A permanent fixture on Saturday mornings for most college football fans, College GameDay’s popularity continues to grow each year. Fans across the country tune in each week anxious to see what Lee Corso is going to do when it’s time for him to pick the game of the week.
It’s even more fun for fans and students when the show is on campus. People arrive hours – and sometimes days – early just to be a part of the GameDay experience.
That type of atmosphere prompted many fans to write in and ask, “Is College GameDay coming to my campus for the big game this year?”
Aside from the first week of the season – where the show will be in Dallas for Oklahoma State – Florida State – it’s tough to know where GameDay will be each week. After all, there are a number of factors that ESPN must consider before sending the crew to a given site.
With that disclaimer in mind, here’s where I think GameDay will end up each week, starting with week two. To make it more interesting, I’ve included the projected records of each team at the time of kickoff. I also listed the network for each game in cases where available.
The Pick: USC (1-0) at Stanford (1-0), ABC
Other Possibilities: Michigan State (1-0) at Oregon (1-0), FOX
Explanation: Believe it or not, this is an easy call to make. While the Michigan State – Oregon matchup features two top-10 teams, sending GameDay to Eugene is only going to create more interest in a game that Fox is hosting. As the worldwide leader in sports, ESPN can’t afford to give Fox any additional exposure that would help it try to close the gap.
That’s why the WWL will go to Stanford instead. Although it’s not the sexiest game on the slate, it does feature two top-15 teams, and the series itself has produced several upsets over the past 10 years.
My Pick: Georgia (1-0) at South Carolina (2-0), CBS
Other possibilities: Tennessee (2-0) at Oklahoma (2-0), ABC; Iowa State (1-1) at Iowa (2-0), ABC
Explanation: The border war between the Peach State and the Palmetto State gets the nod here. After all, the winner of this game will likely win the SEC East, giving it a chance to play for a conference championship. While a win in Atlanta doesn’t guarantee a bid to the College Football Playoff, it does increase the likelihood of that happening.
However, GameDay’s trip to Columbia, S.C., is contingent upon Georgia beating Clemson in the season opener. Should the Dawgs lose that contest, this matchup would a lot of its luster, and make it less attractive. In that case, ESPN might be inclined to select Tennessee – Oklahoma (if the Vols survive potential upsets by Utah State and Arkansas State) or the Battle for the Cy-Hawk Trophy (especially if the Cyclones upset Kansas State in week two).
My Pick: Florida (3-0) at Alabama (3-0)
Other Possibilities: Clemson (1-1) at Florida State (2-0), Miami (3-0) at Nebraska (3-0)
Explanation: Once again, the SEC gets the nod. Sure, the epic battle between the ‘Canes and ‘Huskers is the 8 p.m. (Eastern) game on ESPN/ABC, but the showdown between the Gators and Tide has a greater impact on the College Football Playoff picture. Under the assumption that Florida rolls into this game without a loss, the storyline of Florida’s suddenly explosive offense against Alabama’s top-10 defense will be too good to pass up…
…unless Clemson beats Georgia in Week 1. With a Tiger victory in that contest, Clemson would travel to Tallahassee with an undefeated record. If – and it’s big if – that happens, GameDay would have to make the trip to Florida State since the game would be a matchup of two top-10 teams.
My Pick: Duke (4-0) at Miami (4-0)
Other Possibilities: Missouri (4-0) at South Carolina (3-1), Stanford (3-0) at Washington (4-0)
Explanation: Week 5 is one of the toughest weeks to predict, because there are so many good games to choose from.
Here’s how they’ll narrow the field.
While it may be the best game of the week, Missouri – South Carolina won’t make the cut. GameDay isn’t going to re-visit a site it saw earlier in the season.
It’s also highly unlikely that ESPN will select Washington to host the show either. Even though the Cardinal – Huskies clash will be one of the best games of the year, the network isn’t going to help the Pac-12 in instances when it doesn’t have to. Since the ACC has a very viable game on the docket, it will get the nod.
