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Here’s everything a college football fan needs to get ready for the season

From the biggest story lines to the best podcast subscriptions to the tastiest cocktail recipes, this is your guide to not being a #basic this fall.

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Being a college football fan is not difficult. Anyone can clothe themselves in a color scheme appropriate for their favorite program, eat and drink like an idiot, and go through the in-game motions of college football fandom - stand up here, yell at that thing, do this chant or that chant. Being a good college football fan, though? Well that’s a bit harder. And while we are most definitely developing a self-serving metric of “goodness” here by which we are describing college football fans, we have done this enough to know that a little information can go a long way in keeping even the most basic of fans from succumbing to the dull, unimaginative ways of your layperson weekend warrior.

To that end, we present to you this, a 2016 guide to what what we feel every college football fan - with a more than slight nod to those who follow our Rebels - could use to enhance their overall football season experience. Consider it a handbook of sorts to ensure that your fall Saturdays are enriched with, among other things, a proper understanding of the sport, a cultural awareness of football’s place in the American psyche, and a pretty good recipe for fried catfish.

Which SEC takes should I parrot?

Ole Piss be cheetin’/NCAA be slackin. Look for an NCAA reference during every single damn televised Ole Miss game this year. If y’all are lucky, we will have a drinking game ready for y’all come FSU kick off and you can bet NCAA mentions will involve heavy shots.

Mississippi State Post-Dakpocalypse. If you haven’t witnessed countless MSU fans swooning over the Cowboys, you are missing quite the spectacle. Could Dan Mullen finally get his wish of getting out of Starkville by finishing poorly enough to get fired? Or maybe some other mid-tier power 5 conference team will suffer such a horrible season that they are just desperate enough to hire him away.

If Saban wins this year, should we expect retirement talks? No one could forget the mini showdown Saban had with Finebaum during the SEC media days. Reports also came out that Saban apologized off air. UM WHAT? Since when have you ever known as the devil incarnate himself to utter “sorry”? Methinks Saban is making sure he doesn’t burn that bridge in hopes of immediately jumping into the ESPN talking head ranks upon retirement.

Les Miles ruining Leonard Fournette’s Heisman Campaign and LSU’s title chances...again. When you have a failproof submarine that is built for plowing through the ocean, knocking away any obstacles that might get in its way, the only thing that could potentially send it all to the ocean floor would be the captain’s relentless demands to install a screen door. “How am I sposed to grow grass here in the submarine without water? This algae just ain’t cutting it!”

Tennessee’s gonna make the playoff! No, they’re not.

What are the biggest questions around the country?

A Second Ten Year War? It’s not nearly as big of a deal in college football culture south of the Ohio River, but for what was basically the entirety of the 1970s, Michigan and Ohio State dominated the Big 10 in a way as to render each of their annual rivalry games as a de facto play-in game for the Rose Bowl (and, in some cases, a chance at the national championship). With Urban Meyer having already won a national championship at Ohio State and a more-than-capable-but-holy-shit-what-a-weirdo Jim Harbaugh recruiting and coaching Michigan at an elite level, could this year kick off another decade of dominance between the Wolverines and Buckeyes?

A PAC 12 Resurgence? Christian McCaffrey is a Heisman candidate at Stanford, UCLA’s Josh Rosen is one of the country’s top quarterbacks, and Washington has the talent and schedule to go on a serious conference title run. We don’t get to see nearly as much west coast football as we deserve (thanks, time zones), which is why we feel it appropriate to remind y’all that the Pac 12 is really talented and deep in a way that no other conference can boast. That means that almost every conference game is a must-see contest, and not the just novelty of “oh what in the hell is Oregon even wearing?!” some of us may associate with the conference in a post Pete Carroll universe.

