“I absolutely think so,” he said of an Alabama-Florida State rematch for the national title. “The loser (of the first game) won’t have any room to struggle, but they are the two best teams.”
College GameDay — ESPN’s weekly Saturday-morning program that has become part of the culture of college football — will kick off its 25th season of road shows by broadcasting from a set outside Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sept. 2, the show’s first visit to Atlanta since 2012. Davis will be joined by four returning members of the GameDay cast — analysts Lee Corso, Kirk Herbstreit, Desmond Howard and David Pollack — and one newcomer, reporter Maria Taylor.
The choice of Atlanta as the site for the three-hour show reflects the magnitude of the Alabama-Florida State matchup, which is billed as one of the better season-opening games in college football history, as well as the tidy storyline of starting GameDay's season in the city where the national championship will be determined four months later on ESPN.
“The idea that we can bookend the season in Atlanta (was appealing),” said Drew Gallagher, College GameDay’s coordinating producer. “We’re looking forward to spending a lot of time here.”
“It’s kind of cool to see the season, in my eyes, begin and end here because this is becoming the epicenter of college football,” said Taylor, who grew up in Alpharetta and played basketball and volleyball at the University of Georgia.
She replaces Samantha Ponder as reporter on College GameDay and as sideline reporter on ABC’s “Saturday Night Football” games. Ponder moved to a new role as host of ESPN’s “Sunday NFL Countdown” show.
The Alabama-Florida State game, which will air on ABC, will be the second event in Mercedes-Benz Stadium and the first college football game there. Both teams are expected to be ranked in the preseason top five.
“It’s going to be huge,” Herbstreit said. “Both teams realistically have a chance to chase for a national championship. I think the fact that the game’s here, where college football has such passion, really adds to it. … With a new stadium and that passion this market provides, I’m expecting an off-the-charts scene in that game.”
The game will be followed two days later by a second Chick-fil-A Kickoff game in Mercedes-Benz Stadium: Georgia Tech vs. Tennessee (on ESPN). After that, the stadium has four more college football games on its schedule this season: the SEC Championship game, the Celebration Bowl, the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl and the national title game.
College GameDay’s Sept. 2 show will be its 11th from Atlanta, dating to its first visit here in 1998. The most recent was on Dec. 1, 2012, preceding Alabama’s win over Georgia in the SEC Championship game.
The show’s set will be in a different location this time, moving from Centennial Olympic Park to International Plaza just outside the new stadium. Ongoing renovation in the park and the backdrop of the stadium drove the change.
“We will lock in content plans as we get a little closer, but we’ll try to find ways to spotlight the city, give a sense of place,” Gallagher said.
If discussion during the show touches on whether Alabama-vs.-Florida State will be repeated in the national championship game, don’t expect Howard to agree with Davis’ prediction.
“No, I just don’t think those things go as scripted that way,” said Howard, the 1991 Heisman Trophy winner at Michigan. “That’s the only logic. They don’t go as scripted.”
“That’s so scripted it’s unscripted,” Davis replied.
“That’s why he’s the host,” said Howard, laughing.
MARK YOUR CALENDAR
Mercedes-Benz Stadium will host six college football games this season:
Sept. 2: Chick-fil-A Kickoff game, Alabama vs. Florida State, 8 p.m., ABC
Sept. 4: Chick-fil-A Kickoff game, Georgia Tech vs. Tennessee, 8 p.m., ESPN
Dec. 2: SEC Championship game, 4 p.m., CBS
Dec. 16: Celebration Bowl, noon, ABC
Jan. 1: Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, 12:30 p.m., ESPN
Jan. 8: College Football Playoff national championship game, 8 p.m., ESPN