I don’t know about you, but I’m jonesing for some actual football. Spring games are nice, but they’re no substitute for the real thing. In fact, all they do is whet your appetite for football with pageantry, passion, teams actually trying to win the game — you know, the things that made us fall in love with football in the first place.
Last year I predicted the locations for College GameDay‘s visits, and got six of the 14 predictions correct. (I’m giving myself credit for the Times Square visit on Sept. 23.) Since it’s the middle of April, I thought I’d take a whack at fleshing out where GameDay might head in 2018.
Sept. 1: Auburn vs. Washington (at Atlanta) — No one is more responsible for reviving the neutral site opener than Alabama. The Tide have played one in all but two years since trucking Clemson in the inaugural Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game in Atlanta all the way back in 2008 (a game that played a large part in making Dabo Swinney the Tigers’ head coach today, but that’s a story for another day). GameDay has covered five Tide neutral site openers, and Alabama plays Louisville in Orlando to open 2018. But seeing as the Tide are four touchdown favorites to beat the Lamar Jackson-less Cardinals, GameDay will opt for a more competitive game.
Sept. 8: Clemson at Texas A&M — This is a tough week. Do you go with Chip Kelly’s de facto debut with UCLA (at Oklahoma) or Jimbo Fisher’s de facto debut at Texas A&M? Or what about a pivotal Pac-12 game in USC at Stanford? Or how about that Land of Lincoln grudge match in Western Illinois at Illinois? Ultimately, you’re guessing as to which game ESPN is more likely to own the rights, and that’s a difficult call here since FOX could swipe up UCLA-OU and CBS could lay claim to Clemson-A&M, but I’ll go with A&M.
Sept. 15: USC at Texas — I whiffed on this one a year ago, thinking GameDay would take Texas at USC when instead it opted for Clemson at Louisville. (The former was on FOX, the latter on ABC.) FOX could easily scoop this game up as well, but the only other competitors are Ohio State vs. TCU at AT&T Stadium and LSU at Auburn. I refuse to believe GameDay will allow a home-and-home between two blue-bloods who happened to play the greatest game in college football history to pass through without a visit.
Sept. 22: Nebraska at Michigan — Here’s a fun (or not so fun) fact for you: GameDay covered Nebraska’s first Big Ten game, a 48-17 loss at Wisconsin on Oct. 1, 2011, and hasn’t seen the Huskers since. Doesn’t Scott Frost’s first Big Ten game, against the program he split the 1997 national title with and a crucial game for the Jim Harbaugh era at Michigan, feel like the right time to end the Big Red drought?
Sept. 29: Ohio State at Penn State — Go ahead and put this one down in ink. Which is kind of a shame, because Dan Mullen returns to Starkville on this day as well.
Oct. 6: Texas vs. Oklahoma — For fans of a certain age (mine), the golden days of college football were the first Saturdays in October during the early years of the new millennium. A top-5 Miami would play a top-5 Florida State at noon ET, and a top-5 Texas would face a top-5 Oklahoma immediately after. (Miami and OU always won both games.) Florida State-Miami is guaranteed to be shown on an ESPN property while Texas-OU could be scooped up by FOX, but GameDay hasn’t been to the State Fair of Texas since 2011. This feels like a good time to return.
Oct. 13: Georgia at LSU — This is a tough week. There a number of good-not-great games on the docket in addition to this one — Michigan State at Penn State, Wisconsin at Michigan, Tennessee at Auburn — where it seems like one side of the equation is a good bet to be undefeated but not so much the other. An off-the-beaten path option is also available as Memphis hosts an American championship rematch with UCF.
Oct. 20: NC State at Clemson — The first half of NC State’s schedule? James Madison, Georgia State, West Virginia, at Marshall, Virginia and Boston College. With senior quarterback Ryan Finley returning, the Wolfpack will be heavy favorites in every game except WVU, and NC State gets the Mountaineers at home.
Oct. 27: Clemson at Florida State — GameDay covering the same team in back-to-back weeks is rare but not unheard of, especially if both games are in different locations. The next most obvious game is Florida vs. Georgia in Jacksonville, but the Gators would have to emerge intact from an earlier stretch of at Tennessee, at Mississippi State and vs. LSU in consecutive weeks.
Nov. 3: UCLA at Oregon — There a trio of potentially massive games on this day — Penn State at Michigan, Stanford at Washington, Alabama at LSU — but, come on. Chip Kelly’s return to Eugene is too obvious a storyline to pass up.
Nov. 10: Florida State at Notre Dame — This is one you can go ahead and write down in ink as well, regardless of how the Seminoles and Irish are doing at this point in the season. This will be nearly 25 years to the day of GameDay‘s first campus visit, for a Nov. 13, 1993 game between No. 1 Florida State and No. 2 Notre Dame — a 31-24 win by the Irish that was one of the most memorable games of the 1990’s. This feels like an obvious spot for GameDay to celebrate GameDay.
Nov. 17: Harvard vs. Yale (at Fenway Park) — This is always the toughest week of the season to forecast. The final Saturday before Rivalry Saturday, there could be a massive game no one saw coming ahead of time (think No. 3 Baylor at No. 11 Oklahoma State in 2013) or there could be a gigantic void in the schedule. This is the week GameDay usually gets creative, with visits to: Western Michigan (2016), Harvard-Yale (2014), SMU-Houston (2011) and Illinois-Northwestern at Wrigley Field (2010). Group of 5 possibilities include San Diego State at Fresno State and Florida Atlantic at North Texas.
Nov. 24: Auburn at Alabama — GameDay has gone on the road for Rivalry Saturday on an annual basis since 2002 and has been on a rotation of the same five games — Florida State-Florida, Ohio State-Michigan, the Iron Bowl, Notre Dame-USC and Bedlam. That rotation has broken exactly twice, for Grambling-Southern in 2005 and No. 3 Missouri vs. No. 2 Kansas in 2007. Bedlam is now in November, so the rotation is down to four.
Dec. 1: SEC Championship — This week boils down to which of the Power 5 conferences has two Playoff contenders heading into Championship Saturday. GameDay actually hasn’t covered the SEC championship since 2012, when No. 3 Georgia met No. 2 Alabama in a game the Tide famously won by four points and five yards.
Feels like the right time for a reunion, does it not?