Over 34 years, ESPN College GameDay has grown from a little-known in-studio cable TV show into a multimedia behemoth that routinely attracts more than two million viewers each week. And with a return to normalcy across college football in 2021, all eyes are on GameDay as schools and fans clamor to host ESPN’s flagship pregame show.
Where will Rece Davis, Kirk Herbstreit, and Co. visit this season? Here are updated week-by-week College GameDay predictions (and confirmed locations) for the 2021 college football season:
Week 0: NC Central vs. Alcorn State
Location: Atlanta, Ga.
North Carolina Central and Alcorn State became the 97th and 98th teams to be featured on College GameDay.
The two HBCU programs met at Center Parc Stadium – the home stadium of Georgia State – in the MEAC/SWAC Challenge, the 16th edition of the annual series. After passing on a limited FCS schedule last fall and missing a Week 0 show due to COVID cancellations, GameDay confirmed in late July the first show of the season would originate from Atlanta.
Week 1: Georgia at Clemson
Location: Charlotte, N.C.
College GameDay hasn’t shied away from neutral-site games if the matchup is big enough. The matchup in Charlotte was big enough for ESPN; in late July, the network confirmed the visit.
Clemson and Georgia, separated by just 70 miles, have faced each other 64 times, including 24 times over a 26-year period from 1962-87, but hadn’t met since Georgia pummeled Clemson in 2014 in the second half of a home-and-home series.
There was no chance ESPN would [ass on the biggest non-conference game of the season.
Week 2: Iowa at Iowa State
Location: Ames, Iowa
With Texas and Arkansas both winning in Week 1, GameDay could’ve returned to Fayetteville for the second time ever and the first time since 2006.
While both the Razorbacks and Longhorns have modest expectations, the temporary renewal of an old Southwest Conference rivalry remains a draw. They’ve played only four times since 1992, the year after Arkansas’ departure for the SEC, and hadn’t met in the regular season since 2008.
GameDay also could’ve returned to Ohio State for the eighth time in the last seven years or Navy for Air Force-Navy, as was previously rumored (and reported), for the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks. Instead, they visited Ames for Iowa-Iowa State for the second time in three years
Week 3: Auburn at Penn State
Location: University Park, Pa.
Thanks to the SEC’s foolish cross-divisional scheduling, Alabama hasn’t visited Florida in 10 years, which in itself was enough to warrant just the second GameDay visit to Gainesville in the last eight years. ESPN, however, passed on Bama’s 51st appearance – which would’ve broken a tie with Ohio State for most all-time appearance – and opted for State College.
The first-ever regular-season Auburn-Penn State game was a novelty game with mass appeal and, evidently, enough firepower to push out Bama-Florida. It was the show’s 10th all-time visit to Penn State, five of which have come in the last five seasons (one apiece) after zero visits from 2010-16.
Week 4: Notre Dame vs. Wisconsin
Location: Chicago, Ill.
What was scheduled to be the second game of a two-game neutral-site series at Lambeau Field and Soldier Field between Notre Dame and Wisconsin is now the first game of a two-game series that will conclude with a trip to Lambeau in 2026.
Even with Wisconsin’s Week 1 loss to Penn State, GameDay will make it its first trip to Soldier Field, where the Irish and Badgers will meet for the first time since 1964.
Week 5: Arkansas at Georgia
Location: Athens, Ga.
Three teams have never hosted nor appeared as a road or neutral-site team in College GameDay’s 28 years: Duke, Maryland, and Rutgers. If Rutgers had beaten Michigan (in Ann Arbor) in Week 4 to reach 4-0, and Ohio State (Rutgers’ Week 5 opponent) didn’t lose to Oregon in Week 2, the Scarlet Knights might’ve hosted in Week 5.
After Arkansas’ win over Texas A&M, Kirk Herbstreit implied the result had big GameDay implications, which proved to be the case. It was the third visit to Georgia in the last three years but the Razorbacks’ first appearance since 2011 (and just their third-ever appearance).
Entering Week 5, Georgia had the second-best national championship odds (+225), while Arkansas (+6600) is tied with Florida and Michigan for the 11th-best odds. After Week 6, Georgia is still second behind Alabama but has jumped to +175, and Arkansas is now buried at +12500.
Week 6: Oklahoma vs. Texas
Location: Dallas, Texas
If Arkansas beat Georgia in Week 5, they would’ve host GameDay (vs. Ole Miss) in Week 6. That didn’t happen, leaving ESPN with a choice of, presumably, Penn State-Iowa and Oklahoma-Texas. And they opted for the latter.
