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SportsPulse: USA TODAY Sports' Paul Myerberg provides his top national championship contenders heading into the new college football season. USA TODAY Sports

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College football is in full swing, and Saturday's Iowa vs. Iowa State game is always the highlight of the season.

This year’s Cy-Hawk matchup is sure to draw a packed house at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames. If you’re looking to avoid the price tag of tickets and game-day traffic, here are a few ideas for fun in the Des Moines area — whether you bleed cardinal and gold, or black and gold.

The second annual Touchdown Tailgate will be held at Cowles Commons again this year. The event is free (thanks to a sponsorship with Verizon) and open to the public. The Cyclones and Hawkeyes kick off at 11 a.m., so early-morning tailgaters can enjoy the family-friendly atmosphere and come and go as they please.

Touchdown Tailgate features a 40-foot TV screen, the Iowa Craft Beer Tent, and brats and other tailgate food.

Dave Diers, the organizer of Touchdown Tailgate, said this year's early kickoff will bring a different crowd, but the same excitement.

“(Last year), really as soon as they announced the night game and it was in Iowa City, I wanted to do something on Cowles Commons,” Diers said. “I had done events for the NCAA basketball tournament and St. Patrick’s Day when the tournament was here in town, and that event just went so well. We could show the game and also the next day we debuted NFL opening weekend.”

The 2016 two-day event was successful, but the morning game time brought a new plan. Cowles Commons will be open all day and night on Saturday, allowing fans to watch Iowa vs. ISU, Nebraska vs. Oregon, Northern Iowa vs. Cal Poly, and Ohio State vs. Oklahoma on the big screen.

“We’re hoping to see alumni from all of those schools,” Diers said. “This is not just an Iowa-ISU game ... we’d love to see all the colors from the different universities out there.”

Organizers ask that those attending leave their own food and drink at home, and consider eating at the event or on nearby Court Avenue.

“This year I would love to see a steady stream of all-day people, coming and going,” Diers said. “(Because the event is free) you can come in for a while, you can leave, and come back. We’re really hoping we have a good crowd for Iowa-Iowa State and the rest of the games throughout the day.”

A bags tournament will start at 2:30 p.m., right about when the Cy-Hawk game wraps up. Organizers hope to have 64 teams signed up for the double-elimination tournament, with the top four teams receiving cash prizes. Slots are still open at iowacraftbeertent.com. During the bags tournament, the 40-foot screen will show two games at a time.

“I think the idea here is to create events like this every year, (and with sports games) you can’t always pick and choose when you want to do it," Diers said. "If the game's at 11 a.m. or 7 p.m. or 3 p.m., you still have the event. If people come out and support it, this will continue to be a yearly (event)."

Other places to watch

Hawkeye and Cyclone fans can come together at Benchwarmers in Ankeny to watch the Big Game. New projectors have been added to enhance viewing of the in-state rivalry, and a raffle will be held. 

The Keg Stand in West Des Moines is considered one of the top "Cyclone bars" in town. Fill up on Bacon Wrapped Brats or a Lamb Gyro and wash it down with one of 79 beers on tap.

Cheer on the Hawkeyes at G Mig’s 5th Street Pub in West Des Moines. The event will include showing the game and holding pregame and halftime drawing for prizes and food certificates. Specials include $18 domestic buckets and $3.50 shot specials. 

Another Hawkeye-centric bar, The Front Row in Clive, will have the game on (like usual) and features its famous Bloody Mary Bar. With the purchase of a Bloody Mary, fans can enjoy a made-to-order omelette for free. At halftime, The Front Row will serve complimentary burgers and hot dogs, chips and potato salad. At the end of the game, fans can stick around for tall-boy specials and giveaways. 

Doc's Lounge in Johnston will host a potluck-style tailgating party during the game. Doc's will provide some food but is asking fans to prepare their favorite tailgate dish and bring to share. Drink specials include $3 Fireball and $2.50 wells. There will also be a raffle with prizes given out throughout the game.

Sully's Irish Pub in West Des Moines hosts an I-Club group for every Hawkeye game. Sully's does giveaways for every Iowa touchdown and a drawing at halftime. Drink specials include $2 bottles, draws and wells during the game. 

Bar/restaurant owners: Are you planning special events/promotions for the Cy-Hawk game? Email details to jkramer@dmreg.com and we'll add to this list.

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