ESPN College GameDay will emanate from Gainesville, FL for the first time since 2009 on Saturday as the No. 2 Florida Gators (6-0, 5-0 SEC) host the No. 7 South Carolina Gamecocks (6-1, 4-1 SEC) at 3:30 p.m. in a game that will air live on CBS.
It was announced Wednesday that Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte will be on hand to be the guest picker for the show, which will be set up and aired from the grass outside of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium’s façade that faces University Drive.
To get fans ready for the program and game, OGGOA had the opportunity to sit down for a question-and-answer session with ESPN‘s Desmond Howard, one of the three analysts who are part of the College GameDay crew.
Be sure to tune in to ESPN on Saturday from 10 a.m. until noon!
ADAM SILVERSTEIN: This is the third time already this season that Florida will be featured on College GameDay. How have you seen the Gators progress and improve from when the program was on-site for the Texas A&M game until now?
DESMOND HOWARD: “That’s simple. The offense has gotten better. Jeff Driskel has gotten more confident. I think the players around him are more confident in him, and the running game with [Mike] Gillislee has become more solidified. They’re playing a very physical brand of football on the offensive side and defensive side, so those are the biggest differences so far?”
AS: The first BCS standings were released on Sunday and obviously Florida being ranked No. 2 was a major point of argument for some. How do you feel about the Gators deserving that spot in the initial standings and do you really think the BCS is worth arguing about so early in the season?
DH: “I don’t have a problem with it at all. It’s like people need something to argue about and debate about so they talk about the BCS rankings. We’re in the middle of October. If anyone knows anything about football, you understand that this is going to shake itself out. Especially with Florida at No. 2 and Oregon at No. 3. You have Alabama at No. 1 so those teams, if they keep going the way they’re going, one of them is going to cancel the other one out. If this was Nov. 22 or something like that, then we’ll be having a conversation. But like I said, they’re still going to play each other in the SEC Championship if they stay on the same course they are on right now, so what is there to argue about? So no, I don’t have a problem with the BCS rankings whatsoever.”
Read the rest of this Q&A with Desmond Howard…after the break!
AS: There was some talk that the Southeastern Conference may have a down year and could be in danger of not winning a seventh-straight national title, but teams like Florida and South Carolina have really stepped up and kind of said, “We’re not going anywhere just yet.” What are you seeing from those two teams and the SEC as a whole?
DH: “I don’t know if [the SEC has] done anything to change the opinions of many people. At the end of the day, people are looking at Alabama as a dominant team, and we’re still trying to figure out just how good Florida is. Obviously they can run the ball and they play great defense but once they play a team that can force Jeff Driskel to stay in the pocket and try to throw it and beat them with his arm, then what’s going to happen? Once a team can put eight in the box and stop Mike Gillislee, then what’s going to happen? The same goes for South Carolina. This is a team that looks fantastic at home but they look very, very shaky on the road. This is another big road test for them. They decimated Georgia two weeks ago in Columbia but then went down to Baton Rouge and they were out-physicaled by LSU and LSU got after them. Now they have another big road test against the Florida Gators, which bring a physical brand of football to the table, too. We’ll see how they respond to that. This is going to be, I think, an interesting game to see where both teams are.”
AS: Is that your key match-up of the game – the Gamecocks’ defensive front seven against the Gators playmakers in Driskel and Gillislee?
DH: “Yeah, definitely, there is no doubt about that. This will be determined by the trenches both ways because, at the end of the day, South Carolina is going to want to run Marcus Lattimore. They want to get him some carries. It’s going to be [Jon] Bostic and [Matt] Elam and those guys for the Gators who are now the great, great defenders – but they’re playmakers, too. They’re difference-makers back there on that side of the ball. So I think that’s going to be interesting to watch, too. Watching Connor Shaw and Marcus Lattimore and the Gamecocks’ offensive running game against the Gators’ rush defense. I think both ways in the trenches – those are the keys to the game.”
AS: It has been a few years since College GameDay was in Gainesville, but you have been there a few times now. What is your favorite part about hosting the show from Gainesville and what is it about GameDay in general makes you have so much fun doing it each week?
DH: “Florida has a beautiful campus and gets a very good turnout from its fans. They always show us a lot of love when we get there. They welcome us with open arms and people are so nice and friendly. We just always have a great time there.
“With GameDay, my favorite part is actually being in our production meetings on Friday when we are putting everything together. We are just loose and having fun and enjoying each other. It’s just a great atmosphere. It’s like friends getting together, being with the guys and talking football and whatever else is happening. That’s probably it. Our show is so popular because of the chemistry that we have on set. It comes across to our audience and it’s genuine. So we can actually leave that desk and then go out to dinner and have as much fun together as we do at the desk because we all enjoy each other’s company that much. You watch some other shows and you get the impression that when those guys leave that desk, they don’t really talk to each other anymore until they have to come back to work. I think that the camaraderie that we have is what I enjoy the most.”