As expected, ESPN College Gameday will be in Tallahassee, Fla. this week for what's become the best matchup in the ACC each season: Florida State and Clemson. The two teams are both ranked yet again, and in what's the "last week" of non-conference play for a lot of teams, the heated contest between the Tigers and Seminoles is an exception on the schedule.
.. Or at least it would be if not for some big SEC games also scheduled. LSU vs. Mississippi State and Alabama vs. Florida could both conceivably stake a claim to being this weeks' most interesting matchup as well, but ESPN went with the ACC. Part of this is because Clemson vs. Florida State is the only Saturday game between ranked teams (Auburn vs. Kansas State also qualifies, but takes place on a Thursday). The other is because of SEC Network's Gameday equivalent, SEC Nation.
As Bud Elliott details in the Tomhawk Nation piece linked above, SEC Nation is heading to Alabama vs. Florida on Saturday, and will actively try to avoid overlap between the new show and its flagship national program, College Gameday, whenever possible. While the show may have sounded like more SEC cow-towing by the college football establishment at first glance, we now see this may actually end up being a VERY good thing for the rest of the country. Avoiding overlap means that the long-established rotation of campuses used for Gameday may finally be challenged/broken down. Which at some point COULD open the door for... your Syracuse Orange.
Stay with me now... Probably not this season, and I'd be shocked if next year either. But if we're largely removing the SEC from the campus selection pool for Gameday, there's now a whole new opportunity for non-traditional picks to host the sport's biggest tailgate party each Saturday morning. A quick glance at the sites the show has chosen since its first airing in 1993 (top conference picks and top teams):
Total selections by conference
Big Ten (50)
Big 12 (22)
Top team selections (* denotes SEC):
Ohio State (13)
Florida State (10)
Three of the top eight schools are from the SEC, and out of the power conferences, 51 percent (!) of selections are from that league. Again, HUGE opportunity for the top schools in other conferences -- so yeah, probably going to see even more visits to the teams up there like Ohio State, Florida State, Oregon and USC. But it also means they may take a harder look at some of the power conferences programs that have yet to host at all. For your reference, those are (alphabetically):
Baylor, California, Duke, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa State, Kansas, Louisville, Maryland, Minnesota, SUNJ, Syracuse, Virginia, Wake Forest, Washington State
Where does Syracuse fall in that line in terms of who may be next? In my book, Louisville and Baylor are long overdue, and then Duke and Maryland would probably be the next preferred locations for ESPN. After that? Why not SU?
Hypothetically, that's the only question to be answered, but of course, there's more to it than that. First, you need to be a marquee game. Syracuse has only gotten significant votes in the polls once in the last decade (thanks, random blowout of West Virginia succeeded by five straight losses!). But the Orange host at least one of Florida State, Clemson and Louisville each year until the ACC gives up on these nonsensical divisions. So the ball's in our court (#basketballschool). Win games, get ranked and suddenly you're in contention.
There's also the other issues, however, both positive and negative: On the plus side, ESPN already knows how to host College Gameday (hoops edition) at Syracuse, having done so three different times. The novelty of SU for football is negligible in this argument because we're hypothetically up against other schools who haven't hosted before. And negatively, Syracuse's in-Dome support has not been all that stunning over the last decade, and our tailgate setup is... ummmm, not the best. These aren't dealbreakers. Just additional considerations that would be made by ESPN when coming to an ultimate decision.
Doubling back to the original premise now: Will the Orange EVER get to host College Gameday (for football)? It's tough to tell. Changes in process say yes, but without a season or two of selection results to take a look out, we really don't know the impact of SEC Nation just yet. And again, the biggest part of that answer is up to the football program. Can they become successful to the point where they can win nine or 10 games, and find themselves with a top-15 ranking against top-flight opponents at the Dome again? Because without that last part, it's never coming to fruition.
This isn't to kill off the faith we/I have in the road back to relevance. I believe we're moving forward, and have been for the larger part of the last five-plus seasons now. Just adding the caveat that it's going to take a couple more leaps and a bit of scheduling luck to get to a point where we can host College Gameday. If it never happens, we'll live. But if it does, you can bet I'll do whatever I can to be back on campus for that moment -- and I'm sure a lot of other alums/dispersed fans will too.