There’s nothing like the sound of “College GameDay” on a fall Saturday morning, and we always look forward to the announcement of where the crew will go next.
Here are our predictions for GameDay locations in the 2016 season:
The Matchup: LSU vs. Wisconsin
Where: Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis.
Why: The slate is filled with stellar matchups in Week 1, including the highly anticipated meeting between Alabama and USC. But this prediction was made easy by the fact that Kirk Herbstreit has already announced where he and the rest of the GameDay crew will be in Week 1. This will be a great start for one of these teams and a disappointing one for the other.
The Matchup: Virginia Tech vs. Tennessee
Where: Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tenn.
Why: The Battle at Bristol is unquestionably the biggest game in Week 2. We expect there to be an all-time record crowd in attendance for the matchup at the state line.
The Volunteers have fallen short of expectations in recent years, but 2016 is (again) supposed to be their breakout season. Tennessee is heavily favored in this matchup, and Virginia Tech will be just getting its feet wet under new head coach Justin Fuente, but that doesn’t mean the game is in the bag. There is still plenty of work to do on both sides.
The Matchup: Alabama vs. Ole Miss
Where: Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Miss.
Why: Since GameDay won’t be visiting Arlington in Week 1 to cover the Alabama-USC matchup, it frees up producers to highlight the Tide in Week 3. But this would be the third SEC appearance in a row, and that could sway their decision, sending the crew to see Ohio State face off against Oklahoma.
Still, there’s a compelling argument for this game. Ole Miss has been the lone blemish on Alabama’s regular season record for the past two years, and it’s hungry to change that in 2016. The Rebels are motivated to keep beating the Tide, and you can count on seeing QB Chad Kelly throw some bombs on the vaunted Alabama defense. Both teams are expected to start the season in the top 10, so if both come into Week 3 unbeaten, this matchup will definitely be one of the most significant.
The Matchup: Stanford vs. UCLA
Where: Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Ca.
Why: Two historic teams face off in one of the nation’s most historic stadiums. That alone is enough to send the crew to Pasadena. But there will be plenty to see on the field, and that’s why this matchup is attractive.
Last year’s Heisman runner-up, RB Christian McCaffrey, returns to the Cardinal for his junior year, and you can expect to see him make another run for the Heisman in 2016. The Bruins struggled on defense in 2015, but we expect to see a lot of improvement. And we can’t ignore all the excitement surrounding UCLA QB Josh Rosen.
The Matchup: Oklahoma vs. TCU
Where: Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth, Texas
Why: The Sooners reached the College Football Playoff last season. The Horned Frogs are habitually left on the outskirts of the major postseason action. If these two teams have a solid start to the season, this game could be a sign of things to come.
This matchup isn’t without competition. Louisville will be traveling to the Palmetto State to face Clemson, while Wisconsin heads to Ann Arbor to challenge the Wolverines. And let’s not forget that Washington State will be playing host to the Ducks in what could be a conference-rocking matchup.
The Matchup: Florida State vs. Miami
Where: New Miami Stadium in Miami, Fla.
Why: One of the biggest ACC rivalries and new Canes head coach Mark Richt’s first season? We’re in. The Hurricanes hit an all-time low last season, and Richt is hoping to be able to swoop in and save the day for Miami fans everywhere. However, Florida State will be strong this season, so Richt has his work cut out for him.
You could make an argument for featuring the Red River Rivalry here instead, but that has the potential of being a blowout. The matchup between Oregon and conference rival Washington is another compelling Week 6 game.
The Matchup: Stanford vs. Notre Dame
Where: Notre Dame Stadium in Notre Dame, Ind.
Why: There will be a lot on the line in this game. It’s likely that the winners will cement themselves into the playoff conversation. This matchup is always a big one, but if both teams can manage to go undefeated in the first six weeks, it’ll be off the charts.
This matchup will also have to compete with Alabama versus Tennessee — arguably the biggest cross-division game in the SEC this year — and Ohio State versus Wisconsin. But barring an early-season collapse by either the Cardinal or the Fighting Irish, this game should still win the day.
The Matchup: Ole Miss vs. LSU
Where: Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, La.
