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 was the second trip to Athens in three weeks and the fourth trip since 2019 after only one trip from 2009-2018. It was Kentucky’s first GameDay appearance since a 2007 road game against Florida.
Week 8: Oregon at UCLA
Location: Pasadena, Calif.
My bold prediction – Coastal Carolina and App State moving their game from Wednesday to Saturday to accommodate GameDay – flopped. Instead of the first-ever trip to Boone, College GameDay went to Pasadena for the 23rd time. It was only the second time they’re visiting for a UCLA game, though.
GameDay’s first and only trip to the Rose Bowl for a UCLA game was 23 years ago when Oregon also visited. This was the first Pac-12’s GameDay appearance of 2021 and the first regular-season appearance since 2018.
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.
With Michigan and Michigan State avoiding stumbles prior to their game in Week 6, the Spartans hosted GameDay for the first time since Oregon visited in 2015.
Week 10: Tulsa at Cincinnati
Location: Cheney, Wash.
If Kentucky defeated Georgia in Week 7 and was undefeated entering Week 10, they would’ve been a lock to host GameDay when Tennessee visits. That didn’t happen, leaving Week 10 ripe for an FCS game. And there was 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).
ESPN, however, passed on Eastern Washington – and Auburn at Texas A&M – for their first trip to Cincinnati.
Week 11: Texas A&M at Ole Miss
Location: Oxford, Miss.
Instead of picking an FCS game – or Oklahoma at Baylor following the Bears loss to TCU in Week 10 – ESPN opted for their first visit to Ole Miss since 2014, which was also the only visit to The Grove.
It will be Texas A&M’s first GameDay appearance since hosting (vs. Clemson) in 2018.
Week 12: Michigan State at Ohio State
Location: Columbus, Ohio
After Chris Fallica, among others at ESPN, teased Missoula for Montana State vs. Montana in the Brawl of the Wild as a potential Week 12 destination, GameDay went to Columbus for the first time since November 2019.
GameDay was also in Columbus for a Michigan State-Ohio State game in 2015 when the Spartans’ won, 17-14.
Week 13: Ohio State at Michigan
Location: Ann Arbor, Mich.
GameDay visited Ann Arbor in the first year of season-long on-site broadcasts and has returned 11 times over the last 25 years, most recently in 2018 when Michigan hosted Wisconsin.
It was just the second GameDay trip to Michigan for an Ohio State game (2007).
Week 14: SEC Championship
Location: Atlanta, Ga.
Whichever conference championship has the best combination of playoff implications and entertainment value is typically in line to host College GameDay. With Alabama and Georgia leading the College Football Playoff picture, the obvious bet was the SEC Championship, which also 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 returned to a neutral-site venue in 2021.
GameDay hadn’t missed an Army-Navy Game since 2013, and there was no reason to believe they’d skip the final regular-season game of the year.