college football gameday
Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

College Football Gameday: History, Locations and Picks

For the past two decades, one of the many traditions that has made college football such a spectacle is ESPN’s Saturday morning show, College Football Gameday.

The show airs for three hours each Saturday and leads right up to kickoff of the first slate of games. For the past 25 years, the show has taken place on location from a campus or stadium involved in one of the weekend’s biggest games. Fans congregate behind the set, cheering, booing, showing off homemade signs and otherwise adding to the spectacle.

college football gameday
Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Most of the show encompasses news and feature stories surrounding that week’s games, particularly College Football Gameday’s featured game. However, the most popular part of the show comes at the end: it’s when the show’s three hosts make their straight-up predictions of the day’s big games. The final pick is made by legendary college football coach and commentator Lee Corso, who dons mascot headgear or uses another prop to let his prediction be known.

History of College Football Gameday

ESPN’s pregame college football show first aired in 1987 from the network’s studios in Bristol, Conn. Tim Brando was the host, and Beano Cook and Lee Corso the analysts.

The show entered its modern era in 1993, when it started incorporating live broadcasts. The seminal moment in College Football Gameday’s history came in November, when it went live on location for the first time from South Bend, Ind., for a No. 1-vs.-No. 2 matchup between Notre Dame and Florida State. The Seminoles won the game 31-24.

From that point forward, College Football Gameday has aired on location almost every Saturday during the college football season, with the only exceptions being odd weeks when there was no big game or when an outside event forced game cancellations (i.e., Georgia Tech-Virginia in 2000 because of a severe thunderstorm and Georgia Tech-Florida State in 2001 because of the Sept. 11, terrorist attacks).

The show expanded to three hours, from 9 a.m.-noon ET, starting in 2010, with the first hour airing on ESPNU before also moving to ESPN in 2013.

Starting in 2014, the game began an annual visit to the Army-Navy game as its final regular-season broadcast of the year.

The show’s most well-known crew was Chris Fowler as host and Kirk Herbstreit and Corso the analysts. Fowler served as host from 1990-2014, when Rece Davis took over duties. Herbstreit has been on the show since 1996, and Corso since its inception in 1987.

Frequent hosts of College Football Gameday

It’s no surprise that the most frequent teams playing on College Gameday are also college football’s most successful modern teams.

The Alabama Crimson Tide has appeared 42 times on the show, including 13 times as host in Tuscaloosa. Alabama’s overall record is 27-15 when featured on College Gameday.

Ohio State has hosted the show the most times — 16. The Buckeyes have been featured 41 times overall. Other teams to host 10 or more times: Florida (12), Florida State (11), LSU (11), Michigan (11) and USC (10).

Between 1993-2004, the show visited a west-coast site only twice, but it has been more spread out since then. Oregon has hosted 10 times and Utah 4 times.

Non-Football Bowl Subdivision teams also have occasionally been hosts, especially when there isn’t a big game in the FBS. Those smaller-school hosts include Western Michigan, Williams College, Harvard, James Madison (twice), Bowling Green, Florida A&M and Penn. The Bayou Classic between Grambling State and Southern was also featured from New Orleans on Nov. 26, 2005.

Corso picks

Since the show’s inception, Lee Corso has proven to be an invaluable and popular part of college football.

The most famous and well-liked portion of the show comes at the very end, when the hosts (and since 2009, a guest picker) make predictions on the day’s biggest games. The final pick is known as the “headgear pick,” because Corso will don one team’s mascot head and/or other prop to reveal his pick.

Although he’s simply picking the games straight up and not against the spread, Corso has been an effective handicapper going 202-106 in the show’s 308 on-location shows. He’s not shy to pick underdogs at times, either.

Past marquee matchups on College Football Gameday

Beginning with the 1995 season, College Gameday hosted a show from the site of the national championship game, first in the Bowl Alliance system, then the Bowl Championship Series and eventually the College Football Playoff.

The first such game was No. 1 Nebraska’s 62-24 victory over No. 2 Florida in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 2, 1996. That was also the second No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup in the show’s history, following the original on-location broadcast in 1993.