It was GameDay’s first trip to the state of Texas since 2019 and the first trip to the Red River Shootout since 2018. In six previous visits to Dallas for Sooners-Longhorns, the teams split the matchups with three wins apiece.
Week 7: Kentucky at Georgia
Location: Athens, Ga.
With a win over Notre Dame, Cincinnati officially entered the playoff picture and College GameDay picture for a Week 7 home game vs. UCF. But instead of visiting Cincinnati for the first time, GameDay opted for a return to Georgia.
It will be the second trip to Athens in three weeks and the fourth trip since 2019 after only one trip from 2009-2018. It will be Kentucky’s first appearance since a 2007 road game against Florida.
Week 8: Coastal Carolina at App State
Location: Boone, N.C.
Let’s take a shot: Coastal Carolina and App State move their game from Wednesday to Saturday to accommodate College GameDay.
Inexplicably, GameDay has never visited one of the best settings in American sports: Kidd Brewer Stadium in Boone, N.C. Without Indiana rolling (vs. Ohio State), a second Notre Dame trip (vs. USC) highly unlikely, and a lack of sex appeal in the Big 12 and elsewhere, this must be the selection in Week 8.
Week 9: Michigan at Michigan State
Location: East Lansing, Mich,
In a loaded week with several contention-dependent candidates, the best bet was the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. That was before Florida lost to Kentucky, effectively eliminating them from SEC and playoff contention.
If Michigan and Michigan State avoid stumbles prior to their game in Week 6, the Spartans should host GameDay for the first time since Oregon visited in 2015. ESPN hasn’t picked a Wolverines-Spartans game in East Lansing since 1999.
Week 10: Montana State at Eastern Washington
Location: Cheney, Wash.
If Kentucky beats Georgia in Week 7 and is undefeated entering Week 10, they’re a lock to host GameDay when Tennessee visits. Disregard the subpar matchup; ESPN will go to Lexington for the first time since 2007.
If Kentucky isn’t undefeated and the network passes on LSU-Alabama, or one of several adequately attractive games, Week 10 is ripe for an FCS game. And there’s one obvious candidate: Montana State at Eastern Washington.
The show has never been to Cheney, Wash., nor has it ever visited any Big Sky program, or visited a site in which a Big Sky team was the road team for that matter. It would be the first FCS game at a campus site since 2019 (South Dakota State).
Week 11: Minnesota at Iowa
Location: Iowa City, Iowa
If College GameDay doesn’t visit an FCS school in Week 10, they could go to Sam Houston (vs. Dixie State) in Week 11. If not, they could visit Iowa City for the first time since 2006 (and just the third time ever).
The Minnesota-Iowa is less sexy than Michigan-Penn State but ESPN typically shies away from repeat visits in one season.
Week 12: Iowa State at Oklahoma
Location: Norman, Okla.
Barring further carnage at the top of the Big 12 and/or an unexpected blockbuster elsewhere, Oklahoma is in good position host GameDay in 2021.
The rematch of the 2020 Big 12 Championship will come two weeks before the 2021 Big 12 Championship, where the Sooners and Cyclones could meet for a third time in one calendar year.
If ESPN doesn’t visit Norman for the second straight year, Arkansas-Alabama is the only other notable option.
Week 13: Ohio State at Michigan
Location: Ann Arbor, Mich.
If Michigan stumbles after a strong start, it’s tough to see GameDay visiting Ann Arbor for the regular-season finale. If they’re chasing a 11- or 12-win season, they’ll probably host GameDay for the second time in the last four years.
There are also plenty of other options: Alabama at Auburn, Oklahoma at Oklahoma State, and Oregon at Oregon State.
Week 14: SEC Championship
Location: Atlanta, Ga.
Whichever conference championship has the best combination of playoff implications and entertainment value will host College GameDay. The best bet is the SEC Championship, which has hosted the show in 2018 and 2019.
Week 15: Army vs. Navy
Location: East Rutherford, N.J.
One year after COVID forced the Army-Navy Game to an on-campus stadium – Army’s Michie Stadium – for the first time since World War II, college football’s most iconic rivalry will return to a neutral-site venue in 2021.
GameDay hasn’t missed an Army-Navy Game since 2013, and there’s no reason to believe they’ll skip the final regular-season game of the year.
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