Is Charlie Strong coaching for his job? It’s hard to say “no” given that it’s Texas, but even then it seems that Longhorns fans are growing impatient with the state of their program. With a plummeting Baylor combining with instability at Texas A&M to give the Longhorns a resurgent recruiting advantage in the Lone Star State, it seems inevitable that the Longhorns should improve a great deal in 2016. The problem? TCU and Oklahoma are still Big XII favorites and Texas has a home opener against an immensely talented Notre Dame team in week one.

Where’s Tom Herman gonna coach next? Probably Texas A&M. Glad we had this discussion.

Who’s getting left out of the playoff? There are four spots in the college football playoff. There are five conferences automatically eligible for playoff consideration. A handful of those conferences have multiple playoff contenders (consider Alabama and LSU from the SEC or Clemson and Florida State from the ACC). So the pretty simple arithmetic means that one of college football’s major conferences won’t be represented in the college football playoff, if not two. With the Pac 12 having no real consensus playoff contender and the Big XII offering up an uninspiring Oklahoma team, it’s not unreasonable to think that a combination of just SEC, ACC, and B1G teams are selected to compete for the national championship.

What websites should I visit?

Well, for starters, you’re already on Red Cup Rebellion dot com, the single best source for Ole Miss news, rumors, updates, analysis, discussion, Pokemon metaphors, recipes, restaurant reviews, satire, and gifs. But, while you’re here, take a peek around the network we’ve got supporting us. There are gazillions of team blogs that offer similar (better) coverage of their programs, as well as the satire of Every Day Should be Saturday, the analysis of Football Study Hall, and Jason Kirk’s “Read Option,” a daily college football newsletter to which you most definitely should subscribe.

Add to that stories like Bud Elliot’s weekly Vegas picks and Steven Godfrey’s guide on cutting the cord to watch all the college football you can stomach sans cable, and you’ll have way more information than you need to appreciate your fall Saturdays.

What should I listen to?

This football season, you’re sure to find yourself going on long jogs to burn off all the beer you drank on Saturday, struggling through yard work, or enduring a hellaciously mundane commute to a job you’ve been trying to quit for a few years. Make those experiences more tolerable with some college football podcasts, each of which should scratch a different itch you may have as an observer of the sport.

Want to talk Ole Miss? Our very own Podcast Rebellion has you covered there. Want to talk everybody else, with a brief detour to talk food or music? The Solid Verbal is your gold standard. Want to take a deeper dive into both the on-field sport itself and the off-field business that supports it? Then Podcast Ain’t Played Nobody is a must-listen. Want to talk about almost everything but college football, while still somehow talking about college football? BONUS: You get to hear Ryan Nanni laugh at literally anything that ever happens? Then subscribe to SHUTDOWN FULLCAST’s weekly hour-ish of ridiculous content.

If it’s some music you want, though, we have just the playlists for you. We know you have your personal music tastes, and I’m sure you think they’re “good” and all, but set those aside for this carefully curated hip hop playlist that should pretty quickly have you ready to party from close-of-business on Thursday through the end of a Rebel victory celebration on the Square on Saturday night.

“But I don’t like hip hop,” you may say. Well that’s a you problem, not an us problem.

  1. "I Got The Keys" - DJ Khaled feat. Future & Jay Z
  2. "Dat $tick" - Rich Chigga
  3. "Champions" - Kanye West, Big Sean, Desiigner, Gucci Mane, Quavo, Travis Scott, Yo Gotti & 2 Chainz
  4. "All The Way Up" - Fat Joe feat. French Montana
  5. "Black Beatles" - Rae Sremmurd feat. Gucci Mane
  6. "No Problem" - Chance the Rapper feat. Lil Wayne & 2 Chainz
  7. "Ran Up The Money" - Migos
  8. "THat Part" - ScHoolboy Q feat. Kanye West
  9. "Pick Up The Phone" - Young Thug feat. Quavo
  10. "Desperado" - Rihanna

