College football's traveling circus is wasting no time taking its big tent on the road this fall.
ESPN announced Tuesday it will broadcast from the MEAC/SWAC Challenge in Atlanta pitting Alcorn State and North Carolina Central on Saturday, Aug. 28. The game will take place at Center Parc Stadium -- formerly Turner Field, and now the home of Georgia State football -- and air on ESPN that night.
The move continues a somewhat recent tradition of Week 0 broadcasts. The first such telecast came from Disney World in 2019 for the Florida vs. Miami game in Orlando, the official kickoff game of college football's 150th birthday season. GameDay was set to follow Notre Dame and Navy to Dublin, Ireland, for the show's first international broadcast in Week 0 of 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic dashed that plan.
Alcorn State-North Carolina Central will be GameDay's first appearance at the SWAC/MEAC Challenge and just the third pitting HBCUs opposite each other. The show went to New Orleans for the Bayou Classing between Grambling and Southern in 2005, and trekked to Tallahassee for Hampton-Florida A&M on Nov. 15, 2008. The only appearance by an HBCU over the intervening 12 years was when GameDay went to Fargo for the first time in 2013; North Dakota State beat Delaware State 51-0 that day.
For the Week 1 broadcast, GameDay will then make the 250-odd mile trip up Interstate 85 to Charlotte for Georgia vs. Clemson. The most anticipated opener since No. 1 Alabama met No. 3 Florida State to open the 2017 season, the renewal of the Tigers-Bulldogs rivalry was the obvious choice for the Sept. 4 show.
“We all missed the traditions of college football and the festive atmosphere of Saturdays last season, so we are particularly excited to welcome fans back for College GameDay’s 35th season, starting with the first two road shows in Atlanta and Charlotte,” said ESPN coordinating producer Drew Gallagher.
The following week offers a plethora of choices: an Iowa-Iowa State rivalry game pitting two teams who finished in the top-15 in 2020; Oregon at Ohio State; Washington at Michigan; plus an Army home game on the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
ESPN has six weeks to sit and think on that one, but Weeks 0 and 1 are set and the return of GameDay as we know it is now officially on.