Week 1, Aug. 31: Georgia at Clemson
Two teams that ended the 2012 season with emphatic bowl victories, featuring two of the nation’s quarterbacks in Aaron Murray and Tajh Boyd, each likely to sport a top 10 ranking, *and* regional bragging rights at stake?
Death Valley is the logical choice for College Gameday’s Week 1 broadcast. ESPN’s David Pollack (and former Georgia defensive end) also may have let the cat out of the bag, per Saturdays Down South.
Wild Card: LSU vs. TCU (in Arlington, Texas)
College Gameday set up shop at the Dallas Palace for last year’s season opener, which fit with the goal of making this college football’s marquee Week 1 match-up. Add that Cowboys Stadium is also the home of the first College Football Playoff,
Week 2, Sept. 7: Notre Dame at Michigan
The lights will again shine down on the Big House, when defending national runner-up Notre Dame visits for the last time in the foreseeable future. The Fighting Irish’s last visit here was the first with lights in the illustrious history of Michigan Stadium. It also resulted in one of the best finishes in recent memory.
Wild Card: Texas at BYU
One of the biggest match-ups to come to LaVell Edwards Stadium in BYU’s brief independence is this one. Gameday previously visited Provo in 2009.
Week 3, Sept. 14: Alabama at Texas A&M
Well, this is a no-brainer. The rematch millions have anticipated comes to a renovated Kyle Field. Thousands more seats at Kyle Field means thousands more rowdy Aggie fans on the set of College Gameday.
Wild Card: Vanderbilt at South Carolina
Say A&M loses to either Rice or Sam Houston State *cough* or Virginia Tech shocks Alabama in Week 1, another SEC showdown featuring teams that finished 2012 with a combined 20 wins and top 25 rankings awaits.
Week 4, Sept. 21: Kansas State at Texas
Bill Snyder is a thorn in the side of Mack Brown’s Texas Longhorns. K-State is coming off a Big 12 championship but faces uncertainty. This match-up is critical to the Wildcats’ repeat chances, because UT enters 2013 with a talented and veteran roster.
Wild Card: Boise State at Fresno State
Boise State has dominated this once promising rivalry en route to becoming the nationally recognized powerhouse Fresno State was once in line to be. But this year’s Bulldog team might be the program’s best since the 2001 season. That 2001 season was also Boise State’s launching pad to prominence, when it knocked off a top 10 ranked Fresno State team.
Should Derek Carr power Fresno State to an unbeaten start, his Heisman candidacy should gain traction.
Week 5, Sept. 28: Wisconsin at Ohio State
Ric Flair debuted in the World Wrestling Federation in 1991, boasting of being the “true” world champion. The Ohio State Buckeyes can stake claim to being the legitimate Big Ten Conference champions of 2012, but the Wisconsin Badgers are the official champions. UW’s run of three straight league titles are at stake when it visits the Horseshoe.
To be the man; WOOO! You’ve gotta beat the man.
Wild Card: USC at Arizona State
Arizona State snapped a 15-year losing streak to the Trojans on USC’s last visit to Sun Devil Stadium. This time around, the winner is in prime position for the Pac-12 South crown.
Week 6, Oct. 5: North Carolina at Virginia Tech
Blacksburg’s atmosphere was voted college football’s second best a year ago. A disappointing 7-6 season is unlikely to temper the Hokie faithful’s fervor. Va. Tech is one of the prime contenders for the ACC Coastal Division. Among its most likely competition are Larry Fedora’s upstart Tar Heels.
Wild Card: TCU at Oklahoma
The Horned Frogs could contend for the Big 12 championship in their second season as members, but must go through perennial league-leading Oklahoma.
Week 7, Oct. 12: Oklahoma vs. Texas (in Dallas)
The College Gameday crew returns to Texas for the Red River Shootout. The Texas State Fairgrounds are ideal for ESPN’s flagship show, with two of the sport’s best fan bases in attendance.
Wild Card: Florida at LSU
The cross-divisional rivalry has featured national championship-winners, unforgettable finishes and consummate SEC football. Coming off a 2012 in which six Gameday broadcasts featured SEC teams, it’s not a stretch to project a visit to Baton Rouge.
Week 8, Oct. 19: LSU at Ole Miss
The Rebels face one of the more treacherous early season schedules in college football. It’s entirely possible Ole Miss could enter this week with five losses after facing Vanderbilt, Alabama, Texas and Auburn on road, then hosting Texas A&M. Should the Rebels split that brutal road swing and upset A&M — two things I am projecting — then The Grove should be rocking for LSU’s visit.
