.