Throw the Ultimate ESPN College Football party for The Playoff!

You rooted all season and now it’s time for the big finale!

If you’re a Buckeye, a Sooner, a Clemson Tiger or an LSU Tiger you’re probably already planning on tuning in, but whether or not your team made it to the College Football Playoff this year, you can ALL enjoy delicious food and drinks with your family, friends, and fellow college football fans. Get together for a day of back-to-back semifinal games live on ESPN on Saturday, December 28th and find out which teams will be facing off in The National Championship game next month!

Here are a few College Football Playoff party ideas you can create at home (or even contribute to a friend’s bash!):

Create a DIY “Drink the Competition” Punch Bowl Bar
We know the four teams that will be battling it out in the semifinal games, but you can also host your own bowl—a punch bowl!-- at home with colorful College Football Playoff themed cocktails.

These bowl rules are up to you! Tell your guests to pick their favorite team’s drink or let them opt to “drink the competition.” Make the drinks and garnishes ahead of time and serve DIY style in punch bowls or pitchers so that nobody has to miss any of the action on the screen.

In this year’s College Football Playoff only on ESPN, Oklahoma will face LSU in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl and Ohio State will play Clemson in the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl. Serve your own favorite team-inspired drinks, or get inspired by the festive CFP cocktails I’ve created below:


OKLAHOMA
With star QB transfer Jalen Hurts leading the way now wearing Crimson for the Sooners, I knew we needed a star element--like homemade rum-soaked cherries--in this deep crimson party punch celebrating Oklahoma. You can make the cherries a day or two in advance, but wait until gameday to mix up the rest of the cocktail. You’ll go from the #4 ranked underdog to gameday champ with this one!

Cherry Sooner Spritz
Serves 8


Ingredients
For the rum-soaked cherries:
1 cup dark rum
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 cups fresh or frozen & thawed cherries, stems and pits removed

For the cocktail:
4 cups sweetened pomegranate or cranberry juice
2 cups dark rum
1/2 cup lime juice
2 cups cherry seltzer
Ice

Directions
Make the cherries: in a small saucepan, combine rum, water, and sugar and bring to a simmer, stirring just until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat, add the cherries, and let soak at least 1 hour and up to 3 days.

Make the drink: Combine pomegranate or cranberry juice, dark rum, lime juice, and seltzer in a punch bowl or pitcher. Add ice and half the soaked cherries. Serve additional cherries on the side for garnishing.


LSU
Whether your guests are “geaux-ing” for the top-ranked Tigers or not, everyone will be a fan of this easy purple and gold-inspired party cocktail.

Never made homemade blueberry lemonade before? Well it’s the perfect time to try something new in honor of LSU’s first-ever appearance in the College Football Playoff and Joe Burrow becoming the first LSU QB to win the Heisman Trophy! (Promise this will take way less time and work than those impressive feats!)

TIP: If you want to offer up a family friendly drink, skip the vodka and let everyone enjoy this festive purple lemonade

LSU Spiked Blueberry Lemonade
Serves 8

Ingredients
1 cup fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 cups blueberries (fresh or frozen)
1 cup granulated sugar
6 cups water
1 1/2 cups vodka
1/4 teaspoon violet gel food coloring (optional, but enhances the purple shade of the drink!)
Ice
Garnish: fresh blueberries, lemon slices, lemon rind twists

Directions
Combine lemon juice, blueberries, sugar, and 1 cup water in a blender and puree until smooth and sugar is dissolved—about 2 minutes. Use a mesh sieve to strain into a large pitcher or punch bowl. Discard any seeds and solids caught in the pitcher. Stir in the remaining 5 cups water, vodka, and food coloring (if using). Chill until serving time.

Serve drinks over ice and garnish with blueberries, lemon slices, and/or lemon twists.


CLEMSON
The Tigers are going for back-to-back titles for the first time in the CFP era and your guests are also sure to go back for seconds of this winning drink!

If you can’t find blood orange juice for this easy margarita recipe, you can substitute regular orange juice and just add a “Dabo” of red food coloring or grenadine to get that perfect shade of Clemson orange.

Make the purple salt for this easy margarita in advance of game day, then garnish just before serving.

Clemson Blood Orange Margaritas
Serves 8

Ingredients
For the purple salt
1/3 cup kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon violet gel food coloring

For the margaritas
2 cups blood orange juice (fresh or bottled)
1 cup fresh lime juice
2 cups gold tequila
1/4 cup orange liqueur (such as triple sec or cointreau)

Ice for serving

Directions
Combine salt and gel food coloring in a zipped plastic baggie. Close the baggie, then use your hands to massage the food color into the salt until it is evenly distributed and the salt is purple. (Can be made in advance. Store in a sealed container in a cool dry place. Will keep indefinitely.)

Make the margaritas. In a large pitcher or punch bowl, combine blood orange juice, lime juice, tequila, and orange liqueur. Chill.