Besides the national championships, big-time regular-season games to be featured on the show include:

  • No. 3 Nebraska beating No. 2 Colorado 24-7 in Lincoln, Neb., on Oct. 29, 1994
  • No. 3 Florida beating No. 6 Florida State 35-24 in Gainesville, Fla., on Nov. 25, 1995
  • No. 4 Florida beating No. 2 Tennessee 35-29 in Knoxville, Tenn., on Sept. 21, 1996
  • No. 3 Ohio State beating No. 4 Penn State 38-7 in Columbus, Ohio, on Oct. 5, 1996
  • No. 2 Florida State beating No. 1 Florida 24-21 in Tallahassee, Fla., on Nov. 30, 1996
  • No. 1 Florida beating No. 4 Tennessee 33-20 in Gainesville, Fla., on Sept. 20, 1997
  • No. 2 Florida State beating No. 5 North Carolina 20-3 in Chapel Hill, N.C., on Nov. 8, 1997
  • No. 3 Penn State beating No. 4 Arizona 41-7 in University Park, Penn., on Aug. 28, 1999
  • No. 1 Florida State beating No. 4 Florida 30-23 in Gainesville, Fla., on Nov. 20, 1999
  • No. 3 Oklahoma beating No. 1 Nebraska 31-14 in Norman, Okla., on Oct. 28, 2000
  • No. 3 Oklahoma beating No. 5 Texas 14-3 in Dallas, on Oct. 6, 2000
  • No. 5 Tennessee beating No. 2 Florida 34-32 in Gainesville, Fla., on Dec. 1, 2001
  • No. 3 Texas beating No. 2 Oklahoma 35-24 in Dallas on Oct. 12, 2001
  • No. 2 Miami beating No. 5 Florida State 22-14 in Tallahassee, Fla., on Oct. 11, 2003
  • No. 5 Michigan beating No. 4 Ohio State 16-13 in Columbus, Ohio, on Nov. 15, 2003
  • No. 3 LSU beating No. 5 Georgia 34-13 in Atlanta on Dec. 6, 2003
  • No. 3 Auburn beating No. 5 Georgia 24-6 in Auburn, Ala., on Nov. 13, 2004
  • No. 2 Texas beating No. 4 Ohio State 25-22 in Columbus, Ohio, on Sept. 17, 2005
  • No. 1 Ohio State beating No. 2 Texas 24-7 in Austin, Texas, on Sept. 9, 2006
  • No. 1 Ohio State beating No. 2 Michigan 42-39 in Columbus, Ohio, on Nov. 25, 2006
  • No. 3 Missouri beating No. 2 Kansas 36-28 in Kansas City, Mo., on Nov. 24, 2007
  • No. 2 Florida beating No. 1 Alabama 31-20 in Atlanta, on Dec. 6, 2008
  • No. 1 Florida beating No. 4 LSU 13-3 in Baton Rouge, La., on Oct. 10, 2009
  • No. 2 Alabama beating No. 1 Florida 32-13 in Atlanta, on Dec. 5, 2009
  • No. 4 LSU beating No. 3 Oregon 40-27 in Arlington, Texas, on Sept. 2, 2011
  • No. 1 LSU beating No. 2 Alabama 9-6 in Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Nov. 5, 2011
  • No. 1 Alabama beating No. 5 LSU 21-17 in Baton Rouge, La., on Nov, 3, 2012
  • No. 2 Alabama beating No. 3 Georgia 32-28 in Atlanta on Dec. 1, 2012
  • No. 1 Alabama beating No. 6 Texas A&M 49-42 in College Station, Texas, on Sept. 14, 2013
  • No. 4 Auburn beating No. 1 Alabama 34-28 in Auburn, Ala., on Nov. 30, 2013
  • No. 3 Mississippi State beating No. 2 Auburn 38-23 in Starkville, Miss., on Oct. 11, 2014
  • No. 4 Alabama beating No. 1 Mississippi State 25-20 in Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Nov. 15, 2014
  • No. 5 Clemson beating No. 3 Louisville 42-36 in Clemson, S.C., on Oct. 1, 2016
  • No. 2 Ohio State beating No. 3 Michigan 30-27 in Columbus, Ohio, on Nov. 26, 2016
  • No. 1 Alabama beating No. 3 Florida State 24-7 in Atlanta on Sept. 2, 2017
  • No. 6 Ohio State beating No. 5 Penn State 39-38 in Columbus, Ohio, on Oct. 28, 2017
  • No. 6 Auburn beating No. 1 Alabama 26-14 in Auburn, Ala., on Nov. 25, 2017

