Given the way the Florida Gators and Auburn Tigers took care of business in Week 5 — and the dire state of the Week 6 slate — it seemed like a fait accompli by late Saturday night that ESPN’s College GameDay would head to Gainesville in advance of next Saturday’s top-10 SEC matchup.
Still, ESPN’s announcement of the decision was a bit of a late-night thrill.
The visit will be the first to Florida’s campus by the venerable college football pregame show since 2012, when it came to town in advance of the Gators’ 44-11 throttling of a top-10 South Carolina outfit.
The show itself is likely to look significantly different than it did on that morning, when Lee Corso picked the Gators to defeat the Gamecocks with the aid of an albino baby gator: Florida has repurposed much of the north lawn of The Swamp, where that set was stationed, for what it calls “Gator Walk Village,” and, as hinted at by Kirk Herbstreit, the location is likely to change for this edition of the show.
The most likely spot? The open area known as the Plaza of the Americas that is immediately south of the university’s Library West, which has previously played host to multiple visits by the SEC Network’s SEC Nation show. (Those sets have been arranged to face north, using the distant University Auditorium as a backdrop.)
Florida’s official release on the GameDay visit only notes that “Location of the show will be announced later in the week.”
Despite not playing host to the show, Florida has been part of the hoopla of College GameDay a few times since 2012, with it visiting Tennessee for Florida’s 2016 visit to Knoxville and making a rare pilgrimage to Jacksonville for the 2018 edition of the Florida-Georgia rivalry. GameDay also originated from Disney World in advance of Florida’s Orlando opener against Miami in August, and visited New Orleans prior to the 2013 Sugar Bowl in which Florida met Louisville.
2019, however, will be the first year since 2012 that sees Florida take part in multiple GameDay games — and the Gators will no doubt hope that history repeats itself, as they went 3-0 with GameDay around that fall, downing Texas A&M and Tennessee on the road prior to the aforementioned South Carolina game.
The lone winter appearance, of course, was another story. And the Gators’ win over Miami in August ended a three-game losing streak in GameDay games, moving Florida to 25-14 all-time in those contests.
This will also be Florida’s 40th GameDay appearance in program history, and the 13th GameDay trip to Gainesville. The former places Florida third behind Alabama and Ohio State for all-time appearances; the latter ties the Gators with the Crimson Tide for second behind the Buckeyes’ staggering 18 times as host.
And the nearly seven-year drought between GameDay visits is the longest span between them in Florida history since the ESPN show first visited Gainesville in 1995.
In case you were unclear on whether Florida-Auburn is a big game: Yeah. It is.