It is one of the most popular sports network’s most popular shows, and after 12 years, ESPN has brought their award-winning college football pregame show “College Gameday” back to Lincoln.
Constructed on Vine Street between Memorial Stadium and 14th Street, the massive set contains the standard news desk with room for the host, analysts, and a guest or two. Plus the cameras and their operators. There is a small square of football turf for some Xs and Os demonstrations. Buses, trailers, metal fences, lights, cameras – Gameday creates their own little city.
The main attraction every week, though, is the venue and the host college town. With the East Stadium façade as the backdrop, a bunch of screaming students and fans with their homemade signs give life to the show.
Former Heisman trophy winner Desmond Howard, one of Gameday’s analysts, credits the relationships he and the other on-camera stars have as a big reason for the show’s sustained success. “I think the chemistry on the set, we really love college football,” Howard said. “There’s a respect there, too, that we have for our audience. We spend a lot of time on topics, trying to figure out just the right way to present it to our audience, because we care.”
“Seems like every week we have record crowds,” said Kirk Herbstreit, the lead analyst on College Gameday. As for why he thinks the show is so popular, Herbstreit explained, “The sport of college football, the passion, the energy – people love this sport.”
One of the biggest reasons for excitement around this return visit to Lincoln is that 2007 seems like a lifetime ago. That is the last season Nebraska welcomed College Gameday. The #14 Huskers hosted top-ranked USC on September 15th that year. A 49-31 primetime loss to the Trojans followed, as did a 5-7 season.
Now that Scott Frost is at the helm, it appears Nebraska is earning back some national respect. Nebraska was ranked in the preseason polls, and they have won seven of their last ten games. That, combined with fifth-ranked and two-time defending Big Ten Champions Ohio State coming in, created a recipe for a primetime game and the national spotlight that comes with it.
Rece Davis, the host of College Gameday, said, “I think it’s a real opportunity for Nebraska to have a milestone, landmark type win.” He noted that the Huskers, a 17-point underdog, can earn even more credibility by playing well Saturday night. “You can generate some real momentum by pulling an upset like this,” Davis said.
It used to be a regular occurrence, seeing ESPN trucks roll into Lincoln for a big game. They brought their studio show six times prior to this week, including twice in both 1994 and 2001. “When I started on the show in 1996, Nebraska was an Alabama,” noted Herbstreit. “They were either in the National Championship, or they were right there.” That’s where Frost wants to take them again.
College Gameday airs live from 8-11am on Saturday mornings. KLIN’s Jack Mitchell will be there reporting from the fan’s perspective. You can hear his reports during the KLIN Husker Hour from 9-10am on KLIN.