2018 College Football Gameday possibilities

ESPN has announced that College Gameday will go back to where it all started and begin the 2018 season in South Bend, Ind., for Michigan at Notre Dame in Week 1 on Sept. 1.

After that, the network will announce the following week’s destination sometime in the aftermath of the previous weekend’s action. Here are some favorites — or at least strong possibilities — for each week of the new season.

Week 1, Sept. 1: Michigan at Notre Dame, South Bend, Ind.

Week 2, Sept. 8: Clemson at Texas A&M, College Station, Texas

For the sixth time, ESPN’s College GameDay will make its way down to College Station, Texas. The popular Saturday morning kickoff show is setting up camp in College Station for the showdown between Texas A&M and Clemson.

New Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher might’ve left Florida State and the ACC, but he couldn’t avoid Dabo Swinney and the Tigers for too long. Florida State and Clemson became bitter rivals over the last several years as they jockeyed for the position of the premier team in the conference. Fisher initially had the edge after he guided the Seminoles to a national title in 2013, but Swinney has since surpassed him.

Clemson is the No. 2 team in the country, and they are expected to be back in the College Football Playoff for the fourth straight season. The Tigers handled Furman 48-7 in their season opener behind a dominant performance from the defense. Clemson has a quarterback battle brewing between veteran Kelly Bryant and newcomer Trevor Lawrence, but that shouldn’t have an impact on the team in the regular season.

Texas A&M cruised past Northwestern State 59-7 in Fisher’s debut last Thursday, but the Tigers present a much more difficult challenge this Saturday. 

This will be the Aggies’ eighth appearance on the show, and they are 1-6 all-time when College GameDay is on campus. Clemson is appearing for the 18th time in school history. Fifteen of those appearances have been under Swinney. The Tigers have won eight of the last nine times they were featured on the program, including four consecutive wins. They are 10-7 all-time on College GameDay.

The Aggies are 3-1 all time against the Tigers, though Clemson won the last meeting 25-24 in 2005. Texas A&M is 2-0 against Clemson in College Station, and they won those two games by a combined score of 51-6. Unfortunately for Aggie fans, this matchup might go a bit differently.

It’s probably better to play Clemson now than later in the season once they figure out the quarterback position. However, the Tigers will rely on the strength of their defense — especially the defensive line — against the Aggies on Saturday.

Both Bryant and Lawrence will play quarterback for the Tigers, and it’s unclear how often each will play. Bryant is a dual-threat quarterback, while Lawrence is more of a pocket passer. They both bring an interesting dynamic to the offense, but ultimately, this feels like it’s Lawrence’s job. Clemson can win almost any game with Bryant at quarterback in the regular season, but Lawrence has more upside against top tier defenses.

Clemson is currently an 11.5-point favorite, and the total for the game is 54. The game will air on ESPN at 7 p.m. ET on Saturday night at Kyle Field. College GameDay will air at 9 a.m. ET on ESPN on Saturday morning.

Week 3, Sept. 15: TCU vs. Ohio State, Arlington, Texas

The College GameDay crew won’t have to travel too far this week for their Week 3 destination. After spending last Saturday in College Station, Texas for the matchup between Clemson and Texas A&M, the show will head north to Fort Worth for another non-conference showdown between Ohio State and TCU.

TCU is technically the home team, but they won’t be playing in its home stadium in Fort Worth. Instead, the game against the Buckeyes will be at AT&T Stadium, which is the home of the Dallas Cowboys. However, GameDay will broadcast its show on Saturday morning from TCU’s campus in Fort Worth.

