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Which Power Five schools are most likely to host their first College Gameday in 2019?

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An interesting conversation that we explore further.

NCAA Football: Clemson at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Over on SB Nation yesterday, Alex Kirshner ranked the handful of Power Five programs that have never hosted College Gameday by their chances of doing so in the next four years or so. As you know, that list would include the Syracuse Orange, which is why we’re talking about it here.

Alex scores all 11 schools in three categories (each from 1-5): team quality, visiting team quality and atmosphere potential. Syracuse tied for first with 12, equaling the total that Iowa State also had. Duke finished last, in case you wanted to point and laugh because you’ve now extended your animosity toward the Blue Devils to the gridiron as well.

While the list is a good one while gauging the likelihood over the next few years, we were curious (for obvious reasons) which were most likely to break through THIS fall. So looking at the schedules, here’s where those teams shake out based both on their own relative strength and the strength of potential opponents. We consider the other games those weekends as well, where possible.

NCAA Football: Clemson at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

1. Syracuse Orange

  • Primary option: September 14 vs. Clemson
  • Secondary option(s): N/A

Syracuse puts all of its eggs in one basket with Clemson headlining the home schedule and the next-best option probably being... Pitt, but that game’s on a Friday. Provided the Orange take care of business vs. Liberty and Maryland, and the Tigers also come in 2-0, this one’s tailor-made for Gameday. Arguably the two best teams in the ACC, the last two games both being very close and a week three schedule where the main competition is Florida at Kentucky or Iowa vs. Iowa State? It’s a perfect match (now don’t eff this up, ‘Cuse).

2. Iowa State Cyclones

  • Primary option: September 14 vs. Iowa
  • Secondary option(s): November 16 vs. Texas

Alex was right to include the ‘Clones up top along with Syracuse. Both Iowa schools could be ranked in week three, which makes that rivalry higher on the radar automatically. Also, it’s an actual rivalry game, versus the Clemson/Syracuse internet rivalry. ISU also has another option later in the year vs. the Longhorns, though there will be much stiffer competition for Gameday by that point. If SU slips up, the Iowa/ISU game could easily take its place.

3. Duke Blue Devils

  • Primary option: October 5 vs. Pittsburgh
  • Secondary option(s): November 9 vs. Notre Dame, November 16 vs. Syracuse, November 30 vs. Miami (FL)

Seems a little weird seeing Duke up here after they lost Daniel Jones to the draft, doesn’t it? And while I don’t think the Blue Devils will be all that good in 2019, the early October game vs. Pitt could surprise if both teams look better than expected to start the year. Any of those secondary options seem like longshots based on the other matchups those weeks, but Notre Dame, in particular, means there’s a chance if Duke’s hanging around near the bottom of the top 25.

NCAA Football: Minnesota at Wisconsin Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

4. Minnesota Golden Gophers

  • Primary option: November 30 vs. Wisconsin
  • Secondary option(s): November 9 vs. Penn State, October 12 vs. Nebraska

The Gophers went just 7-6 last year but appear to be rising and did beat Wisconsin last year for the first time since 2003. So there’s reason to circle that date, though it’s rivalry week and there’s a lot of higher-profile competition that Saturday. Week 7 is pretty much parked for Texas vs. Oklahoma, so the Nebraska game’s out. Week 11 is likely LSU vs. Alabama barring something unforeseen. Sorry, Gophers.

5. Rutgers Scarlet Knights

  • Primary option: November 16 vs. Ohio State
  • Secondary option(s): N/A

First off, Rutgers probably isn’t hosting Gameday because they’re bad. But if there’s any year even a mediocre Rutgers hosts, this would be it. Football started at Rutgers 150 years ago and they somehow still haven’t figured it out. However, ESPN can be a student of history and Ohio State comes to town right around when the first game was played against Princeton back in 1869 (it’s within a week or so). If Ohio State’s highly ranked and the Scarlet Knights aren’t unwatchable, there’s maybe a longshot chance.

6. Maryland Terrapins

  • Primary option: September 27 vs. Penn State
  • Secondary option(s): November 2 vs. Michigan

For the week 5 game against PSU to even be in play, the Terps need to be unbeaten (not on our watch, Maryland!) and they’ll need to beat out matchups like Ohio State/Nebraska, USC/Washington, Notre Dame/Virginia, Wazzu/Utah and Mississippi State/Auburn. Not happening. Week 10’s list is too long to even add here.

7. California Golden Bears

  • Primary option: November 9 vs. Washington State
  • Secondary option(s): November 16 vs. USC

Having November dates be your main option is tough for any team. But especially for Cal, which won’t start the season in the top 25 and also has to hope other Pac-12 teams don’t collapse (not worth banking on lately). As discussed above, Week 11’s out with Alabama vs. LSU on the slate. The following week is probably Georgia/Auburn with some other possibilities slotting in ahead of Cal/USC unless both teams are in the top 15.

NCAA Football: Virginia at Duke Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

8. Virginia Cavaliers

  • Primary option: October 19 vs. Duke
  • Secondary option(s): N/A

Virginia’s home schedule just doesn’t really allow for it this year. Even with potential Coastal champ expectations coming in, the lone home game that could host is already on a Friday (Virginia Tech to close the year). Duke requires a lot of random things to go right for both schools. Even if true randomness happened, Oregon vs. Washington and Michigan vs. Penn State are both that Saturday. UVA could very well participate in a Gameday game when they travel to Notre Dame, though.

9. Kansas Jayhawks

  • Primary option: October 5 vs. Oklahoma
  • Secondary option(s): N/A

Kansas will have Les Miles, making them interesting. And with Oklahoma coming to town in early October, that gives them at least some sort of fleeting hope — but only if the Jayhawks happen to be unbeaten. Week 6 has quite a few better options, however.

10. Wake Forest Demon Deacons

  • Primary option: November 23 vs. Duke
  • Secondary option(s): N/A

The only reason the Duke game’s even listed is because in some alt-reality where both teams are in the top 25, morbid curiosity absolutely sends College Gameday to Winston-Salem. There are bigger games that weekend and every other unfortunately for Wake. Plus the home slate doesn’t do them many favors this year.

11. Illinois Fighting Illini

That weekend’s going to be pretty full and unless both NU and Illinois are unbeaten and vying for the Big Ten West crown, not sure how they beat the collection of higher-profile games. Also, Illinois is both putrid and uninteresitng, which is a higher mountain to climb than what the two teams above them (Wake, Kansas) are dealing with.