To serve, rub outside of cup or glass with lemon wedge or water and dip into the purple salt. Fill cup with ice and pour in margarita.



OHIO STATE
Dominate your game day party like Chase Young and the Buckeyes have dominated all season with this undefeated cocktail! (Just please don’t tackle your guests!).

Maple syrup adds a smoky sweetness to this bright scarlet cocktail that pairs perfectly with the also very-necessary peanut butter buckeyes.

O-H!!! I-O!!!

Maple Cranberry Buckeye Sippers
Serves 8

Ingredients
4 cups cranberry juice
2 cups cranberry vodka
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 cup fresh lemon juice
2 cups seltzer

Directions
Combine cranberry juice, lemon juice, and maple syrup in a blender and puree 2 minutes, or until maple syrup is fully incorporated into the juice. Pour into a pitcher with the vodka and seltzer. Serve over ice garnished with cranberries (and peanut butter buckeyes on the side!).

Build an Epic College Football Playoff Party Grazing Table

After years of bowl games where champions were decided by pollsters, the College Football Playoff finally allows for the National Champion to be crowned on the field! What could be better than getting together with friends to watch the 4 best teams battle it out for the right to play in the National Championship game in New Orleans on January 13th? With a marathon of 2 heavyweight games back-to-back on ESPN, The College Football Playoff deserves an EPIC party spread!

Swap the usual game day buffet for this EPIC grazing table featuring everyone’s favorite tailgate snacks.

Grazing tables have been a hot party trend on Pinterest all year and are perfect for a full day of casual gameday eating. Unlike with a regular party buffet, grazing tables call for two things--abundance and organized chaos! Let food overflow out of bowls and tumble over each other, and mix and match your savory and sweet snacks. They’re easy for entertaining because you can combine a few of your favorite homemade dishes with easy store-bought items like chips, dips, charcuterie, and sweets. This large and impressive spread is an ideal way to keep everyone fed and happy throughout the entire exciting day!

Follow these tips to create your own College Football Playoff grazing table:

Pick a Spot Near the Action
Choose a spot in the room where you’ll be watching the games. Grazing tables are designed for guests to linger over so it’s important to keep it where you want the crowd congregating—with a view of the TV tuned to ESPN! Use a sideboard, move the dining table into the living room, or even take over the coffee table for easy access all day.

Set the Table
A faux grass runner gives the table a fun, sporty feel (or swap in a dark green tablecloth as your “field”). Then top it with a variety of bowls, wooden boards, and serving platters in all shapes and sizes. A chafing dish or two is great for keeping foods like wings or meatballs hot throughout the party.

Add Team Colors
Cocktail napkins, paper plates, and paper straws in team color combinations help bring the theme to life. Rep your favorite team, or make everyone feel welcome with something for each of the teams on the field.

Add Color with Food, too!
I love to pick snacks that match the teams. For this year’s lineup, I added sweet and savory treats in shades of yellow and purple for LSU, orange and purple for Clemson, crimson for Oklahoma, and (of course!) plenty of homemade peanut butter buckeys for Ohio State.

The supermarket is already a rainbow—think about the colors you’re working with and add items to match: berries, bell peppers, rainbow carrots, grapes, cheese crackers, wrapped candies, and fruity bars and pies are just a few easy and creative ways you can celebrate your favorite college teams.

Football Faves
Think beyond the usual charcuterie board standbys and add in fun snacks like pizza bites, soft pretzels, pigs in a blanket, mini egg rolls, and more.

I like to include at least one substantial dish like pulled pork or a glazed spiral ham alongside a pile of slider rolls, and plenty of condiments for guests to DIY their own mini sandwiches.



Start Plating
Start plating food a couple hours before the party by adding the items that keep the longest or require zero prep—bowls of chips, crackers, candy and wrapped sweets, etc. As it gets closer to party time, you can fill in with fresh fruit and crudité, cheese, dips. Wait to add hot prepared foods (or items that are best served cold) until just before the first guest arrives.

Keep it Fresh
Use damp paper towels over fresh fruit, cheese, and veggies to keep them from drying out while building your grazing table. Remove them just before the guests arrive.

Refill as Needed
The beauty of the grazing table is that guests can help themselves while you get to watch the game and enjoy the party, but if you’d like, you can keep extra dips, crackers, cut-up veggies and other refills prepped and ready in the fridge to refresh the table during commercial breaks.

And there you have it! The ideal combo of drinks and food to keep you fed and festive all gameday long.

For more easy gameday party recipes and entertaining ideas, check out my Ultimate College Football Playoff Party board on Pinterest. And visit ESPN.com for all the College Football Playoff news and highlights.

This post is sponsored by ESPN in collaboration with Pinterest. Thank you for supporting the partners who make it possible for me to keep bringing you more great recipes and party ideas!

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