That will be very easy to justify. The Blue Devils and Hurricanes should both enter this game undefeated, with each team needing a victory to keep pace with Florida State for ACC supremacy. The “win or go-home” storyline will make an already electric atmosphere even more intense, making it a better made-for-television event than the other two contests.
My Pick: LSU (5-0) at Auburn (4-0)
Other Possibilities: Alabama (4-0) at Ole Miss (4-0), Baylor (4-0) at Texas (3-1), Stanford (4-0) at Notre Dame (4-0)
Explanation: In another difficult call, GameDay will choose LSU – Auburn over Alabama – Ole Miss. Since both matchups are about even, it makes sense for the show to cover teams it hasn’t already seen this season. Since the crew will see Alabama in week three against Florida, it only makes sense to go to Auburn for this one.
One thing that could change this decision is Texas. If the Longhorns were to upset UCLA in week three, it’d be hard to pass up a top-10 tilt between in-state rivals.
Sadly, Stanford at Notre Dame won’t receive any serious consideration. While this epic struggle will be one of the best games of the year, the Fighting Irish have a TV contract with NBC, making it highly unlikely that ESPN will choose to set up shop there. This is especially true in week six, with so many other quality contests on the docket.
My Pick: Oregon (5-0) at UCLA (5-0)
Other Possibilities: Texas (3-2) vs. Oklahoma (5-0), Georgia (5-0) at Missouri (4-1)
Explanation: This one seems like a no-brainer, since the Ducks and Bruins should be undefeated and ranked in the top 10. Unless Fox hosts this contest (the TV schedule is not yet known), it’s tough to see GameDay not going to Los Angeles.
If ESPN passes on Oregon – UCLA, it still has plenty of options. Both Georgia and Missouri will have solid records at this point, and would give the network a viable SEC option. Similarly, the Red River Showdown (formerly known as the Red River Rivalry and the Red River Shootout) could be an attractive choice, especially if the ‘Horns were to upset Baylor or UCLA early in the season.
My Pick: Michigan State (5-1) at Indiana (5-1)
Other Possibilities: Notre Dame (5-1) at Florida State (6-0)
Explanation: As most of you probably noticed, the Big Ten isn’t mentioned very much in the first half of the season.
That’s why it makes sense to pick this contest. The Hoosiers will be the feel-good story of the Big Ten at this point in the year, entering the game with an unbeaten record in conference play. With first place in the Eastern Division at stake against a Spartan team that will still be in the top 10, Memorial Stadium will be rocking by the time 3:30 rolls around, making this the obvious choice for GameDay, which would naturally want to add new locations to its list of stops whenever it has the chance.
Of course, a Notre Dame upset of Stanford in week six could change things. A Fighting Irish win would likely move them into the top 10, making it very difficult for ESPN to pass up Brian Kelly’s team, even though GameDay might have already traveled to Tallahassee to cover Clemson – FSU earlier in the year.
My Pick: Ohio State (6-0) at Penn State (6-0)
Other Possibilities: South Carolina (7-1) at Auburn (6-0), Ole Miss (6-1) at LSU (7-1)
Explanation: Even though GameDay might be inclined to pick one of the SEC matchups, it makes the most sense to send the crew to Happy Valley. After all, this contest will be the only one that pits two undefeated teams against one another. Considering that Penn State isn’t allowed to play in the postseason this year, the Nittany Lions will probably treat this contest as its bowl game, ready to pull out all the stops to derail OSU’s national championship dreams. That will create a playoff-type atmosphere for this contest, making this environment simply too good to pass up. James Franklin’s presence at Penn State would add a dimension of intrigue and electricity to this game if both teams are unbeaten.
With that said, if either SEC matchup features two unbeaten teams – a big “if” considering that most of the teams in the upper half of the league play each other early in the year – it will get the nod as long as GameDay hasn’t gone to that site already.
My Pick: Auburn (7-0) at Ole Miss (7-1)
Other Possibilities: Stanford (8-0) at Oregon (7-1), Georgia (7-0) vs. Florida (5-2)
Explanation: GameDay will head to Oxford, Mississippi, for week 10.
