Iowa's Toughest Opponent: A GameDay Visit

By HaydensDumplings on October 5, 2021 at 6:30 pm
GameDay will not be in the house.
© Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

SEC Hypefest > BIG Game of the Year

Kirk, Desmond, Corso, and Rece hate the wave.

Is there any other explanation for ESPN's College GameDay shunning Iowa City this weekend? Not that I am counting (okay, I am) but we are approaching a cool fifteen years since GameDay last appeared in Iowa City. Troy Smith doesn’t even like unicorns anymore.

Instead of hightailing it to Iowa City for the program’s most hyped home game since 12-10, the GameDay crew is heading to Dallas for the annual soiree between soon-to-be SEC stalwarts Texas and Oklahoma. I mean, when you have an opportunity for a three hour infomercial for the ESS-EEE-CEE, you have to take it. You can’t spell ESPN without S-E (and, well, you know the rest).

On its merits, the Iowa-Penn State game is this weekend’s biggest game. Both are ranked in the top five, eyeing division titles and early playoff positioning. And with OU looking eminently beatable this year (not to mention the Hogs already hooking UT), the Iowa-PSU game carries greater national implications. The Big 12, including OU, has looked decidedly non-playoff worthy; the conference’s best chance for a playoff berth might be—trolling alert—future members Cincinnati or BYU.  

Instead of focusing on the cute, regional rivalry between OU and Texas, the bigger and more pressing question is this: Why hasn’t GameDay appeared in Iowa City for fifteen years and counting? Since GameDay last appeared in Iowa City (h/t Mike Hlas), ESPN’s popular show has appeared at Florida A&M, Williams College, Wake Forest, and Vanderbilt. Over that stretch, there have been multiple appearances at Iowa State, Minnesota, and Nebraska. There's a Hawkeye tagline ready to write itself (something like, “You keep the Corso ramblings; we’ll take the trophies”), but still.

But LOLing at our rivals aside, there is something fundamentally wrong with ESPN’s swipe left treatment toward our Hawkeyes. Over the past 15 years, Iowa has fielded consistently solid, and sometimes spectacular, teams (see Stanziball in 2009; CJB and company in 2015; this year’s ballhawking squad). If college football’s biggest hype show can find its way to, say, South Dakota State, you'd think Herbie and the boys would stumble into a Kinnick showcase once over the past 15 years. Instead, the GameDay crew will return to UT-OU for, brace yourself, the sixth time, dousing itself in blueblood and SEC glory.

In the grand scheme of world injustices, ESPN spurning Iowa City for Texas-OU ranks right around getting sun-dried, and not Roma, tomatoes for your pizza order. In other words, GameDay ducking Iowa City isn’t worth the full-throated Karen, or Ken, treatment. Fox's Big Noon Kickoff show will be live from Iowa City on Saturday, broadcasting from a set on the Pentacrest. But as a self-respecting Hawkeye fan, I have to admit that GameDay’s “it’s not you; it’s us” treatment rankles. For Iowa’s highest ranked team in a generation, you'd think GameDay could tilt its megaphone just slightly away from its tidy, prepackaged narratives (SECond to none, Texas is BACK! etc.) and toward Iowa City for the Hawkeyes’ deserved close-up. But even without Kirk, Lee, and Desmond serving as master of ceremonies, Iowa City will be the center of the college football universe this weekend—even if ESPN/GameDay producers can’t find Iowa City on a map.

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