ESPN’s College GameDay has long been a favorite fixture of college football, and many fans choose to begin their college football Saturdays by watching Lee Corso, Kirk Herbstreit and others break down the week’s games. Even more tune in for the end for Corso’s signature headgear pick. College football is all about tradition, and this is yet another beloved tradition.
Schools love to host the program and showcase their campus and team. Students love to flood the area behind the set with clever and creative signs, cheer for their team, and boo any mention of their rivals. And of course, fans* love to see their mascot head worn by Lee Corso at the show’s climax. (*Except Clemson fans, apparently.)
Unfortunately, as is par for the course in our incredible sport, a select few teams get to host GameDay most of the time. Seven schools have hosted the show 10 or more times: Ohio State, Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Michigan, LSU, and USC. In terms of appearing at all, whether the host school, the road team or when GameDay goes to a neutral site, 12 have appeared 20 or more times: the aforementioned seven as well as Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Oregon, Tennessee, and Miami.
But what about teams outside the Power 5? While Alabama has appeared 42 times, and while Ohio State has hosted 16 times, the most appearances by a non-P5 school goes to Army with just seven appearances. The Black Knights have hosted just once. Navy has five appearances with no hosts. Oh, and by the way, the only reason these schools have as many as they do is because GameDay has started attending the Army-Navy Game, which is literally the only FBS game the week it is played.
Other than Army and Navy, Air Force has appeared three times, hosting all three. James Madison, North Dakota State, Harvard, and BYU have two appearances each. JMU and NDSU hosted both of their appearances, while Harvard and BYU have hosted once each.
The good news is, although somewhat rare, GameDay is willing to go to non-P5 teams on occasion. We’d of course like to see more of this, so let’s take a look at some potential games College GameDay could attend in 2018. The sad part of this exercise is that many of the best G5 games get played on Thursdays and Fridays, while GameDay has to be a Saturday game.
San Diego State at Boise State, Albertsons Stadium, Week 6
The Aztecs and Broncos have been two of the strongest programs not just in the Mountain West, but all of the Group of 5 over recent years. BSU holds a 3-0 record in BCS/NY6 bowl games, while SDSU has been their most consistent competition for the Mountain West crown. There are a couple of other games that could steal the thunder, but this west coast showdown would be the perfect opportunity for GameDay to make their second-ever trip to the famed blue turf.
Biggest Competition to Host: Florida State @ Miami
UCF at Memphis, Liberty Bowl, Week 7
What better opportunity to check in on the reigning national champs than a rematch of last year’s American Athletic Conference Championship Game, which was one of the best games of 2017? Although a game in Orlando would be more ideal, UCF doesn’t really have a marquis home game on a Saturday. This of course would require UCF to maintain their momentum post-Frost, but if both programs are still going strong, this could be an excellent opportunity for GameDay to come live from a great city like Memphis for the first time ever.
Biggest Competition to Host: Michigan State @ Penn State
Western Kentucky at Florida Atlantic, FAU Stadium, Week 11
Can ESPN really pass on the chance to head to Boca and check in on Lane Kiffin? Although FAU @ Marshall might be a better game, they’d probably like to catch FAU at home, and WKU could be the opponent to do the trick, especially if they get back to form after last year’s slump. If FAU keeps up the momentum they had last season, it might be hard for ESPN to pass on this trip.
Biggest Competition to Host: Auburn @ Georgia
Troy at Appalachian State, Kidd Brewer Stadium, Week 13
Week 13 might be a bit of a stretch since a lot of big rivalry games take place here, but what better game to showcase the Sun Belt than a game that could decide the East Division? Appalachian State is probably the best known Sun Belt school thanks to the Michigan game, while Troy is fresh on fans’ minds after knocking off LSU last year. If these programs remain strong in 2018, this could be a great showdown to end the regular season, and if either of them are in New Years’ Six contention, GameDay might consider going to Boone, NC for the first time.
Biggest Competition to Host: Auburn @ Alabama
BONUS: FCS GameDay
College GameDay has been known to occasionally grace an FCS campus, as well. Most recently, ESPN took over the campus of James Madison last year when they hosted Villanova. This was JMU’s 2nd time hosting. The first gave us this beauty:
So with this in mind, if GameDay decides to visit an FCS campus in 2018, which games could draw their attention?
South Dakota State at North Dakota State, Fargodome, Week 5
It’s no secret the GameDay crew loves the Bison. What better opportunity for their third trip than the battle for the Dakota Marker? NDSU won its 6th national championship in seven years last season, while rival SDSU made it to the national semifinals. The Jackrabbits were also the only team to beat the Bison in 2017. Two of the best programs in FCS would be an excellent choice for a GameDay matchup.
Biggest Competition to Host: Ohio State at Penn State