Football season: Big Ten football towns. Kick-off weekend things to do with team spirit

Until I moved to Columbus and close to The Ohio State University, I didn’t fully understand football season. Now I do.

If you live in a town with one of the Big Ten Universities, you can’t help but notice when football season starts, even if you are fuzzy on the details of how the game is played. On a Saturday when the Buckeyes are in town, I keep that in mind. Can you say traffic jam?

Still there are advantages of living in a Big Ten town. The team name offers an identity that’s fun to join in, no matter your background. It ties people together. If you live in central Ohio, you’re automatically part of the OSU gang. Put on an OSU T-shirt and people know where you’re from. Even I own a Buckeye T-shirt.

Because this weekend marks the start of the fall football season, here’s a mini guide to the Big Ten teams. If you happen to be traveling through one of these cities or towns this fall, these details may help put you in the football know.

(There are actually 11 Big Ten Universities. For an explanation of what makes a Big Ten, click here.)

These are listed in alphabetical order. Each listing includes places that caught my fancy when I was looking through the Web sites.

1. Indiana University: Bloomington, Indiana: Team name–The Hoosiers- Place to eat on game day: Coaches Bar &Grill . Insider place to see on the campus BESIDES the football stadium: Hoagy Carmichael Room. Carmichael attended the university and his contributions to music are found here. Tailgate Party Location: Hoosier Village

2. The Ohio State University: (OSU): Columbus, Ohio: Team name–The Buckeyes. Place to eat on game day: Buckeye Hall of Fame Cafe. Must see place on the campus BESIDES the football stadium. The Wexner Center for the Arts: Upcoming major attraction: Andy Warhol: Other Voices, Other Rooms.

3. Michigan State University: East Lansing, Michigan Team name: SpartansPlace to eat on game day: Spartan Sports Den Bar&Grill. Cool Sounding Place that deserves a shout out: Clarence E. Lewis Landscape Arboretum

4. Northwestern University: Evanston, Illinois. Team name: Wildcats. Place to Eat: This page from the Chowhound offers suggestions. Unusual Thing to Do: Paint the Rock that graces the campus.

5. Pennsylvania State University: State College, Pennsylvania. Team name: Nittany Lions Place to eat that’s a town landmark: The Corner Room Not to miss place on campus: The Creamery. Yummy ice-cream and honey butter.

6. Purdue University: West Lafayette, Indiana. Team name: Boilermakers. Thing to do to take in fall colors on campus: Do the Trees of Purdue walking tour.

7. University of Illinois: Urbana, Illinois. Team name: Illini Show your spirit song lyrics. On campus museum that celebrates the world. Spurlock Museum

8. University of Iowa Iowa City, Iowa. Team name: Hawkeyes. Place on campus to show team love: University of Iowa Athletics Hall of Fame.

9. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan. Team name: Wolverines Unique way to see the campus. Look for the public art. There is a page with five sections dedicated to outdoor art. I’ve been to Ann Arbor. It’s aesthetically pleasing for sure.

10. University of Minnesota: Twin Cities, Minnesota. Team name: Gophers. Way cool sounding place on campus: Raptor Center. It’s connected with the College of Veterinary Medicine and rehabilitates raptors with the aim to return them to the wild.

11. University of Wisconsin: Madison. Team name: Badgers. Collection on campus after my own heart. Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection, one of the largest university textile collections in the United States.

This link lets you know what majors are each university’s specialty.