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Best SEC game-weekend experience: And No. 1 is …

GRAPHIC BY JODY HORTON
GRAPHIC BY JODY HORTON

1-flaI know: Big surprise, right? Biased guy picks his alma mater.

Well, a few things. First, it is my list. Second, everyone went to school somewhere, so bias can creep in, I suppose.

But as anyone who has attended a game in the Swamp can attest, it doesn't take any bias to think that Gainesville makes for a truly spectacular game-weekend experience.

For me, a game-weekend experience in Gainesville has everything. I'm not sure the music scene is quite what it is in Nashville and Athens, but any city that produced Tom Petty can rock a little. I'm not sure it is better than Mike Anderson's Seafood in Baton Rouge, but Ballyhoo Grill is awfully good. I'm not sure the strip is quite as good as Cumberland in Knoxville, but University Avenue on the edge of campus, home of The Swamp Restaurant, is pretty good.

Inside, the stadium is the best in the SEC, if not the country. It is steep, as vertical as most new NFL stadiums, not a broad oval like most college venues. For that reason, the noise stays in – it has virtually nowhere to go. And, man, is it loud. Longtime college football writer Ivan Maisel once wrote, "Take any heavy-metal album, crank it, then place your speakers in a tin basement. That sounds like a library compared to 'The Swamp.' "

The pre-game video presentation is something you have to see at least once if you are a college football fan. It's good during the day, magnificent at night. While the slow, creepy theme song from "Jaws" plays over the sound system, the huge video screens show alligators swimming through swamps, with a deep-voiced sound guy who says, at the end, "The Swamp – where only gators get out alive." An alligator's mouth opens just as the Florida players come storming out of the tunnel right beneath one of the video screens while the 90,000-plus in attendance are losing their collective minds.

There are great scenes, traditions, settings and rituals throughout college football. Florida's is one of the best.

No. 2 on my list of best SEC game-weekend experiences is a place where they let you roll in on the river. No. 3 features great food and -- ahem -- highly passionate fans. No. 4 is all about the tailgate. No. 5 features a great music scene, a great stadium and ardent fans. No. 6 is a place where it's all football, all the time. No. 7 on my list has one of the best student sections in the nation. No. 8 features horses, golf and bourbon, as well as football. No. 9 has trees and a famous corner. No. 10 features "tailgate trains," and No. 11 on my list is a must-visit place if you like music. Here's No. 12 on my list, and two schools tied for 13th.

What I liked best: The video, just before kickoff, as the team runs out. "Only gators get out alive."

ABOUT FLORIDA
Location: Gainesville, Fla. (population of about 127,000)
Stadium: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium (89,548)
Enrollment: 49,878

(You can follow Frank Frangie on Twitter @Frank_Frangie)

© 2016, Frank Frangie. All rights reserved.

© 2016, gridironnow.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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