CLEMSON – OK, so this is hardly a “stop the presses” announcement.
Quite possibly the worst-kept secret in college football circles is no longer supposedly hush-hush. ESPN made it official Tuesday afternoon: Clemson will host the 2013 College GameDay season premiere on Aug. 31 when the Tigers take on Georgia.
Studio contributor David Pollack let it slip last spring of the show’s likely site to open the year. Host Chris Fowler did the same Tuesday morning in a live SportsCenter appearance with Clemson coach Dabo Swinney. A Wikipedia page documenting GameDay’s historical stops already punched in Georgia-Clemson Monday night. Even coaches and sports information directors were growing weary of the charade of pretending the decision was yet to be made.
Now, it’s no longer taboo. University officials are hard at work to showcase Clemson to the country. Think three hours of free advertising when Chris Fowler, Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit embark on their 18th consecutive season together traveling from campus to campus and previewing the day in college football.
Fowler, Pollack and Herbstreit, along with the GameDay crew, were in town as part of ESPN’s bus tour highlighting preview shows around the country. Clemson’s preview aired Tuesday. ESPN visited Georgia Monday.
The Aug. 31 episode of GameDay will air from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., a four-hour marathon marking the longest in the show’s 27-year history. GameDay will play directly into a 1 p.m. Rice-Texas A&M kickoff.
After the season-opening show in Clemson, College GameDay will run Saturday mornings from 9 a.m. to noon on ESPN. In the past, the 9-10 a.m. time slot was on ESPNU.
“Anytime there is an increased appetite for college football, that’s a good thing for us,” ESPN senior coordinating producer Lee Fitting said. “Fans tell us they can’t get enough GameDay, well, four hours in Week 1 should help them out. And now, with all three hours on ESPN for the remainder of the season, they never need to touch the remote.”
The fifth-ranked Bulldogs and No. 8 Tigers will kick off at 8 p.m. on Aug. 31, with Brent Musberger and Herbstreit calling the game on ABC.
“It reeks of a shootout. It reeks of a lot of points,” Herbstreit said Tuesday on College Football Live. “Two of the most experienced quarterbacks this year in college football. You have two relatively young defenses, especially on the back end, and all of a sudden you’ve got to get ready for an up-tempo offense.”
“This looks like a game that could be 45-42. It’s going to be a fun shootout.”
Other key games on opening Saturday include No. 13 LSU vs. No. 20 Texas Christian in the Cowboys Classic in Dallas, and top-ranked defending champion Alabama against Virginia Tech at the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic in Atlanta.
But when only considering on-campus showdowns for Aug. 31, the renewal of the Georgia-Clemson series was too tasty for ESPN to pass up.
“We were anxious to get back on campus to open the show, and be around the students,” ESPN producer Jonathan Whyley said. “A top 10 matchup is pretty hard to beat, especially these two teams and their storied programs. A lot of good storylines, so it’s good to be back here.”
It will be the nomadic program’s second appearance in Clemson, aside from a 2006 appearance when the No. 12 Tigers throttled No. 13 Georgia Tech 31-7.
Clemson’s GameDay history has been full of heartbreak since then: two losses on the road (at Auburn in 2010 and Florida State in 2012), as well as neutral-site defeats when the Tigers were favored.
Georgia hasn’t necessarily loved seeing the GameDay bus pull into town, whether it’s in Athens or elsewhere. The Bulldogs are 3-12 when part of the featured game.
Usually GameDay’s presence fuels the host city to a higher degree than normal, but road teams have actually fared pretty well recently. Visitors were 5-6 in 2011, and an impressive 7-4 in 2012, including two road wins each for Notre Dame and Florida.
CLEMSON’S GAMEDAY HISTORY
Oct. 21, 2006 – No. 13 Georgia Tech at No. 12 Clemson
Final: Clemson 31, Georgia Tech 7
Notes: James Davis and C.J. Spiller combined for 332 rushing yards. Calvin Johnson did not have a catch. The win raised the Tigers into the top ten, before falling in four of their last five.
Aug. 30, 2008 – No. 24 Alabama vs. No. 9 Clemson (Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic, Atlanta)
Final: Alabama 34, Clemson 10
Notes: The Tide outrushed the Tigers 239-0. Expectations were astronomical heading into Labor Day Weekend. By Halloween, head coach Tommy Bowden had resigned and left the team in the hands of interim (for the time being) coach Dabo Swinney.
Sept. 18, 2010 – Clemson at No. 16 Auburn
Final: Auburn 27, Clemson 24 (OT)
Notes: Clemson let one slip away, letting the eventual national champs claw back from a 17-0 deficit in Jordan-Hare Stadium. Instead, Clemson finished a dismal 6-7, its only season in the past decade it never sniffed the national top 25.
Jan. 4, 2012 – No. 23 West Virginia vs. No. 15 Clemson (Orange Bowl, Miami)
West Virginia 70, Clemson 33
Notes: The number ‘70’ is a dirty word around Clemson. The Tigers were the subject of a few punch lines well into the offseason, staining the glow of an ACC Championship and ushering in the Brent Venables era on defense.
Sept. 22, 2012 – No. 10 Clemson at No. 4 Florida State
Florida State 49, Clemson 37
Notes: The Tigers’ offense was good in Tallahassee – leading 28-14 in the third quarter – but Florida State’s attack was unstoppable, to the tune of 667 total yards. It was the fourth straight year the ACC Atlantic Division champion was determined by the Clemson-FSU outcome.