It's that time of year again.
The NFL schedule is out, ESPN and Fox are rolling out their early season schedules, and Memorial Day is around the corner. We've officially turned the corner on the offseason, now closer to the beginning of the 2022 season than the end of '21.
Which means it's time to trot out everyone's favorite offseason tradition: Speculating where the GameDay busses go each Saturday of the 2022 college football season.
We've got a lot of miles to travel, so let's turn the engine and get going.
Week 1 (Sept. 3)
Go ahead and write this one in ink. In fact, I'm surprised ESPN hasn't made the announcement already. Although Oregon vs. Georgia in Atlanta would easily carry the day for a normal Week 1, this is not a normal Week 1. Notre Dame at Ohio State features two top-5 teams, two top-5 brands and Marcus Freeman kicking off his first season as Notre Dame's head coach against his alma mater -- in the Irish's second trip to the Horseshoe, ever. In fact, it's so obvious that ESPN has already informed us three and a half months ahead of time.
Week 2 (Sept. 10)
There is some debate here. Alabama at Texas has been claimed by Fox, while USC at Stanford projects as the ABC Saturday Night Football game. ESPN isn't averse to hyping a rival network's game if the stakes are big enough; are the stakes for Alabama-Texas -- with the Tide a 2-touchdown favorite against a team coming off a 5-7 season -- that much larger than Lincoln Riley's national debut at USC? If the networks were reversed this wouldn't even merit a discussion in Bristol. In the end, I think they do have a discussion and I think they land on Alabama at Texas.
Week 3 (Sept. 17)
GameDay was in State College this time last year for Auburn at Penn State. Accompanying the Nittany Lions to the Plains for their return trip is a no-brainer, right? Not so fast my friend. Matt Sarz projects Auburn-Penn State as a CBS game, so GameDay goes north for Oklahoma at Nebraska.
Week 4 (Sept. 24)
It's a stated goal of GameDay's producers to take the show to as many campuses as possible. The biggest game of Week 4 is Wisconsin at Ohio State, already claimed as a Saturday Night Football game by ABC. But GameDay has already been to Columbus 20 times -- most of any location -- and 21 when you include the Notre Dame game just three weeks prior.
This is my pitch to ESPN brass to bring the show somewhere new: GameDay should go to TCU at SMU. When's the last time a coach left his school for their arch-rival? I genuinely can't think of a prior example, at least not in recent college football history. Now add in that his first game against SMU comes at TCU. And now add in the dynamics of this particular rivalry: SMU is the higher-ranked university (No. 68 in the US News ranking; TCU is No. 83) and in the larger city, but TCU is higher on the football food chain.
Couple in SMU's beautiful campus and underrated pregame scene, and ESPN has a chance to capture the maddest you'll ever see someone paying $50,000+ in tuition get at someone else paying $50,000+ in tuition.
GameDay is a traveling circus, and circuses revel in spectacle. This guy and his 50 closest friends would be a spectacle.
Week 5 (Oct. 1)
Dave Doeren's team finally slayed Clemson last season in a 27-21 double OT thriller. "The curse is broken, NC State," he said after the game. The 2021 Wolfpack went 9-3 and 2022 figures to be even better, although we won't know for sure until NC State at Clemson. This game features ESPN's preseason No. 7 and No. 11 teams... and Clemson is No. 11.
Week 6 (Oct. 8)
Let's put it this way, if GameDay isn't in Tuscaloosa for Texas A&M at Alabama, something has gone seriously wrong for Jimbo Fisher.
Week 7 (Oct. 15)
We're in mid-October and GameDay has yet to go west of Austin. That follows one Pac-12 game in 2021, none in 2019 and '20, one in '18, and none in '17. Let's fix that with a trip to Salt Lake City for USC at Utah.
Week 8 (Oct. 22)
The Lane Train should be chugging at full speed by this point in the year. With a first-half schedule of Troy, Central Arkansas, Georgia Tech, Tulsa, Kentucky (at home) and Vanderbilt, the Rebels should be 6-0 and in the top 10 by the time their trip to Baton Rouge rolls around. Week 8 also gives us UCLA at Oregon, but it's Chip Kelly's second trip to Autzen Stadium's visitors locker room, not his first, so let's give Ole Miss at LSU the nod.
Week 9 (Oct. 29)
The Big Ten chose to compete against itself this week by putting its spiciest midseason matchups -- Michigan State at Michigan; Penn State at Ohio State -- on the same day. Michigan and Penn State play each other earlier in October, as do Ohio State and Michigan State. One of these games will emerge as bigger than the other, and one will air on ABC at 3:30 p.m. ET, with the other on Fox at noon. Let's take a stab in the dark and go with Michigan State at Michigan.
Week 10 (Nov. 5)
Easy: UMass at UConn. Oh, wait, no. Sorry. Let's try that again. Easy: Baylor at Oklahoma. These two programs have won the last nine Big 12 championships because they've been on the cutting edge of the conference that's often on the cutting edge of the entire sport, schematically speaking. What once brought us Art Briles vs. Lincoln Riley now brings us Dave Aranda vs. Brent Venables.
Week 11 (Nov. 12)
GameDay has traveled to hundreds of stadiums, Times Square, and even a golf course, but it's never spotlighted a Division II game. Not one. How about we change that with a visit to D2's most-played rivalry: Virginia Union at Virginia State.
Week 12 (Nov. 19)
There's a Power 5 program that has won 10 games and finished in the AP Top 20 twice in the last four years, that has a possible No. 1 pick at quarterback, that will start this season in the AP Top 25, and has hosted GameDay once, in 2007. That changes when the national champions roll into town for Georgia at Kentucky.
Week 13 (Nov. 26)
This one's easy. GameDay will end the regular season in the same place it began for Michigan at Ohio State.
Week 14 (Dec. 3)
GameDay has been on the road on a regular basis since 1994. Alabama-LSU and Ohio State-Penn State are tied for the most frequent matchups with 11; Alabama-Georgia is alone in third, at nine. The first two meetings happen every year, but Bama and UGA have played only 13 times since GameDay first went on the road. Seventy percent of the time the Tide and the Bulldogs meet, it's the biggest game in the sport on that day, including all but one of the nine matchups since Nick Saban's 2007 arrival.
Notre Dame at Ohio State may be the easiest bet for the 2022 schedule, but Alabama vs. Georgia is the second easiest.