ESPN College GameDay began visiting the sites of college football games in 1993. They didn't broadcast from an FCS game until 2013. However, a hat tip to the network crew for making up for lost time; they've showcased five FCS games since, including two in one season (2014).
Since North Dakota State first hosted GameDay in 2013, ESPN has picked at least one FCS game in four of the last five years, only passing on a game in 2015. If they made it fix of six years, which FCS game will they pick?
Here are the best opportunities for ESPN College GameDay to visit an FCS game in 2018, ranked in order of most to least likely.
North Dakota State has the best chance of any FCS team to make a 2018 GameDay appearance — by a mile. The Bison hosted in both 2013 and 2014 but lost out to James Madison twice (2015, 2017) since then.
This isn't the juiciest game on NDSU's schedule but it comes during a good week. There are several GameDay-worthy FBS matchups in Week 8 — e.g. Oklahoma at TCU, Michigan at Michigan State, Mississippi State at LSU — but all those teams have other opportunities to host (or make one or multiple away appearances on) GameDay throughout the season.
It's unlikely they'd visit Ann Arbor (Wisconsin at Michigan) and East Lansing (Michigan at Michigan State) in back-to-back weeks. TCU has a great chance to "host" in Week 3 when they play Ohio State at AT&T Stadium, Oklahoma could host one of many other weeks, and who knows if LSU will be on the national radar come Oct. 20.
"SIU is going to make a big jump in the MVFC. It's coming. The question is when does it happen? " HERO Sports FCS writer Sam Herder wrote in Southern Illinois' preview.
If the Salukis make a big jump from their four-win 2017 and are playing for an MVFC title (and/or playoff spot) in the regular-season finale, it gives their trip to Fargo even more thunder to potentially overtake Miami-Virginia Tech for a Week 12 GameDay appearance.
3. Montana State at Montana
While it's unlikely the MVFC race won't be sexier than a beef brisket, it's possible the conference's top teams beat up on each other and, for example, a one-loss North Dakota State emerges as champion before the finale.
If that's the case, how does the Big Sky race look? Are Montana State and Montana playing for the title in Missoula on Nov. 17? If so, and again, if Miami-Virginia Tech doesn't tickle ESPN's fancy, this game makes a ton of sense.
James Madison, North Dakota State and Harvard are the only FCS schools to ever host GameDay.
It's hard to see ESPN passing on Ohio State at Penn State in Week 5. However, both the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions have other potential GameDay opportunities, and there's a massive game in Fargo in Week 5.
Easton Stick and North Dakota State host Taryn Christion and South Dakota State in a game that, even though it's only Sept. 29, could determine the MVFC champ.
MORE: FCS Mailbag
What if, dare I say, it's South Dakota and South Dakota State fighting for the MVFC title in the final week, not North Dakota State?
The odds aren't … great.
But if South Dakota "surprises doubters," like Herder predicted and South Dakota State upsets North Dakota State in September, this game has some attractiveness to ESPN if they pass on that Miami-Virginia Tech game.
North Carolina A&T doesn't have national appeal — yet. The Aggies, however, coming off a 12-0 season, turned heads with their Week 0 win at Jacksonville State.
If NC A&T, one of the attendance leaders in the FCS last year, is barreling through the MEAC again and nearing a second straight undefeated season, the hype could be building and warrant consideration for a trip to Greensboro for ESPN.
ESPN has never visited an HBCU school.
Montana is no longer annual title contenders, it's still a good, stable program who hosts an up-and-comer in UC Davis — led by former Boise State and Colorado coach Dan Hawkins — on Oct. 27.
If Khalil Tate and Arizona are rolling come Week 9, GameDay will be in Tucson. If not, and they pass on Clemson-Florida State and Kansas State-Oklahoma, a trip to Montana could be a hell of a lot of fun.
8. Stony Brook at James Madison
ESPN probably won't give James Madison a third GameDay in four years. However, if they pass on those FBS games in Week 9 and love what they saw in Harrisonburg the last two visits, don't rule it out.
The Dukes will be in the national championship picture again, and while Stony Brook is expected to take a step back after a 10-win 2017, this could be a huge game in the CAA race.
Don't bet the farm on it, but crazier things have happened
A Bo Pelini-coached team has made one GameDay appearance all-time: Nebraska at Wisconsin on Oct. 1, 2011. Might the fourth-year Youngstown State head coach be in line for another appearance?
Probably not, thanks to a loaded FBS schedule on Nov. 3: Penn State at Michigan, Texas A&M at Auburn, Alabama at LSU and UCLA at Oregon.
There are, however, opportunities for all four of those home teams to host GameDay in 2018, therefore if the Penguins and Bison are rolling come Week 10, this game could attract ESPN's attention.
Like Stony Brook-JMU on Oct. 27, don't bet more than a 5-cent gumball this, though don't completely discount the possibility.
10. Indiana State at South Dakota State
This is the sneaky pick if ESPN wants to jump outside the JMU-NDSU box. It'd be less sneaky if Indiana State didn't suck at football.
Washington at UCLA, Texas at Oklahoma, Florida State at Miami (FL), Auburn at Mississippi State and Notre Dame at Virginia Tech are all threats to the Jackrabbits' GameDay bid, though if some of those teams fall out of the playoff picture with early losses and/or ESPN projects later-season visits to their campuses, might they look at Brookings, S.D., in Week 6?