Thanksgiving is the best holiday on the calendar. I’m not really here for any contrary opinions.
Christmas doesn’t have college football, and New Year’s doesn’t have the food. My family isn’t weird, so we don’t give out presents on Easter, and the Fourth of July is already a summer day to begin with, so it can only get so much better due to holiday status.
Thanksgiving is also college football’s best holiday, with many teams’ major rivalries happening all weekend long. Thanksgiving dinner and many of the sport’s annual fixtures go hand-in-hand. And dinner is a sport, so let’s compare dinner to sports.
Cranberry sauce: Florida-Florida State
Florida will always try too hard to be the ivory tower and regard FSU as the lowly CRIMINOLES. It’s just like your silly can vs. fresh cranberry sauce debate. At the end of the day, it’s still weird-looking, purply-red goo that you’ll have had more than enough of after one serving.
We’re all still Florida men and women. Gators wear jean shorts and bark at police dogs. Noles steal shoes and look like this guy.
Green bean casserole: Egg Bowl
It’s the blend of something that tries so hard to be sophisticated (casser-Ole Miss) and something that’s shamelessly straight country (a bunch of green beans: Starkville, Mississippi).
Your uncle's politics rant: Kentucky-Louisville
Guaranteed to reek of bourbon and have physical confrontations before it even begins.
Pumpkin pie: Illinois-Northwestern
No thank you.
Two things that sound like they could go together but do not at all go together. Nobody understands how it’s managed to stay part of the tradition this long. You don’t know anyone who thinks about it the other 364 days of the year.
Stuffing from inside the bird: Clemson-South Carolina
Occasionally great, usually not as good as it should be, and sometimes you get food poisoning. Tajh Boyd demonstrates:
Being seated next to a cousin you haven’t really spoken to for years: Arkansas-Missouri
You lived near each other for years without intentionally spending any time together. There was probably a reason.
There’s a pizza place in my hometown that puts yard signs out advertising that it delivers on Thanksgiving. Nothing could be more soul-sucking than crummy pizza on this holiday, unless your rivalry trophy is this:
I'm the Old Oaken Bucket, and I'm a Hoosier!!! pic.twitter.com/55unvjeust— Homegrown Hoosier (@HomegrownHoos) November 29, 2014
Ham: NC State-North Carolina
Good, but we’d much rather have it in March.
Mashed potatoes: Minnesota-Wisconsin
Always decent, heavy, and loaded with dairy products.
Cornbread: Virginia Tech-Virginia
A little bit country and a little bit cake.
Mystery meat: Oregon-Oregon State
Gravy: Georgia-Georgia Tech
It thinks it can carry the day by itself, and you’d miss it if it didn’t happen, but it's not the feature.
Collard greens: Grambling State-Southern
If you don’t get this, I can’t really do anything to help you.
Salad: Wake Forest vs. anyone
No one wants it. Go away.
Turkey Bowl: Arizona State-Arizona
A just-for-fun game of football that rarely matters to anybody outside the family, though somebody will hold a grudge for decades.
The spouse who’s new blood at the family dinner and trying too hard to fit in: UCF-USF
Whatever kind of pie your family only has once a year: Apple Cup
We expect Washington-Washington State to be really good these days, but even when it’s bad and both teams only have one win between them coming into the game, it’s still dessert.
Mac and cheese: Notre Dame-USC
Your grandparents love it. Everybody’s fine with it, and it’s sometimes an absolute classic, but BOY is it easy to screw up if it takes itself too seriously.
Sparkling apple cider: Utah-BYU
Non-alcoholic, but fine.
Brussels sprouts: The Kansas State game
I needed to illustrate this game with the plainest food imaginable.
Whatever it is your family used to make but doesn’t any more because of the divorce: Texas-Texas A&M
Man, it would just be so much better if mom and dad would have just sorted their differences out, maybe gone to counseling, and just stayed together.
The fine dish your new step parent makes as a replacement, but nothing like the original: LSU-Texas A&M and Whoever-Texas
I mean, sure. It’s still stuffing (which happens to be my favorite thanksgiving side dish), but Linda makes stuffing with mild sausage instead of spicy, so there’s no way in hell you’re ever calling her “Mom.”
Your aunt’s story that just will not end: Texas Tech-Baylor
Guaranteed to last entirely too long. But it’s tough to pull away from, because there are interesting parts around the 4.5-hour mark. You just have to settle in for the duration.
The last bite: West Virginia vs. any Big 12 team instead of Pitt
Toward the end, weird things run together on your plate. No one would ever intentionally eat creamed corn with cranberry in it, but Thanksgiving produces strange mixtures sometimes.
Tofu turkey: The Rutgers game
No one will even look at this.
Roasted turkey: Michigan-Ohio State
A cornerstone of the entire experience, whether it needs to be or not.
Your dad tells you about Woody and Bo and how it was awesome back in the day. He’s talking about those super awesome games of yesteryear that never had both teams eclipse the 20-point margin in the same game. This game is turkey, but it’s not exactly seasoned.
Bird just went in! Family and friends in route. It is going to be a great day! pic.twitter.com/cxYWTEdBfP— Tom Rodgers (@TomRodgersNews) November 26, 2015
Exploding fried turkey: Iron Bowl
You can be as careful and as calculating as Nick Saban is. You can plan it all out to a T to get your lovely, gloriously juicy, and succulent fried turkey for all to enjoy.
Or you put one second on the clock and hastily try to thaw the game instead of going to overtime, and the whole thing might just explode.
Standing in the TSA line with a food coma in order to fly home after the holiday: Whatever Michigan State is doing
Nothing happens, and it still feels like it takes forever. This is a contrived way to get this commercial from Saban’s days as Spartans head coach in here.
Turkey sandwich: Army-Navy
One of the greatest traditions of them all, and it doesn’t happen until days later.