Happy Valley, Madison top Big Ten tailgates

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

When the forefathers of tailgating conceived the great American pastime, they had Big Ten football in mind. The cool autumn weather, the country's three biggest stadiums and the Midwestern cultural pillars of beer and meat have made tailgating a natural fit from State College to Iowa City.

Big Ten fans don't let those pesky noon or 11 a.m. kickoff times get in their way of grilling, eating, drinking and socializing. And while each Big Ten fan base puts its own flavor on the tailgate, two stand out.

When Penn State plays a home football game, State College turns into the third-largest city in Pennsylvania. The grounds outside Beaver Stadium fill with RVs, TVs and tens of thousands of fans, many of whom remain there while the game is being played. The sheer size of the stadium and the tailgating territory make Penn State a tailgater's paradise. As for food, one Penn State tailgating Web site includes recipes for something called sub slop and a snack mix nicknamed heart attack in a blue bowl. Good stuff.

Not far behind Penn State is Wisconsin, which never lets the weather get in the way of brats and beers. Madison is a metropolitan city, so tailgating becomes a bit cozier, but Badger fans don't mind. Walk along Regent Street before a game and you'll find full bars, brats, cheese and plenty of Badgers having a blast.

Other Big Ten tailgating hot spots: Hineygate at Ohio State, the tennis courts at Michigan State, the golf course at Michigan. Unfortunately, Olive Court at Iowa is no longer being used.