Your second playlist is at a different pace. While the prior playlist is for your Friday night post-Square-pre-party-pre-pre-IHOP mood setting or your game day spent aggressively drinking on and about the Ole Miss campus in preparations for an anticipated SEC matchup, this one’s more for those Saturday’s spent watching football in some modicum of comfort. This playlist is your moodsetter for a Saturday morning spent nursing a weak, stale hangover over a cup of coffee to ESPN’s College Gameday. You’re happy it’s Saturday, and you’re gonna half-assedly watch whatever third-rate SEC vs. SoCon matchup kicks off at noon before making that transition into the 3:00 CBS game, but you’ve got errands to run after that and, time permitting, will need to edge the driveway at some point.

  1. "Ain't No Man" - The Avett Brothers
  2. "You Can Have The Crown" - Sturgill Simpson
  3. "Traveller" - Chris Stapleton
  4. "Record Year" - Eric Church
  5. "Twistin’ and Groovin’" - Leon Bridges
  6. "Vacation" - Thomas Rhett
  7. "Castaway" - Zac Brown Band
  8. "Ophelia" - The Lumineers
  9. "My Church" - Maren Morris
  10. "American money" - BØRNS

What should I read?

Know Thy Enemy: The Bear Bryant Funeral Train by Brad Vice. This controversial collection of short stories was originally published (and subsequently pulped) by the Unviersity of Georgia Press as the winner of the Flannery O’Connor Award. Vice almost immediately came under fire for allegedly plagiarizing chunks of Carl Carmer’s Stars Fell on Alabama. The collection was re-published by River City Publishing with attributions and explanations for the textual appropriations. If you can overlook Vice’s rooting loyalty (he’s clearly a diehard Gump), you’ll find a rich collection of mostly realist, southern short fiction that occasionally dabbles in postmodern metafiction. His story “Tuscaloosa Knights” imagines a young Bear Bryant as an attendee at a Tuscaloosa KKK rally, and the title story takes place in a near-future landscape where Disney and Mercedes battle for ownership of the state of Alabama. The splendid “Report from Junction” is worth the price of admission on its own.

Know Thyself: Terrains of the Heart and Other Essays on Home by Willie Morris. No one writes about Mississippi’s complicated past as eloquently as Morris, but this collection, featuring essays written after Morris returned to Mississippi (and came to Oxford to live and teach), includes gems that often focus on Ole Miss culture, history, and athletics.

A Clunky Metaphor for the NCAA Investigation: The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway. We’re the old man. They’re the sharks. The book is Hemingway at his best, but if you layer your own Ole Miss-centric symbolism on it, you’ll stoke the fires of your NCAA hate even more as we head into a season of near constant reminders that “Daggum Cheatin’ Bears gonna get the death penalty.”

You Heathens Need More Poetry in Your Lives: Above the River by James Wright. Aside from being the author of the world’s most famous football poem (“Autumn Begins in Martin’s Ferry, Ohio”), Wright wrote a range of poems that tackled everything from inner conflict to the fragility of the natural world, and he did it all while constantly challenging his own stylistic habits. Plus, there’s never been a better summation of Jeremiah Masoli’s time in Oxford than these lines from “Saint Judas”: Flayed without hope / I held the man for nothing in my arms.

Dave Wommack in Book Form: The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead. “Dave Wommack?” you said. “We’re hiring Dave Wommack to run our SEC defense? The Hugh Freeze tenure is going to be painful.” “Elevator inspectors?” you said. “You want me to read a dystopian novel about elevator inspectors? This is going to be painful.” Except no. Dave Wommack is wonderful, and so is Colson Whitehead’s dystopian/mystery/allegorical mashup.

What should I cook?

