Week 12 is shaping up to be one of the biggest snoozers of the college football season. Only two matchups feature a pair of ranked opponents on the field. Syracuse is one of them with the 13th ranked Orange (now 12th per the latest AP Poll) taking on No. 3 Notre Dame at Yankee Stadium. SU is all but certain to move up at least one spot in the College Football Playoff rankings after No. 11 Kentucky was embarrassed by Tennessee this week.
So naturally, the Syracuse and Notre Dame matchup would line up to be ESPN’s College Gameday matchup. Nope. The national media remained bullish on the Orange and picked the so-called “defending national co-champion” UCF Knights and their upcoming AAC matchup against unranked Cincinnati. Now this matchup will certainly be a ranked matchup after the Bearcats checked in at 19th in the latest AP Poll.
Regardless of the Bearcats spot in the rankings, UCF is coming off an unflattering 35-24 win over a now 2-8 Navy team. The Knights are the most controversial team in college football given their undefeated record, but also play a traditionally weak schedule. UCF’s strength of schedule is outside the top 100. It’s also worth noting that Cincinnati’s is even weaker as the 10th softest schedule in the country.
There’s the obvious rebuttal that since Syracuse and Notre Dame are not playing on any on the ESPN family of networks, so why would ESPN want its premiere pregame show to be promoting a rival station’s game. But three of the eleven games so far have been non-ESPN games, including two of the last three. One of those three was on NBC, the network for Syracuse’s game this week.
Another qualm is the fact that since this isn’t a traditional college football venue so student turnout would be low. But with Thanksgiving breaks on the horizon and Syracuse having its most students from the New York/New Jersey area, that would not be a problem. Likewise, even though the venue is a baseball stadium, it has been done before. Wrigley Field hosted College Gameday for a much lower profile matchup between Northwestern and Illinois back in 2010.
This should have been a no-brainer pick for ESPN, especially given the number of alumni working for the network and its proximity to the Bristol studios. But when you take the composite of the caliber of programs amongst all matchups, it’s not even close. Even though ESPN does not have the rights to the Fighting Irish, they do have the College Football Playoff ranking and selection shows, as well as the games themselves. With Notre Dame currently slotted in as one of those playoff teams, ESPN should want every piece of the Irish that they can get since they are one of the premier programs in the country.
ESPN dropped the ball on the best matchup of the week to appease UCF’s frustration with the network after comments regarding their legitimacy of the playoff, and their payoff will as well by not going to New York City this weekend.