That’s not to say that the Auburn – Ole Miss contest is the best one on the schedule, because it isn’t. However, ESPN isn’t going to pick a Pac-12 game – even one that will serve a de-facto elimination game for the College Football Playoff – when it has other top-flight matchups to choose from. Since the battle between the Tigers and Rebels will have the greatest impact on a national scale, it deserves the honors in this case.
Of course, if Ole Miss has a couple of losses, GameDay might opt to go to Jacksonville for The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. As one of the nation’s most improved teams this year, the Gators will be the talk of the SEC East with a surprisingly fast 5-2 start.
My Pick: Baylor (8-0) at Oklahoma (8-0)
Other Possibilities: Ohio State (8-0) at Michigan State (7-1), Alabama (8-0) at LSU (7-2)
Explanation: It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out where GameDay is going to for this one. The Baylor – Oklahoma matchup is essentially the Big 12 title game, meaning that the winner has an excellent chance to go the College Football Playoff.
But, if both teams don’t enter the game with unblemished records, things will almost certainly change. In that case, ESPN should strongly consider going to Baton Rouge if it hasn’t done so already, especially if it’s a night game.
It also wouldn’t surprise me if the network went to East Lansing in what was hyped as the Big Ten game of the year until Braxton Miller’s unfortunate injury. While it may have lost its luster, the fact remains that the winner likely win the Big Ten East, and remain in contention for a berth in the playoffs.
My Pick: Auburn (9-0) at Georgia (9-0)
Other Possibilities: Nebraska (8-1) at Wisconsin (8-1), Florida State (9-0) at Miami (7-2)
Explanation: This decision is surprisingly easy. GameDay will go ‘Tween the Hedges. There’s no way that ESPN would pass up a heated rivalry game that features two undefeated teams.
If Georgia and/or Auburn were to lose earlier in the year, ESPN would still have plenty of options. Although Nebraska and Wisconsin would each have a loss, the winner would still have a chance to win the Big Ten title and ultimately gain a shot at the College Football playoff. Moreover, even though Florida State – Miami hasn’t been the same since the ‘Canes joined the ACC in 2004, the words “Wide Right” still resonate with a number of college football fans, making this rivalry a very viable option if the Hurricanes are reasonably good by the time week 12 arrives.
My Pick: UCLA (10-0) at USC (10-1)
Other possibilities: Louisville (7-3) at Notre Dame (8-2)
Explanation: It’s a lot harder for GameDay to find optimal locations on “Cupcake Saturday,” when teams essentially take the week off and play FCS opponents. While it isn’t as bad this season as it has been in the past, there are still too many glorified scrimmages right before Rivalry Week.
With that in mind, the show will pick UCLA – USC even though Fox will probably televise the contest this year. Although this move would likely give Fox some additional exposure, ESPN could use the opportunity to start promoting Rivalry Week to drive ratings for the final week of the season.
However, if the network decides not go in that direction, Louisville – Notre Dame is the only other viable option. All of the other games are complete mismatches.
My Pick: Auburn (10-1) at Alabama (11-0)
Other Possibilities: South Carolina (9-2) at Clemson (9-2)
Explanation: Without question, GameDay will be at the Iron Bowl in 2014. Even though it will be tough to duplicate last year’s epic battle, the Auburn – Alabama contest should again decide the SEC West, and eliminate the loser from the national championship picture. Adding in the “do or die” component to an already electric atmosphere should make this the most watched game of the year, making it the obvious choice to host GameDay.
South Carolina – Clemson is the only real alternative to the Iron Bowl. All of the other national championship-impacting games take place on Friday (after Thanksgiving) or involve teams that GameDay has already covered this year (USC, Florida, and Florida State).
My Pick: SEC Championship Game – Alabama (12-0) vs. Georgia (12-0)
Other Possibilities: None
Explanation: There’s not much to say here. GameDay will set up shop in Atlanta for the final week of the season. The matchup of unbeaten Alabama vs. Georgia will be simply too good for ESPN to pass up.
Those are my projections for where GameDay will end up each week. Whether you agree or disagree, please feel free to send me a message on Twitter @SectionTPJ.