A quirk of the 2019 college football schedule may allow UCF to host ESPN’s College GameDay on campus for the second straight year.
The week three schedule appears pretty light on top 25 matchups, paving the way for Stanford at UCF to be one of the only (if not the only) matchup of top 25 teams.
In terms of the preseason Amway Coaches Poll, it’s the only top 25 matchup, if both UCF and Stanford come into the game undefeated. (The AP Top 25 Poll comes out August 19th and probably won’t be that much different than the Coaches Poll.) Other contests have a shot at presenting two top 25 teams, so let’s explore all the options.
I’ve isolated seven likely games to be selected based on brand names and poll rankings.
The following teams are most likely to garner attention in terms of brand names and proximity to the top 25 polls.
Oklahoma at UCLA
Oklahoma presents itself as an obvious choice in terms of viewership. The Sooners are playing UCLA in a P5 OOC matchup in the Rose Bowl. Voters have currently ranked Oklahoma #4 in the Coaches Poll. National media figures have also hyped the Sooners as a likely choice for the CFP should they win the appropriate games.
UCLA is currently receiving votes and could play into a low 20s position with a win at the Cincinnati Bearcats and against San Diego State. Both games may be tough, especially visiting the Bearcats.
Clemson at Syracuse
Defending CFP champion Clemson takes on a Syracuse team that has been just as even with the Tigers as the Tide have been the past two years. Clemson hosts Georgia Tech and Texas A&M to start the season, neither of which are pushovers. Clemson should win both, but losing to A&M would put a damper on the excitement surrounding the Syracuse game.
Under Dino Babers, the Orange have become a trendy pick to surprise in the ACC this year coming off a 10-win season and a bowl win over West Virginia. Receiving votes, the Orange could be ranked if teams lose in front of them as their two games before this matchup are at Liberty and Maryland.
Stanford at UCF
The Knights play host to a Stanford team coming off a 9-win season with a bowl win over Pitt. UCF opens with what will be a scrimmage with Florida A&M then should escape a trap game at Florida Atlantic. Nevertheless, the Knights will most likely be ranked about 15 heading into the game with the Cardinal.
Stanford hosts Northwestern but travels to USC before crossing the country to play the Knights. Should the Cardinal take care of business, they will be ranked somewhere between 15-20 before visiting Spectrum Stadium.
Alabama at South Carolina
South Carolina is receiving votes and hosts Alabama coming off two very easy games for the Tide. Alabama will be ranked in the top five, and South Carolina is receiving votes to begin the season.
South Carolina should win both of its games on the schedule before hosting Bama, but wins over UNC and Charleston Southern will not push the Gamecocks into the top 25.
Folks who want to feature this game likely have visions of Stephen Garcia dancing in their heads.
Florida at Kentucky
Florida opens the season agains Miami, then gets a week off before hosting UT Martin. The Gators should be 2-0 and ranked highly coming into week three.
Kentucky is receiving votes, but the Wildcats won’t gain too much traction with wins over Toledo and Elon.
Despite the excitement surrounding this game the past couple years, this year’s game is not likely to feature two top 25 teams.
NC State at West Virginia
Both NC State and West Virginia are receiving votes in the Coaches Poll, but neither will garner enough attention to host GameDay.
The Wolfpack host East Carolina and Western Carolina. Although ECU has been down in recently, never underestimate their ability to take out an unsuspecting ACC team.
The Mountaineers host James Madison and travel to Missouri, where they will face a team with nothing to lose facing a postseason ban.
USC at BYU
BYU is the only team on this list who aren’t receiving votes. Also, the Cougars play Utah and travel to Tennessee before hosting USC. Do not look for the Cougars to be undefeated heading into this matchup.
USC is receiving votes and could very well be undefeated heading into this matchup. Hosting Fresno State and Stanford to begin the season is a good way for USC to crack the top 25.
The Right Thing (and the wrong…)
On paper, the best matchup at this point in time is Stanford at UCF.
Two ranked teams.
Two of the most successful teams of the past decade.
But, there’s always the chance that ESPN could pass on the most obvious matchup for several reasons.
First, ESPN could feel as though UCF has already had their moment. We humored the Knights in the midst of their 20-something-game win streak. We’re moving on.
Second, the matchup between Stanford and UCF lacks any kind of, qu’est-ce que c’est, passion? beef? moxy? fire? Said in another way, these two teams do not hate each other in a way that, say, any SEC team would. If the Knights were hosting a top 25 SEC West team, GameDay might be wayyy more likely to visit east Orange County again.
Despite all this, UCF must host College GameDay again in 2019. It’s the most compelling matchup of week three. And it’s two bonafide opponents who will be on the fringe of CFP discussions should they win out.