It’s the first road game for Ohio State this season, and it will be the first game away from home for interim coach Ryan Day. The Buckeyes beat Oregon State and Rutgers by a combined score of 129-34, but those two squads pale in comparison to the Horned Frogs. Additionally, TCU’s Gary Patterson is one of the best coaches in the country, and he’ll have his team ready to play after an uninspiring first half against SMU a week ago.

Urban Meyer has one game remaining on his suspension, but he will be allowed to coach the team during practice this week. Day will still be in charge of any in-game decisions, and he will also be responsible for any halftime adjustments. But as far as the game plan is concerned, it will have Meyer’s fingerprints all over it.

This will be GameDay’s 41st appearance at an Ohio State game, which puts the Buckeyes in second place all time behind Alabama’s 42 appearances. The Buckeyes are 27-13 while on GameDay.

TCU, on the other hand, is a perfect 6-0 when featured on GameDay. The Horned Frogs are 2-0 as the host team. However, Vegas made TCU a heavy underdog for the matchup. Ohio State is currently a 12.5-point favorite, and the total is 56.5.

It should be an electric atmosphere in both Fort Worth and Arlington as the host Horned Frogs look to pull off the major upset.

Week 4, Sept. 22: Stanford at Oregon, Eugene, Ore.

ESPN’s College GameDay is heading out west this weekend for a Pac-12 showdown between Stanford and Oregon. The show is setting up camp in Eugene, Oregon for the matchup between the No. 7 Cardinal and the No. 20 Ducks. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

This will be the tenth time Oregon has hosted College GameDay, and they are 7-2 all-time as hosts. The last time was a 46-27 win over Michigan State in 2014. GameDay visited Eugene for the 2012 matchup between Stanford and Oregon when the Cardinal won 17-14 in overtime.

Oregon has appeared 22 times on the show overall, and they are 14-8 when featured on GameDay. Stanford is 5-5, though they have only hosted once.

Stanford is 3-0 on the season, and are 1-0 in Pac-12 play after defeating USC, 17-3, in Week 3. The Cardinal delivered an uninspiring performance in a, 30-10, win over UC Davis last week, and they knocked off San Diego State, 31-10, in the season opener.

The Ducks are also 3-0, but they have played perhaps the softest schedule of any Power 5 team in the country thus far. The wins have been over Bowling Green, Portland State and San Jose State — and Oregon looked sloppy against the Spartans.

This will be new Oregon coach Mario Cristobal’s first major test with his new team, and he’s going up against one of the best coaches in college football. David Shaw has taken the foundation laid by Jim Harbaugh and turned the Cardinal into a consistent winner in the Pac-12.

Oregon opened as a slight 1.5-point favorite, but Stanford has emerged as a 2-point road favorite. The total for the game is 56.

Week 5, Sept. 29: Ohio State at Penn State, University Park, Pa.

For the second time this season, ESPN’s College GameDay will be on location for an Ohio State game. The popular Saturday morning kickoff show is heading to State College, Pennsylvania for the Big 10 showdown between Ohio State and Penn State. The Buckeyes were previously on the show two weeks ago when they played TCU in Arlington, Texas.

Ohio State is 4-0 on the season despite not having head coach Urban Meyer on the sidelines for the first three games of the year. Meyer returned on Saturday to watch his team dismantle Tulane, 49-6, but the Buckeyes will face their biggest challenge of the season as they take on the Nittany Lions.

Penn State is also 4-0, though they haven’t necessarily faced a difficult schedule. Appalachian State took the Nittany Lions into overtime, but Penn State prevailed, 45-38. James Franklin’s team dominated Pitt and Kent State, and they beat Illinois 63-24 despite trailing in the second half. The offense is averaging 56 points per game through four games. This matchup could turn into shootout since the Buckeyes are also averaging 55 points per game.

This is the 42nd time GameDay will cover an Ohio State game. The Buckeyes are tied with Alabama for the most appearances in GameDay history. Ohio State is 28-13 all-time while appearing on the program. Penn State is appearing on the show for the 19th time, but they are only 7-11. This will be the sixth time the Nittany Lions have hosted.

