College GameDay Credit: ESPN

ESPN kicked off the latest season for College GameDay on Saturday morning. Charlotte, North Carolina, played host to the iconic college football pregame show and one of ESPN’s crown jewels.

The new season for GameDay has brought a few changes to the broadcast. First and foremost, after Rece Davis‘ cold open, the show debuted a new anthem. Gone were Big & Rich and “Comin’ To Your City.” In its place was the same song, in essence, but sung by different artists. Darius Rucker, Lainey Wilson, and The Cadillac Three provided vocals for the new theme song.

But the song wasn’t much of a hit with the audience. It received relatively unfavorable reviews online. While it seemed like many were happy to hear the music again, it felt more connected to the season’s beginning than the song’s choice. It’s not the fairest thing in the world to levy expectations like that, but the theme took on a life of its own for a while. And as a result, college football fans hold it in high regard. So, if their feelings are inevitable, they come from a good place, at least.

Davis, Desmond Howard, and Kirk Herbstreit helped welcome Lee Corso on the set for his latest run.

Pat McAfee began his second season full-time on the College GameDay crew. McAfee’s energy certainly created another vibe that played well with the audience. Pat must have spent much time watching Lee bait-and-switch over the years on his picks because he made a masterful turn after he picked between North Carolina and South Carolina. McAfee buttered the Gamecocks up before choosing the Tar Heels to disapproval from a mostly pro-South Carolina crowd in Charlotte.

Jen Lada and Jess Sims each made appearances on the show. On the show, there was a contest featuring four fans and Oreos, as the contestants attempted to drop the sandwich cookie down from their foreheads into their mouths. The panelists also played a mini-game on the set where they had to guess transfer quarterbacks’ new destinations.

New presence “Stanford” Steve Coughlin appeared to make picks during the show. You know what you’re getting out of Coughlin if you’ve followed his career. Even without his primary tag team partner, Scott Van Pelt, Coughlin still played well in his new dwelling.

Rucker made another appearance at the show’s end as Week 1’s guest picker. He received a strong ovation from the fans and helped rally the South Carolina fans. Rucker picked the Gamecocks to triumph over the Tar Heels, a choice the South Carolina fanbase endorsed big time.

If one presence was missed on the show, it was David Pollack. Fans online voiced frequent displeasure over the fact that Pollack, who was a victim of ESPN’s mass layoffs this summer, was no longer on the show.

All told, College GameDay did its job of being a vehicle to excite the kickoff of the 2023 college football season. Some new tricks were unveiled in terms of the mini-games and fan interactions. Whether those become a hit with the crowd and the viewing audience is to be determined. If nothing else, whatever you might think of the show at this stage, it was great to see it back. Why? Because it played the role of driving us right into football season.

And at the end of the day, for Week 1, that’s all you can ask for.

About Chris Novak

Chris Novak has been talking and writing about sports ever since he can remember. Previously, Novak wrote for and managed sites in the SB Nation network for nearly a decade from 2013-2022