We all saw where this was going in the spring. When I wrote my annual piece back in May predicting where College GameDay would travel each week of the season, we couldn’t do so without acknowledging the obvious.
“We’re all trying to limit or outright eliminate unnecessary human contact these days, and there’s nothing exactly necessary about a television show that travels the country packing thousands of people as close together as the laws of physics will allow,” I wrote at the time.
Still, the show seemed necessary.
“But, dadgumit, College GameDay is an American institution, if not for the content of the show but for what it represents,” I wrote. “It’s a representation of what’s to come, a 3-hour appetizer signaling the arrival of a 12-hour meal of college football on its way to your television screen.”
The head honchos at ESPN agree. GameDay will travel each week, though it is encouraging fans to join the set virtually, not literally.
And if GameDay is going to hit the road, it’s on us to try to anticipate their moves.
Seven of the games I forecasted have been outright canceled — rest in power, Texas at LSU, Notre Dame vs. Wisconsin at Lambeau Field, Ohio State at Penn State — and another seven were moved around as conferences re-configured their scheduled at the 11th hour. The lone exception: Texas vs. Oklahoma, which remains on Oct. 10 at the Cotton Bowl.
We’ll just go ahead and assume my predictions would’ve gone 15-for-15.
But let us not mourn what we lost, instead we’ll celebrate what’s to come. Let’s dig in.
Sept. 12: This one was previously announced.
First stop: Winston-Salem!
— College GameDay (@CollegeGameDay) September 5, 2020
Wake Forest has never hosted GameDay before. Which begs the question, are you really hosting the show if no students are allowed to attend? Isn’t that half the fun of having GameDay on your campus in the first place?
Either way, GameDay will beam to TV sets around the nation on Saturday morning, and it’ll be Wake’s campus that viewers see. The Deacons will hear nothing of your asterisks.
Sept. 19: Virginia at Virginia Tech.
So, yeah. If you couldn’t already tell, this season’s going to be more ACC, SEC and Big 12 centric than normal, given the lack of options. ESPN has already announced that the Saturday Night Football game will either be Miami-Louisville or Virginia-Virginia Tech; if we were programming things, we’d go with the rematch of the thrilling 2019 Commonwealth Cup game.
Sept. 12 Update: The Virginia-Virginia Tech game was postponed. Let’s go with BYU at Army for GameDay‘s first visit to West Point since 2003.
Miami at Florida State. Florida State at Miami.
Would you believe GameDay has visited Miami-Florida State just once since 2006? What was once college football’s hottest rivalry has fallen on hard times, and two teams coming off 6-7 seasons doesn’t exactly wake up the echoes of the Bobby Bowden-Dennis Erickson days. But, well, have you seen the competition this week?
The only other competitor is Kansas State at Oklahoma, and the thinking here is ESPN will keep GameDay and Saturday Night Football all in one place unless the circumstances demand it. And these circumstances don’t demand it, at least not yet.
Oct. 3: No. 11 Auburn at No. 4 Georgia.
Oct. 3 brings us our first three ranked-on-ranked games of the year, at the season’s outset. (A bunch of teams will move in once the Big Ten and Pac-12 teams fall out starting with next week’s poll.) You can make a case No. 13 Texas A&M at No. 3 Alabama is more compelling, but that game’s on CBS and this one’s on ESPN.
Oct. 10: No. 14 Texas vs. No. 5 Oklahoma.
Fox has already claimed Red River as its own, but, well, come on. You can’t skip the one game that’s still in its original slot, 11 a.m. local time kickoff and all.
Oct. 17: No. 4 Georgia at No. 3 Alabama.
Oh, yeah. Now that’s the good stuff. It’s a month later than originally scheduled, but Georgia’s first trip to Tuscaloosa since 2007 is still on. This was the type of game that lured GameDay out of Bristol in the first place.
Oct. 24: No. 20 Cincinnati at SMU.
There is one ranked-on-ranked matchup this week — No. 23 Iowa State at No. 15 Oklahoma State — but we chose this game for two reasons. One, it’s a show of faith in Sonny Dykes’s Mustangs, and could easily serve as both an AAC championship preview and a College Football Playoff elimination game. In fact, if both of these teams enter this game undefeated — and they very well could — this could be the biggest game in the history of the American Athletic Conference, considering the reduced competition to earn a Playoff bid.
