ESPN College GameDay has become an integral part of the college football Saturday morning experience. Every weekend thousands of people get up to see Corso, Kirk, and Co. talk about the day of college football ahead.
But what makes the show so wonderful is the live aspect — the crew goes on the road each week to a featured game, giving different campuses the opportunity to host, show off their schools and their fanbases.
Over the years there have been some outliers from the traditional FBS powers GameDay usually visits — such as a trip to FCS James Madison, and D3 Williams. But not once since the show debuted in 1993 has a D2 football school hosted the weekly spectacle. We'd love to change that.
So we created a theoretical D2 Football College GameDay schedule for the 2017 season. Here's where the crew would have to stop.
Week 1: Texas A&M-Commerce at North Alabama
Thursday, August 31 — 6 p.m.
[credit]Braly Stadium at UNA[/credit]
GameDay opens the season down south with a Thursday night matchup between Texas A&M-Commerce and North Alabama in Florence, Alabama.
Home to the namesake of the Harlon Hill Trophy, North Alabama has the historical factor every school needs for storytelling in the three-hour time frame. The Lions are jumping up a level to FCS next fall as well, so a GameDay visit would be a fitting sendoff.
Current New York Giant Janoris Jenkins could make a return trip to his former stomping ground as the guest picker, and put a bow on the festivities. I don't know about you, but before the original dynasty of D2 heads for the greener pastures of the FCS, we would love to see them on College GameDay.
Week 2: West Chester at Slippery Rock
Saturday, Sept. 9 — 6 p.m.
Slippery Rock may not boast the fanciest dwellings in the country, but the classic charm makes the setting even better for a Saturday evening tilt with a PSAC foe — it's the perfect backdrop for week 2 of D2 Football GameDay.
Week 3: Central Washington at Azusa Pacific
Saturday, Sept. 16 — 6:30 p.m.
Location, Location, Location. (Photo — Azusa Pacific Athletics)[/credit]
GameDay crosses the country from Pennsylvania to Glendora, California for a Week 3 tilt between Azusa Pacific and Central Washington.
The Cougars' campus offers palm trees and sunny skies a hop, skip and a jump away from Los Angeles, but it's not all about the location — Azusa Pacific is a solid squad, a returning playoff team from 2016. The GNAC matchup against Central Washington will be important for conference standings.
Week 4: Texas A&M-Commerce at Texas A&M-Kingsville
Saturday, Sept. 23 — 7 p.m.
Texas A&M-Kingsville Athletics[/credit]
Capitalizing big-time on the historical factor, Kingsville serves as a fantastic host for a D2 football GameDay with NFL connections. Over their program's history, Hall of Famers such as Gene Upshaw and John Randle once donned the blue and yellow of Kingsville football.
Nowadays, TAMU-K is still a national powerhouse with big-time talent along the defensive line in Brandon Jones (who one day should be a pro player as well). With the combination of historical excellence with current success, the Javelinas would be an absolutely perfect host for a Lone Star Conference showdown in Texas.
Week 5: Northwest Missouri State vs Central Missouri
Saturday, Sept. 30 — 4 p.m. at Arrowhead Stadium
[credit]Northwest Missouri State and Central Missouri face off again at Arrowhead Stadium. (NW Missouri State Athletics)[/credit]
The most obvious choice to host GameDay would be the reigning champs — the school with the record for most D2 football titles: Northwest Missouri State.
The biggest spectacle on the Bearcats' schedule is the yearly matchup against Central Missouri, which will again be held at Arrowhead Stadium, the home of the Kansas City Chiefs.
Though it's not their home stadium, the Bearcats are 10-3 all time at Arrowhead, so Central Missouri will have its work cut out in this high-profile matchup.
Week 6: Western Oregon at Simon Fraser
Saturday, Oct. 7 — 1 p.m.
Plans for new stadium upgrades at Simon Fraser. (Photo: Simon Fraser Athletics)[/credit]
Now this would be a big event, as GameDay heads to our neighbors up north to visit the only NCAA football program in the Canada. Simon Fraser is working on new stadium upgrades which include hillside seating at Terry Fox Field. The new stadium amenities would be worthy of showing off to an audience to draw them up to Canada for an American Football game.
One of the more unorthodox choices we will include, there is no doubt Simon Fraser belongs as a potential host for GameDay.
Week 7: Minnesota-Duluth at Northern State
Saturday, Oct. 14 — 1 p.m.
Northern State Athletics[/credit]
As we wrote recently, South Dakota is lousy with football teams. The Mount Rushmore state leads the country in college football teams per capita. GameDay heads to the home of one of those teams –the Northern State Wolves — for a week 7 matchup against Minnesota-Duluth.
The two teams will hit the Clark Swisher Athletic Complex for an important game in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference.
Week 8: Grand Valley State at Ferris State
Saturday, Oct. 21 — 1 p.m.
[credit]Ferris State Athletics[/credit]
College football is all about rivalries, and Ferris State vs. Grand Valley State is one of the best — the Anchor Bone Classic.
GameDay heads to Michigan for this Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference showdown, a rematch of the 2016 D2 playoff quarterfinal matchup that Ferris State won 47-32.
Week 9: Florida Tech at Valdosta State
Saturday, Oct. 28 — 7 p.m.
Valdosta State Athletics[/credit]
Championship programs tend to be a mainstay for ESPN College GameDay, so it only makes sense we would visit a D2 football champion in our version. Valdosta has three titles of their own to show off if a trip was made to South Georgia.
Week 9 of the D2 football schedule features a Gulf South Conference matchup that's sure to excite. Plus, Valdosta is just a 20-30 minute drive from the Florida border. So guess who we would see as the guest picker that week? Let me just give you a hint: put your windows down and Cruise.
Week 10: North Alabama at West Florida
Saturday, Nov. 4
Blue Wahoos Stadium set against the Pensacola Bay (Photo: West Florida Athletics)[/credit]
One of the youngest programs in D2 football (started in 2016), West Florida actually plays their home contests at Blue Wahoos Stadium, the home of the Pensacola Blue Wahoos (AA affiliate for the Reds).
That's the site of a Week 10 matchup against powerhouse West Alabama, as D2 Football GameDay stays in the south for another week. While the Argonauts are young and still building a fan base, GameDay would help put the UWF name on the national scene.
Week 11: Henderson State at Ouachita Baptist
Saturday, Nov. 11 — 1 p.m.
The final week of the regular season sees D2 Football GameDay head to one of the most unique sets possible — Arkadelphia, Arkansas, and the home of the shortest road trip in college football.
Henderson State "travels" to Ouachita Baptist for the Battle of the Ravine, the yearly matchup between the two schools. I say "travels" because the two schools are literally across the street from each other, just separated by 10th Street (Arkansas Highway 7).
What better place for D2 Football GameDay to close the regular season than with a cross-street rivalry?