Being the internet’s premier Ole Miss food blog, we at Red Cup Rebellion have hardly a shortage of recipes for y’all to enjoy on these fall Saturdays. Whether it be for a raucous tailgate for you and a few dozen of your best friends, or an afternoon spent watching football at home, we want you and yours to be fat and happy. While a quick search for “Red Cup Cooks” will turn up literally dozens of our recipes, let us suggest a few of our favorites:

And you can always curry favor with your fellow Grovers by bringing bourbon, bottled water, or Chick-fil-A nugget trays. Doing so is taking the easy way out, but nobody will hold it against you.

What drinks should I mix?

Do you like nice cocktails? Of course you do! Have you ever tried to set up a cocktail bar for a Grove tent or a watch party? Of course you have, and it was a damned disaster. All your friends hated it! You probably brought too many ingredients, or too few, or brought a bunch of boring stuff, or a bunch of stuff that made a giant goddamned mess everywhere, and now you’re jaded and you just drink plain bourbon so often that water doesn’t taste right anymore.

This year, I’m trying something different. If I’m bringing drinks to a football-observation-based social event, I’m going to bring one base liquor, and one or two ingredients that are interesting, versatile, and relatively hassle-free. That, with a few of your standard mixers, and you should be able to keep all of your worthwhile friends and guests satisfied. For an idea as to what type of extra ingredients to focus on when helping facilitate football cocktails, consider the following:

Ginger simple syrup: This is about 3% harder than boiling water. Basically, peel and grate a bunch of ginger, and throw it in boiling water with sugar, then simmer it all for a while. Grating or dicing the ginger real fine is important, because it increases the surface area you have to work with, and imparts more flavor.

Ginger syrup can be used as a substitute for regular simple syrup for a neat variation on lots of different cocktails. It also works just fine as a standalone mixer with whiskey, gin, rum, tequila, or vodka. Add a little ice and/or club soda, and you’ve done something a little fancy for yourself with pretty much no effort. Go the extra mile and find some neat container to store it in, so you don’t get sticky crap all over your buddy’s wife’s dumb furniture.

How to apply it? Go with a bourbon and ginger, or a tequila-based cocktail, or a spicy ginger and rum cocktail. You could even just mix it with sparkling water for a refreshing non-alcoholic (BORING AS HELL) drink if you’d fancy that.

Campari or Aperol: Campari and Aperol are a couple of fruity but extremely bitter liqueurs that you can get at pretty much any liquor store. You can mix them with gin and sweet vermouth to make a negroni, and there are variations of the same cocktail that use rum or whiskey. If you’ve ever heard someone order a negroni at a bar, you probably rolled your eyes and muttered something under your breath like “I bet THAT guy’s in grad school,” but listen man, negroni’s serve an important purpose. Far too many Americans dive headfirst into one of two flavor profiles - sweet or savory. This means we enjoy our meat, potatoes, and Coca-Cola to a fault. Sourness and bitterness, therefore, are often overlooked, which lends to their novelty to our palates. So think of a negroni (or similar drinks) like a change-of-pace back in football; they can give you a totally different flavor to contrast the super sweet and booze-forward drinks that a lot of us like. If you’re pounding Jack Daniels, Old-Fashioneds, or heavy beer all day, you might need a little bitterness in your life in between your 6th and 8th round.

Brandied cherries: Just so we’re on the same page here: the little maraschino cherries you usually see in cocktails and desserts are freaking disgusting, and that’s before you take into account the freaking disgusting way that they’re made. If fresh cherries are in season at your grocery store, just buy a few pounds, pit them (one of your friends will for some reason have a tool that pits cherries; just identify that friend), and soak them in the cheapest brandy you can find. Store in mason jars, bring to tailgates, and probably ruin maraschino cherries for everyone else in attendance. Throw these guys in Old Fashioneds, Manhattans, or whatever. As your jar empties, you’re left with cherry flavored brandy, which is a pretty cool thing to have around in its own right. Lots of cocktails call for brandy as a secondary liquor, and it also tastes nice mixed by itself with another liquor and ice.

Now what?

Pour a drink and watch some football. We’ll be right here whenever you’re ready.