We are two weeks away from the game of the year in the AAC between the Cincinnati Bearcats and the UCF Knights on October 29. The matchup has brought up memories of when ESPN’s College Gameday came to UCF for the first time in 2018.
On Monday it was announced that the Cincinnati-UCF game will kick off at either Noon or 3:30 p.m. on either ABC or ESPN. So the question is: Could Gameday come back to Orlando?
If Cincinnati, currently ranked 19th in the coaches poll, wins at SMU this Saturday, and UCF wins at East Carolina on Saturday night, You could likely have a top-25 matchup that GameDay will consider coming to, especially after they had a great experience in 2018, as pointed out recently by the show’s host Rece Davis.
Let's break down the games that UCF could be up against.
Notre Dame at #14 Syracuse - The Irish-Orange game is also a noon or 3:30 pm kick on ABC or ESPN, like Cincinnati-UCF. Notre Dame-Syracuse also was in the mix against Cincinnati-UCF in 2018. They are likely competing for better the TV slot and the GameDay show.
Syracuse has never hosted GameDay for football. If the Orange upset Clemson on Saturday, then Gameday likely goes to Syracuse. The question is, does an Orange loss eliminate them from hosting? With help, perhaps not.
Michigan State at #3 Michigan - Michigan State-Michigan is the primetime game on ABC. Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit will likely call this game as it is the last time they will get to call a Michigan State-Michigan game with the Big Ten leaving ESPN/ABC after this season. At the start of the season, this game would have been the pick. But the Spartans have struggled to a 3-4 record and GameDay has a clear better option for a Big Ten site.
#2 Ohio State at #16 Penn State- The marquee game on paper is Ohio State-Penn State. That game is at Noon on Fox. Fox’s pregame show will be there. Does GameDay join the party? It would be an easy flight for Herbstreit if he went to Ann Arbor after the show. But Penn State just got blown out at Michigan and has a tricky home game vs. Minnesota this Saturday. GameDay may opt to skip Happy Valley, considering they will likely go to Michigan-Ohio State later in the season.
#11 Oklahoma State at #17 Kansas State- This game lost some steam with Oklahoma State losing to TCU. Both have tough games this weekend with the Cowboys hosting Texas and Kansas State taking on TCU. A loss by either team this weekend takes them out of the mix. But if both win with some help, maybe Gameday will be in Manhattan.
Another option for GameDay could be to skip Cincinnati-UCF on October 29th in favor of possibly going to New Orleans on November 12 for UCF-Tulane. The Green Wave is in the top 25 with a home game against Memphis and a road game at Tulsa. Tulane has never hosted Gameday. The competition that week looks tough though, with Alabama at Ole Miss as a favorite along with TCU at Texas and North Carolina at Wake Forest.
In the end, Gameday has options. UCF has no control over where Gameday travels. They just need to worry about the trip to Greenville this week.
UCF’s Win over Temple on ESPN Down in TV Viewers from 2018
UCF’s 70-13 win over Temple last Thursday night on ESPN drew 603,000 viewers, according to ShowbuzzDaily.com. It is the 2nd-least-watched UCF football telecast that has aired on the original ESPN channel primetime ever ahead of only the Thanksgiving night game in 2015 against South Florida (388,000). It was down significantly from the 2018 edition of Temple-UCF, also a Thursday night game (1.1 million).
Many factors contributed to a low number. It faced head-to-head competition from FS1’s Baylor-West Virginia game, which was a way more competitive game and drew 1.1 million viewers. Also many were watching the NFL on Amazon Prime, which drew 8.8 million viewers for the Washington-Chicago game.