Two, Iowa State-OK State has “Fox Big Noon Kickoff” written all over it, and ESPN owns all of the American’s broadcast rights.
Oct. 31: No. 14 Texas at No. 15 Oklahoma State.
This is not the highest-ranked game of Halloween, that would be No. 6 LSU at No. 11 Auburn. But I think both Tigers will have at least one loss by this point, and possibly two. And, if the season goes to chalk, this is a Big 12/CFP elimination game to see who earns the right to challenge Oklahoma for the Big 12 title.
Nov. 7: No. 1 Clemson at No. 10 Notre Dame.
NBC owns this game but, like Georgia-Alabama, this is the type of game GameDay was born to preview — a showdown of top-10 teams that are massive brands but don’t play all that often. Clemson has not been to South Bend since 1979, a 16-10 Irish win. The Tigers have been plotting revenge for 41 years.
Nov. 14: No. 3 Alabama at No. 6 LSU.
GameDay has visited Bama-LSU 11 times, the most frequent matchup in the show’s history. (Ohio State-Penn State is second with 10.) This is amazing considering: A) Only two of those occurred before 2008, and B) Unless I’m mistaken, ESPN/ABC didn’t air a single one of those games.
Even if LSU may be a little overrated riding off a championship high, GameDay isn’t skipping this year.
Nov. 21: No. 15 Oklahoma State at No. 5 Oklahoma.
Both teams will have already played Texas and Iowa State by this point, so it’s possible both OU and OSU have played their way out of contention by this point on the calendar. But if you have to bet on Texas and Iowa State sweeping the Bedlam rivals or the reverse scenario, you’re taking the reverse. Bedlam was the surest bet in the Big 12 for the entire previous decade, and we’ll believe that’s changed when we see it happen.
Nov. 28: No. 11 Auburn at No. 3 Alabama.
In the Saban era, the Iron Bowl tends to produce classics — when it’s in Auburn. The Tigers have taken three of the last four on their home turf, including last year’s thriller, a 2017 SEC West-clinching upset of the eventual national champions, and the Kick Six of 2013.
When the Iron Bowl is in Tuscaloosa… it tends to be a blowout. Byrant-Denny was the site of the Camback of 2010 but, setting that game aside, the Tide is 5-0 with an average victory margin of 29 points.
Still, it’s Thanksgiving weekend and it’s the Iron Bowl. Let’s not overthink this.
Dec. 5: No. 8 Florida at No. 25 Tennessee.
In 2001, the September 11 attacks pushed Florida-Tennessee from September to December, resulting in a 34-32 thriller where the No. 5 Vols stunned the No. 2 Gators in Gainesville.
This game, born out of similar, depressing circumstances, probably won’t be quite as good. But I’m not ruling it out.
Dec. 12: Army vs. Navy.
Are the ACC and Big 12 championships played on this day, or on Dec. 19? We have no idea!
We can go ahead and assume those two will use their mulligan weeks and join the SEC in pushing their title games to Dec. 19. And we can absolutely assume, no matter what else happens between now and then, Army-Navy is getting played.
Dec. 19: SEC Championship.
Let’s say Georgia goes to Tuscaloosa and returns with a victory on Oct. 17, and that neither team loses another game to this point. Not a wild assumption, right? Let’s also assume Alabama wins this rematch. Again, not exactly stepping on a limb there.
In that scenario, both teams are getting in the Playoff. They’re probably both in even in a normal year, but especially so in 2020. The scenario I’m trying to prime you for is this: It’s absolutely possible we get three Alabama-Georgia games this season. Prepare yourself now.
Jan. 1: Rose Bowl.
In a sane world, the semifinals are Jan. 1 at the Rose and Sugar bowls every single year. In this world, we get that once every three years. And that just so happens to fall on a year where the Big Ten and Pac-12 are sitting out, because of course it does.
Jan. 11: CFP National Championship (at Hard Rock Stadium, Miami).
Again, it’s possible — not likely, but possible — that Alabama and Georgia are meeting in Miami for the third time in three months. Celebrate/whine accordingly.
Jan. 16: Ohio State vs. Wisconsin (at Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis).
We’re getting ahead of ourselves here. This will have to wait for our next edition.