Look, I get it. I know, I know, I know. 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.
But, dadgumit, College GameDay is an American institution, if not for the content of the show but for what it represents. 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.
That’s the same spirit with which I write this piece every year. While it’s pretty much the most unoriginal piece in of blogging on the entire college football Internet, I like writing it now, in the middle of May, at the midpoint of the offseason, as a reminder that good times are around the corner.
But now, in this climate, it’s impossible to ignore that good times might not be around the corner. We can all hope for the best, but hope is all we have.
Still, I thought it was important to write this year’s version. It’ll allow the optimistic side of your brain to see through the darkness to better days ahead, or the pessimistic side a chance to mourn what we stand to lose. Both are important. I don’t know about you, but I’ve found myself alternating between those two extremes on a moment-to-moment basis over these past two months.
With that heavy stuff out of the way, let’s get to the fun stuff.
Aug. 29: It appears GameDay began a new tradition last year with its Week 0 broadcast from Disney World ahead of the Miami-Florida game. ESPN previously announced Notre Dame vs. Navy in Dublin, Ireland, will be the show’s first outside of the continental United States.
Sept. 5: Michigan at Washington is also an intriguing choice — GameDay hasn’t been to Seattle since 2016 — and GameDay is all but certain to visit Tuscaloosa two weeks later. But ESPN isn’t shipping everyone to Seattle unless A) the game is on a Disney network or B) the schedule leaves ESPN no other options. It’s too early to know A but we know B isn’t true, so let’s go with the sure thing: USC vs. Alabama in Dallas. (Or, if necessary, Alabama vs. TCU.)
Sept. 12: I whiffed on this one last year. Not this time around. Ohio State at Oregon, Tennessee at Oklahoma and Auburn vs. North Carolina are all worthy options, but a coronation of the 2019 national champions for Texas at LSU feels like a sure thing.
Sept. 19: Speaking of sure things, Georgia at Alabama is perhaps the surest thing of the entire season. A rematch of the 2017 national championship and 2018 SEC title game, this game comes three days shy of the THIRTEEN YEAR anniversary of Georgia’s last trip to Tuscaloosa. It doesn’t have to be this way, SEC.
Sept. 26: The Fighting Swinneys are regulars on GameDay, but the show hasn’t produced a traditional Saturday episode from Clemson’s campus since Oct. 1, 2016, when Lamar Jackson brought his No. 3 Louisville team to town. Such is life when you play in the ACC with a slumping Florida State. A rematch of the 2019 ACC Championship isn’t all that compelling when last year’s game was a 62-17 romp, but GameDay used close games with Syracuse in 2017 and ’18 into a 2019 trip to the Carrier Dome, so here’s thinking the circus will be in town for Virginia at Clemson.
Oct. 3: There’s nothing GameDay loves more than a novelty location, which is understandable when you produce a traveling show now entering its fourth decade on the road. GameDay has been to the Lambeau once before, for Wisconsin’s 16-14 upset of LSU in 2016, but Notre Dame vs. Wisconsin offers the Frozen Tundra and the Golden Domes is too much mystique for ESPN to pass up.
Oct. 10: Wow is Week 6 loaded: Clemson-Florida State, LSU-Florida, Auburn-Georgia, Minnesota-Wisconsin, Iowa-Ohio State, Rutgers-Purdue. But the old standard feels like the safest bet for the second Saturday in October — Texas vs. Oklahoma — even if the simple thought of holding the State Fair of Texas might be enough to give Dr. Anthony Fauci a heart attack.
Oct. 17: Texas A&M will begin the season ranked in the mid-teens, largely thanks to its first-half schedule — Abilene Christian, North Texas, Colorado, Arkansas, Mississippi State, Fresno State. Pollsters will bump the Aggies for an anticipated 6-0 start heading into Texas A&M at Auburn, then reward them with a top-10 ranking if and when that happens. Auburn visits Georgia the week prior to this game and meets North Carolina in Atlanta in September, but this game is still the best of the bunch.
Oct. 24: Both teams have plenty of opportunities to drop a game by this point, but it’ll be Ohio State at Penn State. Ohio State has trips to Oregon and Michigan State and a home game with Iowa by this point; Penn State has trips to Virginia Tech and Michigan, plus a home game with Iowa. (Poor Hawkeyes.) But both teams will enter the year in or around the top five, so it’s a safe assumption that they’ll still be in the top 10 even in the (unlikely) event they drop a game by this point. This all the makings of a marquee game of the season; the last three Buckeye-Nittany Lion games in State College were all decided by seven points or less, and the last two were absolute classics.
Oct. 31: Florida has finished second to Georgia in the SEC East in each of Dan Mullen’s first two seasons and, with a returning quarterback in Gainesville and a new offense coming in Athens, there’s a belief that the Gators can climb the hump this year. Florida vs. Georgia will be the ultimate trick or treat for Mullen.
Nov. 7: Clemson makes its second-ever trip to South Bend for a primetime game but, c’mon, GameDay is not skipping Alabama at LSU.
Nov. 14: Week 11 offers us a smattering of B-level games that could easily become must-see by mid-November — I’m thinking Nebraska at Iowa, Tennessee at Georgia, Michigan State at Penn State, Washington at USC and TCU at Texas — but nothing that demands your attention as we sit here in mid-may. So perhaps GameDay will use this opportunity to right a historic wrong. After hundreds of road shows, the trucks have somehow never pulled off the highway and rolled into Alliance, Ohio, to visit the Purple Raiders of Mount Union. Marietta at Mount Union could be a great opportunity to change that.
Nov. 21: We’ve covered A&M’s schedule above, but even with a possible loss at Auburn, the Aggies should be 9-1 and back in the top 10 by this point. Put it this way: if Jimbo Fisher is going to make good on that $75 million contract, Texas A&M at Alabama had better be GameDay‘s Week 12 location.
Nov. 28: Last year, GameDay spent Rivalry Saturday at Wisconsin-Minnesota, the first time since 2007 the show spent that day at a game other than the Iron Bowl, Michigan-Ohio State, Bedlam, Florida-Florida State or Notre Dame-USC, when GameDay visited Kansas City for No. 3 Kansas vs. No. 2 Missouri. If Texas A&M beats Alabama, GameDay could again leave the beaten bath for LSU’s trip to Kyle Field. If South Carolina springs a couple upsets, GameDay could easily trek to Clemson. If Illinois and Northwestern… Okay, we’ll stick with a safe choice and go with Michigan at Ohio State.
Dec. 5: Look, I know we’ve been a bit SEC heavy thus far… but so is reality. GameDay hit eight SEC-involved games by Dec. 7, and we’re at seven thus far. There’s a reason for that: the SEC title may be more up-for-grabs than it’s been in a long time, so there’s almost a near certain chance that one or two Playoff spots will be up for grabs at the SEC Championship. The Big Ten title game could easily pit a 12-0/11-1 Wisconsin/Iowa/Minnesota against a 12-0/11-1 Ohio State/Penn State/Michigan, and the Big 12 could easily produce three 11-game winners between Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas, but the SEC is the safest bet.
As always, stay tuned to The Scoop for the latest.