Wild Card: TCU at Oklahoma State
Two contenders in the wide open Big 12, and an interesting juxtaposition of styles, TCU boasts solid defense. Oklahoma State is built on explosive offense. OSU has become a formidable program under Mike Gundy, and Gary Patterson’s TCU program is among the nation’s most consistent in the past decade.
Week 9, Oct. 26: UCLA at Oregon
College Gameday loves Eugene, and vice versa. No college season is complete without Lee Corso sporting Puddles’ oversized duck head. The Bruins are reigning Pac-12 South champions, and boast two of the premier talents in the conference: quarterback Brett Hundley and linebacker Anthony Barr.
Wild Card: Stanford at Oregon State
Not far from Eugene is a clash of two teams with legitimate Pac-12 championship aspirations. The Beavers took 2012 league champion Stanford to the brink last season on The Farm. This year, at a renovated Reser Stadium, Oregon State can take a big step toward its first Rose Bowl in nearly a half-century.
Week 10, Nov. 2: Georgia vs. Florida (in Jacksonville)
The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party pits two of the nation’s proudest programs against one another, with the SEC East potentially hanging in the balance. Last year’s match-up was a defensive slugfest in some especially football-friendly conditions.
Wild Card: Miami at Florida State
Once a premier rivalry, mutual struggles through the latter half of the 2000s dulled some of its luster. Florida State has been on a gradual climb back to national prominence, and is the reigning ACC champion. Al Golden has recruited an impressive cache of talent to Miami, and this year’s Hurricane team looks like it is easily the best of his short tenure there. This could very well be a preview of the ACC championship game.
Week 11, Nov. 9: LSU at Alabama
LSU returns to the scene of the Game of the Century, and the last place it beat rival Alabama in three tries. A college football season isn’t complete without a visit to the defending national champion’s home — especially if it’s Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Wild Card: Nebraska at Michigan
This selection is largely contingent on Michigan not landing the Week 2 Gameday broadcast against Notre Dame, which seems highly unlikely. Moreover, LSU-Alabama is a clear option for this week’s match-up. Still, the Huskers and Wolverines are front runners in the Big Ten Legends, and potential national championship dark horses. Should both enter Week 11 unbeaten, another College Gameday visit to Ann Arbor is not out of the question.
Week 12, Nov. 16: Michigan State at Nebraska
Assuming the previous week’s championship-implicated Big Ten showdown does not land the College Gameday crew, this one is a suitable replacement. Michigan State brings its loaded defense into Lincoln to try and slow the explosive Cornhusker offense.
Wild Card: Stanford at USC
Jim Harbaugh and David Shaw have rolled off a combined four straight over once-dominant USC, and five of the series’ last six. Lane Kiffin is fighting for his job in 2013, and needs to reverse a few of the dubious streaks he has going. Among them are the skid vs. Stanford, and the four years without conference titles. Both are at stake in this mid-November match-up.
Week 13, Nov. 23: BYU at Notre Dame
Nothing says late season football like frigid temperatures, and few things say college football quite like Notre Dame Stadium. After its best season in two decades, College Gameday cannot go 2013 without paying a visit to South Bend.
Wild Card: Oregon at Arizona
The only Gameday to ever emanate from Tucson was a late-season showdown pitting the Wildcats against Oregon. It ended in a thrilling, come-from-behind Duck victory in overtime. Having spent several Thanksgivings in Tucson, where I wore shorts and flip-flops, I can also guarantee more inviting weather than South Bend, Ind.
Week 14, Nov. 30: Clemson at South Carolina
Kickoff in the Palmetto State, wind down the regular season there. Should the Tigers and Gamecocks enter the last week of the regular season with conference championship credentials and BCS aspirations, this is the perfect destination to wrap up.
It’s also a perfect representation of Rivalry Week.
Wild Card: Ohio State at Michigan
This isn’t exactly a wild card, given the history and hatred that permeates from this rivalry. Both the Buckeyes and Wolverines could be in position to play for a national championship. This might also be a preview of the following week’s Big Ten championship.
Conference Championship Week, Dec. 7: Georgia Dome, Atlanta
College Gameday has spent four of the past five, and the last two championship weeks in Atlanta. The 2013 campaign should make it three straight.