But James Madison standout defensive players Cornell Urquhart and Raven Greene have actually 'been there, done that'. Greene started in the 2015 Richmond game that came after the show plunked down in the JMU quad earlier in the day. Urquhart also received a good chunk of snaps as a backup.
COMPARISON: James Madison vs. Villanova, by the numbers
The two defenders are taking this week in stride, taking the high road when it comes to focus. But they know exactly how big it is for the program and the JMU brand. So we asked the question: If they were recruits and ESPN Gameday had been in Harrisonburg when they were visiting JMU's campus, how big an effect would it have made?
"To be honest, if I'd heard Gameday was coming I would have committed on the spot," Urquhart told HERO Sports. "It probably would have had that effect on me. The fact that this is the second time is tremendous."
So what are their first memories of this iconic show for college football? The show that began airing in 1987 and moved on to campuses as early as 1993?
"I just remember in middle school and high school getting up Saturday morning, getting the lists, the lineups of the game," Greene told HERO Sports. "It was a great show — just seeing that personality coming to life, just being able to jell together and how they interact with other."
"I always liked the end when (Lee Corso) puts the on mascot helmet for the one he thinks will win," Urquhart said. "I think it is a great shot. I always loved getting up at 9 a.m. and watching those crazy signs."
THANKS GAMEDAY, BUT WE WON'T BE GRABBING ANY POPCORN AT THE CIRCUS
The duo appreciates the show, but guess what? They won't be watching it. Maybe they can catch it on tape delay some day, but when it's going on? They won't be in the middle of it all like they were in Oct. 2015 when the show last came to JMU. This time around, they'll be focused on the Xs and Os instead of the Kirks and Corsos. And there's a good reason for that: This Villanova team is very, very good on defense and will make this an interesting game. It is one overtime away from being undefeated against the FCS, despite its lineup being ravaged by injuries.
With the No. 2 rushing defense in the nation and the No. 6 scoring defense, the Wildcats don't concede much. Even with all-American and interception artist DB Rob Rolle out with injury and Tanoh Kpassagnon and Austin Calitro off to the NFL this year, 'Nova is still playing defense like it always has. Not to be outplayed, JMU's defense is good for No. 3 in scoring defense and No. 3 in total defense.
So, in other words … you see where this is heading. That's why they can't get distracted. One play could determine the outcome — this won't be a free-for-all shootout.
"Field position is going to be play a pretty big role, and special teams will be a part of it," Greene said. "We're going to operate as best we can."
That's because they want to avoid the circus distraction that happened in 2015 when they lost the game, when maybe the team got caught watching the show a bit too much. This time, the team is hoping ESPN GameDay gets the fans fired up even more than usual so that they drown the stadium with noise — that's the biggest reason the players are glad the circus is in town.