Big 12 tailgating makes me wish I could be a fan

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

I'll admit to being a sucker for virtually any kind of grilled meat. So a trip to Big 12 games during the fall sets my olfactory senses screaming into overdrive nearly every Saturday.

The tradition of tailgating is strong across the conference, but particularly at the schools of the old Big Eight Conference. Places like Iowa State and Kansas State where parking is so close to the stadium encourages a communal feel where fans break bread together for many hours before kickoff.

My favorite glimpse came a few years ago for a Kansas State game at Manhattan. I got to the stadium several hours early before an early-evening kickoff. Fans had brought a large overstuffed couch and a portable satellite dish from home to watch the games throughout the afternoon. I guess they figured if they had to leave their home behind, why not bring most of their creature comforts with them to enjoy the afternoon before watching the game.

But tailgating is about food and the schools of the Big 12 have specific barbecuing strengths. The schools of Texas typically lean heavily on brisket or steaks for their barbecue. And for those early-morning kickoffs, you can usually find a cook whipping up some mean breakfast tacos before heading into the stadium. Make mine potato, egg and cheese, thank you very much.

If you head North in the Big 12, I've noticed that burgers and bratwurst become more prevalent. And fans tend to make it more of a day-long spectacle, particularly when the weather starts getting a little colder later in the season.

Many times I've wanted to be able to throw down my laptop and head for the smoking meat in the parking lot with the other fans. But duty always calls for me inside the stadium, unfortunately.

We're starting TailGateUnited, a group of fans who post their pictures, thoughts and questions about grilling and cooking on football weekends.

And what's a good time without pictures. Please feel free to snap away at your tailgates and share the best with all of us.