Will ESPN's College Gameday ever come to Starkville? A look at possible 2014 candidates

Kevin Jairaj-US PRESSWIRE

For more than a decade, the ESPN College Gameday crew has traveled across the country on fall Saturdays to the site of the week's biggest games. Chris, Kirk, Lee and the gang have never made the trip to Starkville for the pregame show we all love, but could that change in 2014? A look at the possible scenarios, if any.

For as long as I can remember in my time being a college football fan, my fall Saturdays have started with ESPN's College Gameday.  Before I get into the worn spot on the couch, or head to campus, or to a friend's house to watch the week's offerings of college football, I've rested in my half-asleep stupor while drinking coffee and listening to the sounds of Kirk Herbstreit and Chris Fowler discuss 2-8 Purdue at 6-3 Michigan.  And I've loved every minute of it.

While Gameday has certainly changed over the course of the years–Coach Corso isn't doing very well, and the crew has added the human ken doll David Pollack as a regular for some unknown reason–it has remained a fixture as a starting point of every fall Saturday for hundreds of thousands of us devoted fans all across the country.  But many of us–especially those of us who wear maroon and white–simply get to watch the show on TV; we haven't been blessed with the privilege of attending a live show on our alma mater's campus.  And for many of us who still haven't witnessed a live show set up in our favorite tailgating area, we go into each new fall with at least an ounce of an inkling of hope that this year will be the year that Gameday comes calling.

There are several factors that work against MSU and other mid-tier CFB programs in the pursuit of hosting Gameday for a weekend.  In my opinion, those can be summarized as the following:

1. National Appeal – How much does your team's game appeal to the nation as a whole? While we care a lot about every game on our team's schedule, the rest of the country may not.
2. Team's Season to Date/Ranking – How high is your team ranked?  How about the opponent?  If the answer to both isn't fairly high and it isn't a "storied" rivalry like Oklahoma-Texas, then you may be out of luck
3. Other games on that date/weekend – That game may be the game of the century for your team, but if it just happens to fall on the same weekend as another game of similar size or greater, you are most likely out of luck.

All three of these factors make up what essentially drives the bus (pun intended) so to speak on where Gameday goes for the weekend in question, and for a team like State it would take the perfect combination of the three to make a Gameday selection happen.

So with this knowledge, the question remains: Will State ever get to host?  There have been weekends before scattered over the years where at least a few thought maybe; maybe this is the game.  Not many opportunities, mind you, but still once our twice we've wondered at the outside chance of hosting. But it has yet to happen.  Still, we must press on with the unabashed hope that our luck will one day change, and college football's greatest pregame show will come calling.  And since we are fans, and we are eternally optimistic, why not gaze into the crystal ball a bit and see if there are any potential candidates for this season?  Let's go for it; it is, after all, July.

Texas A&M at Mississippi State - October 4th - Davis Wade Stadium

This game, to me, is a long shot, but it's still worth mentioning as it has some, if not much, potential.  The Aggies should breeze through the first part of their schedule, sitting at 5-0 and 1-0 in the SEC coming into the weekend (Note: I missed the South Carolina game on their schedule) will most likely be 4-1, possible 5-0 going into this game.  Depending on how a huge game with LSU goes the previous weekend, MSU should either be 3-1 or 4-0 going into the weekend, making the game a fairly big national matchup.  A brief look at the national schedule for that weekend, though, presents a challenge, as there are numerous other good matchups:

  • Baylor at Texas
  • LSU at Auburn
  • Alabama at Ole Miss
  • Florida at Tennessee
  • Stanford at Notre Dame

If I had to guess, I'd say the crew will head to South Bend that weekend to cover Stanford and Notre Dame, as ND will no doubt be ranked, as will Stanford.  Even if they don't get it, I would put both LSU/Auburn and Alabama/Ole Miss higher in the pecking order for a Gameday hosting spot, as those are two really big games with SEC West implications.  I'd dare say our rivals have a better shot to host than us for that weekend.  Still, anything's possible, especially if things shake out with some upsets for those teams in the first several weeks.

Auburn at Mississippi State - October 11th - Davis Wade Stadium

To me, this weekend is State's best shot at hosting, and honestly the game that gave me the idea to even write this whole post.  IF–and this is no doubt a huge IF– State gets through both LSU and A&M, they would likely be 5-0.  Auburn will likely be undefeated to this point as well pending a win over LSU in the previous week, so this could shake out to be a big time matchup; think #2 Auburn vs. #15-25 MSU.  There would be enough upset interest to possibly draw Gameday in for a visit, but the issue will be the battle with other games set for that weekend

  • Texas vs. Oklahoma
  • Louisville at Clemson
  • Oregon at UCLA
  • Ole Miss at Texas A&M
  • Georgia at Missouri
  • Penn State at Michigan

Again, I can't help but feel that the odds are stacked heavily against MSU even if the best possible scenario plays out with our own games leading into this weekend.  That is an impressive slate of games, as Oregon-UCLA likely has national championship implications, and Georgia/Missouri will have east implications.  Texas vs. Oklahoma is also a heavy favorite to host, as the Red River Rivalry, if I'm not mistaken, hosts Gameday just about every year.  Our fate may be sealed even before the year begins.

Outside of those two games, I would rate MSU's chances less than favorable for all other home games.  The Alabama and Ole Miss road games always have a potential shot at being host sites, but that won't do us much good as they are away from Starkville.  In the end, the odds are likely that another year will come and go without Chris, Kirk and Lee visiting campus with College Gameday, but a man can still dream, can't he?  It also doesn't have any bearing on how MSU's season will go, but that doesn't mean that I don't have dreams of seeing Corso putting on the Bully head and holding three live Bulldog puppies in the air while 15,000 of us chant "Hey! Go State!" behind him.

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