ESPN College GameDay is one of the staples of college football. And every offseason, it’s has become increasingly popular to try to predict where the popular pregame show is going to broadcast from. Seriously, a simple search brings up a dozen or so stories essentially saying the same thing.
So instead of trying to determine the annual itinerary of the program, we thought we’d try to figure out how many times Rece Davis, Desmond Howard, Kirk Herbstreit and Lee Corso would bring their one-of-a-kind production to Pac-12 country.
Over the last five years, GameDay has visited a school in the Pac-12 an average of two times per season in five different locales. Oregon has hosted the most times over that span, with three of those visits coming in the Marcus Mariota era.
- 2016 (2): Washington at Utah; USC at Washington
- 2015 (2): UCLA at Arizona; California at Utah
- 2014 (1): Michigan State at Oregon
- 2013 (3): Oregon at Washington; UCLA at Oregon; Stanford at USC
- 2012 (2): Stanford at Oregon; Notre Dame at USC
With the success of Washington last season, Colorado’s rise to a national threat, and the re-emergence of USC as one of the favorites for a spot in the College Football Playoff, there will certainly be plenty of games worthy of hosting the show. But how many are realistic destinations? If we assume that GameDay will visit the Pac-12 at least twice again this season, what are the most likely opportunities for Pac-12 football fans to get some national television airtime?
Here are the most likely games that GameDay could visit:
Week 2: Stanford at USC
Competition: Auburn at Clemson; Oklahoma at Ohio State
The skinny: Clemson, the defending national champs host its biggest nonconference game of the season against an Auburn team that is expected to be in the hunt in the SEC West. In a rematch from last year, Oklahoma will look to avenge the beatdown that Ohio State put on them a year ago. With title implications for all those schools, either of those will likely be a better options than an early — albeit important — regular season game in the Pac-12.
Week 3: Texas at USC
Competition: Clemson at Louisville
The skinny: Clemson faces Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson in a pivotal ACC game. However, after potentially visiting Clemson the week before, I think ESPN may opt for a matchup of two college football bluebloods. If the Trojans can hold off Stanford the week before, this should be an interesting matchup as Texas’ first real test of the Tom Herman Era.
Week 4: Washington at Colorado
Competition: Oklahoma at Baylor; Notre Dame at Michigan State
The skinny: Intriguing options from other conferences, but a rematch of the 2016 Pac-12 title game trumps this as a huge showdown for both teams. A win here puts Washington in prime position to repeat as Pac-12 North champs. If Colorado scores a win, it’ll get a huge momentum boost that should carry it toward a late-season matchup with USC.
Week 11: USC at Colorado
Competition: Michigan State at Ohio State; Florida State at Clemson
The skinny: This could be the biggest game of the season for both USC and Colorado, as it could decide the winner of the Pac-12 South. But even that isn’t enough to prioritize it over the battle for ACC supremacy. Florida State’s visit to Clemson is not only one of the most anticipated games for that conference, it’s one of the biggest ones on the entire college football schedule in 2017.
So where does that leave us?
It seems that early in the season would be the most likely time for a Pac-12 school to get a visit from GameDay. The crew will certainly want to get to USC and capitalize on the hype the Trojans are getting this season. And a Week 4 schedule bereft of big games means that GameDay will return to Boulder for the first time since 1995.
Obviously, all of this is subject to change given the performance of all of the teams. And if there’s a surprise team in the league this year — I’m looking at you, Oregon and Stanford — then certain games on those schedules could come into play midseason, as both are always popular destinations for an enthusiastic turnout.
Whatever the case, we’ll be watching each week.