Projecting every College GameDay appearance for 2015
College football just wouldn’t be the same without the Saturday-morning institution known as College GameDay on ESPN.
Each season, students and fans on campuses across the country cajole, beg and argue why their team should host the show on a particular week. It’s a matter of pride, both for the individual schools and for the conferences.
Which universities will get the honor of hosting the show in 2015? We’ve predicted every regular-season week, with some commentary about alternate possibilities.
Week 1: Arizona State vs. Texas A&M (in Houston)
I seriously considered Texas at Notre Dame. College GameDay seemed to take allegations of SEC bias seriously last season. It’s Alabama graduate Rece Davis’ first show, so I doubt the crew will be on location for the Tide game, because there will be later opportunities for that. The Longhorns and Irish are two of the biggest fan bases in the country.
Then I realized that GameDay has attended a neutral-site season opener in six of the last seven seasons, either in Atlanta or Arlington, Texas. So how about the rare, but always entertaining, SEC vs. Pac-12 showdown?
Week 2: Oregon at Michigan State
This turned out to be one of the best non-conference matchups of the 2014 season, one that launched the Ducks to a College Football Playoff run and Marcus Mariota to a Heisman Trophy.
The Spartans want revenge, and senior quarterback Connor Cook would love to prove Michigan State remains one of the nation’s best teams despite the shadow cast by Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State.
Week 3: Ole Miss at Alabama
The Stanford-USC and Auburn-LSU games are enticing, but why mess with a great thing? The GameDay visit to Oxford, Miss., for last year’s Rebels-Tide tilt was one of the most memorable appearances of the year.
Depending on where voters rank Ole Miss, the game could feature a pair of Top 10-15 teams. It’s a revenge opportunity for an Alabama team that has truly gotten up emotionally for three or four games per season of late. And it’s a vital early game in the best division in college football.
Week 4: UCLA at Arizona
The USC-Arizona State game is intriguing. Mississippi State-Auburn may feature the SEC’s two best quarterbacks. But I foresee GameDay sandwiching Week 4 elsewhere in between two trips to SEC campuses.
Arizona, a mild surprise as the Pac-12 South winner in ’14, has played very well under Rich Rodriguez the last two seasons. UCLA post-Brett Hundley remains good thanks to some better-than-respectable recruiting classes for coach Jim Mora. This is an important result in what may be the most competitive division in the country aside from the SEC West.
Week 5: Alabama at Georgia
This game could be the most significant in the SEC all season. The Bulldogs are the SEC East favorites. Knocking off last year’s conference champion would go a long way toward vindicating the division and also boost the reputation of coach Mark Richt.
Is College GameDay really going to pass this opportunity in favor of Notre Dame-Clemson, Arizona State-UCLA or Texas-TCU?
Week 6: Georgia Tech at Clemson
Speaking of the ACC’s Tigers, that team will get an opportunity to host GameDay in Week 6, when the defending Coastal Division champion Yellow Jackets come into town. As far as ACC matchups go, aside from the usual Florida State-Clemson and Florida State-Georgia Tech tilts, this one could be the best in 2015. The loser is just about eliminated from College Football Playoff contention.
Other big games during this week include a neutral-site Oklahoma-Texas matchup (remember when that game was the No. 1 must-see contest all year?) and TCU-Kansas State.
Week 7: Michigan State at Michigan
Talk about a juicy week. Penn State-Ohio State. USC-Notre Dame. Alabama-Texas A&M. Oklahoma-Kansas State. Louisville-Florida State. Oregon-Washington. There are more as well. Circle this weekend on your calendar, boys and girls.
But do you really think GameDay is going to miss Jim Harbaugh’s first matchup with in-state rival Michigan State, which just happens to be aiming for a third consecutive Top 5 finish? There will be high drama in Ann Arbor, Mich., on this day.
Week 8: Florida State at Georgia Tech
The post-Jameis Winston FSU will draw some curiosity, but remains a talented team that has out-recruited the majority of the ACC. The Yellow Jackets want to do more than win the ACC’s lesser division in 2015, and beating Florida State would be a great way to accomplish that. This is part of the round robin between FSU, GT and Clemson that could determine the conference this fall.
Other potential GameDay targets include Utah-USC, Tennessee-Alabama, Clemson-Miami and Southern Mississippi-Charlotte. (OK, just kidding about that last one. Wanted to make sure you were still reading.)
