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.
You ready, James Madison?
— College GameDay (@CollegeGameDay) October 8, 2017
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.
— Lee Fitting (@leefitting) October 8, 2017
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.
— JMU (@JMU) October 8, 2017
“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.