Why: There’s no question the GameDay crew loves traveling to Tiger Stadium, and with a matchup like this, we can’t blame them. The Rebels embarrassed LSU last season, and the Tigers are looking for revenge. Head coach Les Miles is sure to have some tricks up his sleeve, and we expect RB Leonard Fournette to make a big Heisman statement here.
On the other hand, QB Chad Kelly and the Rebels are more than capable of pulling off a huge upset in Death Valley. The implications of this Week 8 game outweigh every other option, including the always-anticipated Ohio State versus Penn State.
The Matchup: North Dakota State vs. Northern Iowa
Where: UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls, Iowa
Why: This is going to be a tough week for the College Gameday producers. The ACC powerhouses Clemson and Florida State will faceoff in Tallahassee while Michigan State will play host to rival Michigan in a game that is all but guaranteed to be a thriller. And after last season’s finish, the crew will be hard-pressed to miss the Big Ten showdown.
But College GameDay visits an FCS game every season, and this Week 9 matchup is shaping up to be the biggest in the league. North Dakota State has won the last five —yes, five —national titles, but Northern Iowa is in the best position to make a run against the Bison in 2016. It’s safe to say the winner of this game will be headed to the FCS playoffs.
The Matchup: Alabama vs. LSU
Where: Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, La.
Why: Yes, this looks to be an SEC-heavy season of GameDay, but there’s no denying the sizable implications here. This is always a big game, but last year the Tide crushed Tigers RB Leonard Fournette, and he is looking for the opportunity to right the ship.
If both of these teams are as good as we expect, this GameDay won’t disappoint. However, we can’t forget that Navy will be facing off against Notre Dame and Oregon will be traveling to USC. The Horned Frogs will head to Waco, Texas, in what would have been a bigger matchup if Baylor had not been recently crippled by scandal.
The Matchup: Stanford vs. Oregon
Where: Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Ore.
Why: These two are the favorites to win the Pac-12, and this game could be the boost needed to send one of them to the playoff. Two high-powered offenses going at it late in the season has all the hype college football fans crave. Plus, do you really think Lee Corso could resist antagonizing that crowd?
It won’t be easy to win the Week 11 bid though. Michigan versus Iowa and Baylor versus Oklahoma will both be huge matchups if the four teams are as good as they’re expected to be. Iowa barely missed the College Football Playoff, and you can bet the Hawkeyes don’t want to miss it again, so they will be coming after Michigan with some fury.
The Matchup: Ohio State vs. Michigan State
Where: Spartan Stadium in East Lansing, Mich.
Why: Urban Meyer has turned the Buckeyes into a force. And despite the semifinals collapse, Michigan State has proven itself over and over again. Both teams are expected to be in the top 15 to start the season, and if they can keep it in the W column for the first 11 weeks, this will definitely be the game to watch in Week 12.
The matchup between Oklahoma State and TCU could give this historic rivalry a run for its money though. The Cowboys and Horned Frogs are two other teams that could come into Week 12 undefeated and in the top 5.
The Matchup: South Carolina vs. Clemson
Where: Memorial Stadium in Clemson, S.C.
Why: It’s surprising to think Clemson may not make a GameDay appearance until Week 13, but the Tigers’ schedule leaves something to be desired. Don’t get me wrong, Clemson will be one of the top teams when this matchup rolls around, but there’s nothing exciting about the schedule.
South Carolina is coming off a painful 2015 season, and Will Muschamp will be once again trying to prove himself as a head coach. The Gamecocks might be fighting for a bowl game, an SEC title or a little self-respect, but they will be fighting for something. If the crew decides to forgo this rivalry, it could always head over to the Egg Bowl, the Florida-Florida State game or the ever-exciting standoff between Notre Dame and USC.
The Matchup: Oklahoma State vs. Oklahoma
Where: Memorial Stadium in Norman, Okla.
Why: The GameDay crew could always opt for the SEC Championship Game, but for now, we’ll go with the teams we know. This in-state rivalry should get a lot of attention, especially if the Cowboys and Sooners are both undefeated entering Week 14. And come on … rivalries are always fun.
The Matchup: Navy vs. Army
Where: M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Md.
Why: Now that this classic matchup has been moved to the Saturday after conference championships, there’s no other team to challenge the GameDay bid. This will be the third year in a row the crew travels for this armed forces battle, and it will undoubtedly be just as fun this season as it was last season. And the season before.