The crowd at The Grove on the University of Mississippi campus in Oxford during the matchup in 2019.

Tusk to Tail: Off to the Grove to tailgate with the Rebels … or Bears … or Landsharks?

It is back to reality for Hog fans. We left for Georgia last week with a lot of enthusiasm, not necessarily thinking Arkansas would win, but at least there was a chance. As we now know, there was a better chance of the Avengers showing up than the Hogs pulling off that upset.

The Razorbacks just aren’t ready for that level of competition yet.

As always, the Tusk to Tail crew had a nice morning on the Georgia campus with our friends and family. The crowd came from as far away as Dallas and as close as Atlanta. Georgia is a lot like Auburn, in that the fans are friendly and welcoming of visiting fans. The compact campus lacks large parking lots, using multi-level decks to make up the difference.

This was our first time to tailgate in Athens, and we learned a few things. First, go early, as in 7 a.m. I’m sure the early 11 a.m. kickoff didn’t help, but the campus lots tend to fill up early. There are plenty of businesses and individuals selling parking and even tailgating spots.

As a rule, the campus is pretty wide open for tailgating. As long as you have what you need, and don’t need your vehicle close, you could drop everything off at a nice spot and then return well after the game to pick up and clean up. We highly recommend a visit. Let’s hope the next time the Hogs are better equipped.

This week is still no easier as we turn the page to Ole Miss. The Rebel Bears took one on the chin as well last week to Bama. I’m sure they want to prove they are the 2nd best in the West, just like the Hogs are trying to do.

Oxford is a nice town. It’s not as big as Fayetteville, but has a great square about a mile from campus with some nice spots to eat. What is working against them this week is the early start time at 11 a.m. Be mindful that 65,000 people will be trying to get there and park around the same time, usually around 9 a.m., so arrive early.

The Grove, as you know, is a popular spot for tailgating. The Grove will fill up around 9:30 a.m. Saturday, but it will not be packed like it would be for an afternoon or night game. A lot of Ole Miss fans will hang out after the game to get their tailgating in for the day.

It’s worthwhile to visit before the game but if you have time, walk through the Grove when the game ends around 2. I’ve always told folks that the Grove is War Memorial without the cars. Just imagine nice tidy rows of tent after tent, with folks tailgating and having fun. Majestic oak trees overlook it all, and the entire Grove is surrounded by historic campus buildings.

A lot of premium Grove spaces are reserved for families and groups year after year, but there used to be some spaces on the edges where you could pitch a tent on Friday night. We have not done that in years though. The Ole Miss brain trust cut off almost all of the streets to through traffic, and make it very hard to find a spot without buying a lot pass first. There are some lots and grassy areas open to visitors on the edges of campus, which is where we have started going.

Travel to Oxford is easy. The trip is just a little over three hours no matter which way you go.  The Memphis bridge is open and in good shape. If you choose that route, once you hit Memphis, take I-55 South to I-69 then to I-22. Then exit for Highway 7 in Holly Springs, and come in from the north of Oxford. That is actually easier than taking Highway 278 over from I-55 South.

Another twist is to take the Helena bridge over the Mississippi. It might take 10 minutes longer, but is a scenic drive through the Delta. As long as you don’t get stuck behind a semi or farm tractor, you can make good time.

It seems doubtful you will have time to eat before the game, but you might be able to squeeze in some sightseeing. If you decide to face the crowds after the game, some nice spots to hit up are Big Bad Breakfast, Ajax Diner, City Grocery, and Boure. For drinks try The Sipp on South Lamar, St. Leo Lounge (they also serve tasty pizza), and the Blind Pig Pub.

I feel like the Hogs will be prepared Saturday, and should match up better with Ole Miss. However, they have not been tested in the secondary like Ole Miss will do, so they could be vulnerable. I’d like to see the Hogs try to run the ball and eat some clock, then throw some strikes downfield. Let’s call it Hogs 34, Ole Miss 28.

Go Hogs! Beat Rebels? Bears? Landsharks?!

Editor’s note: Now in its 10th year, Tusk to Tail is the sport of tailgating as organized, performed and perfected by a group of Hog fans who have been tailgating together sober and otherwise for more than a decade. The primary focus of Tusk to Tail will be to follow the Hogs through the fans’ perspective with their insightful, irreverent, smart-alecky and sometimes practical style. The diehards may also be followed on their Facebook page. Or follow the crew on Twitter and Instagram, all @TuskToTail.

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