The Buckeyes have won five of the last six meetings against the Nittany Lions, including a 39-38 thriller last October in Columbus. Penn State defeated Ohio State 24-21 in 2016 en route to a Big 10 championship under Franklin. Prior to that loss, Ohio State had won four straight meetings in State College.

Ohio State opened as a 3.5-point favorite. The total for the matchup is 66.5.

Week 6, Oct. 6: Oklahoma vs. Texas, Dallas

College GameDay is heading back to Texas for the Red River Shootout between Texas and Oklahoma. It will be the first time the show has broadcasted for the rivalry since 2011. The Sooners are 5-0 entering the matchup, while the Longhorns are 4-1.

Oklahoma is looking to make its second straight appearance in the College Football Playoff. The Sooners have a prolific offense under Lincoln Riley. Kyler Murray has been an electric playmaker at quarterback, and he just guided his offense to 66 points in a win over Baylor. Oklahoma survived a pair of scares against Iowa State and Army, and they are still the favorites to win the Big 12.

Texas has recovered nicely from a season-opening loss at Maryland. Tom Herman’s team has won four straight, including close wins over Tulsa, TCU and Kansas State. They also dominated USC. At 2-0 in the Big 12, the Horns are a threat in the Big 12. If they can knock off Oklahoma, they might be one of the favorites to reach the Big 12 Championship Game.

The Longhorns hold a 65-45-5 advantage in the all time series. However, Oklahoma has had an advantage in recent years. The Sooners have won three of the last four meetings. Oklahoma opened as a 7.5-point favorite, and the total for the game is 59. Tom Herman has a stellar record both against the spread and straight up as an underdog. The Sooners are 23-11 when appearing on GameDay, while Texas is 9-6.  

Week 7, Oct. 13: Wisconsin at Michigan, Ann Arbor, Mich.

In a bit of a surprise, College GameDay is heading to Ann Arbor as Michigan hosts Wisconsin in a Big 10 showdown. Many were expecting the show to head down to Baton Rouge for Georgia and LSU, but the Tigers’ loss at Florida likely led executives to change course to Michigan since the game airs in primetime on ABC, and Kirk Herbstreit will be on the call.

Both the Badgers and the Wolverines enter their matchup with a loss, though they each lost games outside of Big 10 play. Michigan lost to Notre Dame 24-17 in the season opener on the road — GameDay was in South Bend for that one, too — but they’ve responded by winning five straight games.

Wisconsin lost at home to BYU 24-21 as a double-digit favorite, and they followed that up with a critical road win at Iowa and a home win over Nebraska. They’re still the favorites to win the Big 10 West, and they can go a long way in securing a spot in the Big 10 title game with a road win at Michigan.

Michigan doesn’t have as much margin for error. The Big 10 East is better at the top with Ohio State and Penn State, so this is an important game for the Wolverines in conference play and for their playoff chances.

This will be the 12th time Michigan has hosted GameDay and the 29th time they have appeared on the show. The last time the show aired from Ann Arbor was in 2015 when Michigan hosted Michigan State in a game most famously remembered for the Wolverines’ botched punt at the end of regulation that resulted in the game-winning score for the Spartans.

Michigan is 14-14 when they have been featured on GameDay. Wisconsin is 6-10, and this will be the Badgers’ 17th appearance overall on the show. Michigan is currently a 7.5-point home favorite over Wisconsin.

Week 8, Oct. 20: Michigan at Michigan State, East Lansing, Mich.

Week 9, Oct. 27: Clemson at Florida State, Tallahassee, Fla.

Week 10, Nov. 3: Penn State at Michigan, Ann Arbor, Mich.

Week 11, Nov. 10: Auburn at Georgia, Athens, Ga.

Week 12, Nov. 17: USC at UCLA, Pasadena, Calif.

Week 13, Nov. 24: Auburn at Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Week 14, Dec. 1: SEC Championship Game, Atlanta

Week 15, Dec. 8: Army vs. Navy, Philadelphia

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College Football Gameday: History, Locations and Picks
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College Football Gameday: History, Locations and Picks
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Full guide to the ESPN cornerstone show: College Football Gameday, including history, hosts, and marquee game information before you tune in on Saturday.
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