It was discussed as a possibility during the offseason, and now it's a reality: ESPN's College GameDay pre-game show will be airing live from Ames, IA next Saturday morning, ahead of the 3 PM CT Cy-Hawk clash between Iowa and Iowa State. The Des Moines Register's Randy Peterson reported it earlier Saturday night, and ESPN (and ISU football) made it official a few hours later:
Before the year began, Iowa-Iowa State was earmarked as a possible GameDay destination for a few reasons. One, GameDay had never been there before and the novelty of going somewhere new -- and doing their thing in front of a crowd that isn't jaded by annual visits from the ESPN crew -- is appealing. Two, Iowa State has been a program on the up for the last few years, with Matt Campbell guiding them to back-to-back 8-win seasons. That earned them buzz as a dark horse Big 12 contender this year. For our part, Iowa also entered the year with buzz as a possible Big Ten Championship Game participant, thanks to the presence of returning talent like A.J. Epenesa, Tristan Wirfs, and NAte Stanley. Three, it's a rivalry game, which always adds some extra juice to the proceedings.
The final reason behind GameDay's decision to head to Ames? Next week is a pretty fallow week on the college football schedule. There isn't a single game next between two ranked teams. That wasn't the case as of a few weeks ago, when it looked like there would be a couple ranked vs ranked match-ups next week. One of them was actually going to be the Cy-Hawk game -- until Iowa State needed three overtimes to narrowly escape with a win over UNI. That sent them packing from the Coaches Poll and down to a tie for #25 in the AP Poll; they fell out of the AP Poll this week (despite not playing at all). Clemson's trip to Syracuse was also going to be a match-up between ranked opponents, but while Clemson held up their end of the bargain through the season's first two weeks, Syracuse got utterly destroyed by *checks notes* Maryland (?!) yesterday. And so here we are, with the GameDay circus set to descend on Ames and the Cy-Hawk game next weekend.
And it will certainly be a circus, there's no doubt about that. Iowa fans who were around to remember GameDay's last visit to Iowa City (before the 2006 night game with Ohio State) can attest to that. The ESPN spotlight will be on Ames and the Iowa and Iowa State programs for three hours before the 11 AM CT games kick off. There will no doubt be features on Matt Campbell and Brock Purdy and other members of the Iowa State program; there will probably be a few stories on aspects of the Iowa program as well. Kirk Ferentz's status as the longest-tenured head coach in FBS? The Kinnick Wave? The Paulsen twins? There will be signs, so many signs. And, of course, there will be a guest picker, the identity of who will undoubtedly be a source of great discussion this week.
Will any of it matter when the teams kick off on Saturday afternoon? Probably not. But this was already going to be the biggest Cy-Hawk game in years, if not ever, based on the quality of each team and the expectations they have for this season. Adding GameDay to that mix is just throwing a bit more gas on the hype fire. Bring on the madness.