Week 9: Florida vs. Georgia
Ole Miss-Auburn is enticing — remember the ending to that game last season? — but if Georgia remains a viable national contender at this point in the season, which I suspect the Bulldogs will, this is an interesting matchup. It’s also a chance to feature the Gators under new coach Jim McElwain. Plus, since it’s not in Athens, Ga., the GameDay crew can avoid doubling up on the same campus.
This is a weak week of games overall, and it’s a good bet for an SEC contest. Because what kind of patriotic American doesn’t love Southeastern Conference football?fbay
Week 10: Michigan State at Nebraska
These middle weeks are very difficult to project. There’s a lot of similar good, not great matchups and a few awesome ones that I believe will get excluded from the pool for logistical reasons. For example, Alabama hosts LSU this week. But I think GameDay will prefer the Tide games against Georgia and Ole Miss, if not the Iron Bowl.
Arizona-USC is pretty tasty, but again, I think GameDay would rather see UCLA play in Memorial Coliseum. Clemson hosts Florida State, but I foresee GameDay heading to the Tigers’ Memorial Stadium just two weeks prior.
Michigan State has a chance to be a Top 10 program yet again in 2015, and Nebraska in the post-Bo Pelini era is at least interesting. But this isn’t the week about which I feel most confident.
Week 11: Oklahoma at Baylor
The Bears are a preseason Top 5 type team. Baylor’s biggest matchup, against TCU in a rematch of last year’s wild shootout, takes place on a Friday at the end of November. But GameDay will give the Big 12 the spotlight here, allowing a College Football Playoff contender with a terrific newish home venue and a wonderful offense to get some attention.
The Georgia-Auburn and Oregon-Stanford games are the other two premier matchups on paper, though we’ll see what surfaces by the time we reach mid-November.
Week 12: TCU at Oklahoma
The Horned Frogs are a strong preseason pick to contend for a spot in the College Football Playoff, and should be angry this year after demolishing Ole Miss in a bowl game and feeling like it deserved inclusion in last year’s national semifinals. Oklahoma, meanwhile, could be a train wreck at this point in Bob Stoops’ coaching career. Or the Sooners could recover enough to provide a marquee name for TCU to beat. But this is a tough back-to-back for OU.
The LSU-Ole Miss game is fascinating, and I wouldn’t be shocked if the GameDay crew finds a way to return to Oxford, Miss. This would be the year to do so. But I don’t think that game will have enough big-time national implications by this point in the season.
USC-Oregon and UCLA-Utah are big matchups, but I see GameDay featuring the Pac-12 plenty of other weeks.
Week 13: UCLA at USC
It’s difficult to project this far in advance. There are so many divergent factors. Which games will have division title implications? What about College Football Playoff implications? Which teams has GameDay already featured once, or even twice? Which conferences have hogged the spotlight?
Ohio State-Michigan is a distinct possibility here, with Urban Meyer tackling Jim Harbaugh (even better if that was literal). But I suspect the Wolverines will be pretty irrelevant by this point in the season, and that won’t be a good matchup. If GameDay wants Michigan in ’15, it will be earlier in the season. Penn State-Michigan State is another strong Big Ten matchup.
… What’s that, you say? There’s something called the Iron Bowl? It very well could decide the SEC West once again this year, and it’s always a game of enormous interest. But I expect GameDay to feature both teams earlier in this season, and the crew was on location for the ’13 and ’14 Iron Bowls. I suspect GameDay will want a little variety here, but if both teams still are contending for College Football Playoff spots, all bets are off.
Georgia-Georgia Tech and perhaps even Ole Miss-Mississippi State are interesting games, but don’t quite make the cut. TCU-Baylor will play Friday, or else that would be the GameDay choice.
UCLA and USC have really built the Southern California/City of Los Angeles rivalry in the last three years with some excellent recruiting. That game may decide the Pac-12 South and could even have CFP implications.
Week 14: SEC Championship Game
This could be known as the “Big 12 gets to shine” week if Baylor is still in the hunt — the Bears host Texas. But I’m betting on a return to the SEC Championship site in Atlanta (another benefit of avoiding the Iron Bowl). It’s been two full seasons since the conference won a national title. This game ought to give us a great idea of which program holds the hopes of ending that SEC mini-drought.