ESPN’s College GameDay pulled out something of a surprise for its next stop on the schedule. For Week 7, the college football pregame show will broadcast from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

That choice might seem like an unusual one for GameDay, but none of this Saturday’s matchups involve two Top 25 teams. Maybe ESPN could have gone to Austin Dallas for the Red River Showdown (as Jim Weber predicted before the season for us), but Oklahoma is coming off a loss to Iowa State and Texas is 3-2 so far this season. None of the other games on the schedule hold that much appeal from a national perspective.

Meanwhile, the Dukes are 5-0 this season, ranked No. 1 in FCS and hold the longest streak in Division I college football at 17 games. James Madison is also the defending FCS national champions, defeating Youngstown State for the title last season.

Maybe it doesn’t hurt that GameDay executive producer (and ESPN’s vice president of college sports) Lee Fitting is a James Madison alum. But the Dukes’ success certainly warrants the spotlight, as does their matchup against Villanova (4-2 overall, 2-1 in the Colonial Athletic Association). The game kicks off at 3:30 p.m. ET.

GameDay also has some previous history with James Madison, having visited Harrisonburg in 2015. The broadcast attracted 12,000 fans to campus. Unfortunately, the Dukes lost that day (Oct. 24), despite Lee Corso picking them to win. JMU fell to Richmond in a shootout, 59-49.

“I talked about with the kids [this past Sunday] just because I wanted to go ahead and get it out there,” JMU coach Mike Houston told the Daily News-Record. “It’s been a rumor for a few weeks but we hadn’t even broached the subject. We just ignored it, but we talked about it [Sunday] and I reminded the older kids that maybe a mistake that was made the last time was that there was too much focus from the team on GameDay being here.”

Houston went on to say that the team won’t appear on GameDay, as they did two years ago, so they can maintain their focus on Villanova. But hopefully, the coach stops by the set and enjoys his program and the school getting some national exposure.

James Madison will be the second FCS school to host GameDay more than once, joining North Dakota State (which hosted the show in 2013 and 2014). ESPN’s college football pregame show has visited FCS school eight times in its history.

About Ian Casselberry

Ian is an editor for The Comeback and Awful Announcing. He has covered baseball for Yahoo! Sports, MLive.com, Bleacher Report and SB Nation, and provides analysis for several sports talk radio shows each week. He currently lives in Asheville, NC.

  • TJE

    The Red River game is in the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, where it’s been played since 1932.

    • Thanks.

    • Ty Dahmer

      yea, and I don’t think anybody will argue that any appeal is there outside of texas and oklahoma. I think it’s great that FCS teams get visited on occasion. I watched the FCS championship game last year with JMU against I think it was Sam Houston state. JMU played awesome defensively and before that game they had shut down NDSU and Youngstown St, two very high scoring offenses who were playing at home. For an FCS school their fans are crazy. The set will be rockin’ this week.

  • homer jay

    JMU defeated North Dakota State for championship last year, not Youngstown State