ESPN’s College GameDay is back in Lincoln for the first time since 2007, and the city is buzzing. This is already a big weekend for Nebraska athletics, with new facilities being announced today and Nebraska basketball’s opening night with a live performance from rapper Rick Ross.
The biggest event of the weekend will come on Saturday as Nebraska will face No. 5 Ohio State in prime time. Fans are already getting ready for College GameDay tomorrow morning, especially since it’s the first time the show has came to Lincoln in over a decade.
However, the commentators on College GameDay are just as happy to be back.
“It’s been too long, I can’t believe [it], I was talking to Chris Fowler yesterday about it and just amazed that it’s taken this long to get back, but it’s great to be back,” College GameDay analyst Kirk Herbstreit said.
Part of what makes Lincoln such a special location for College GameDay is the overwhelming fan support, according to Herbstreit and show host Rece Davis.
“They’ll come out, they’ll show that Nebraska pride,” Davis said. “There’ll be a ton of red out there, I think it’ll be loud, I’m hoping they’ll chant ‘Go Big Red’ a lot and it’ll be a lot of fun. I think it’ll be one of our better scenes of the year for sure, that’s what I anticipate anyways.”
“I love this stadium, I love the size of it, I love what they’ve done, I love the fans here and how passionate they are and how much they love their team through thick or thin,” Herbstreit said.
Despite the expected game day atmosphere, what happens on the field will be the true focus on Saturday.
The Huskers come into the game as the underdog against a Buckeye team that has looked dominant to begin the year. Ohio State has blown out every opponent it has faced thus far and are on a four-game win streak against Nebraska. Last year, the Huskers surprised some by keeping the game close and only losing 36-31.
Nebraska appears overmatched, but an upset would be a huge step in the right direction, according to Davis.
“I think it’s a real opportunity for Nebraska to have a milestone, landmark type win,” Davis said. “I think at this juncture, you’d be disingenuous if you didn't say that Ohio State is a significantly superior team at the moment. Doesn’t mean you win, superior team doesn’t always win, and you can generate some real momentum by pulling an upset like this.”
According to Herbstreit, the X factor for Nebraska will be sophomore quarterback Adrian Martinez.
“I think he’s gonna have an ability, much like last year, his ability within this offense to run and throw is an equalizer,” he said. “That and playing in Lincoln are the two things Nebraska has to hope are big for them.”
No matter the outcome, both Herbstreit and Davis think the Huskers have a chance to work themselves back into national relevance in the next couple of years because of head coach Scott Frost.
Herbstreit was on College GameDay when Frost played at Nebraska, and he says there are plenty of similarities between Frost as a player and Frost as a coach.
“I like that no-nonsense, chip on his shoulder approach to playing, and I also like it as a coach,” Herbstreit said.
The Huskers have struggled to find great success in the Big Ten since they joined in 2011, but Frost could be the key to bringing that back, according to Herbstreit and Davis.
“I don’t know if it’s necessarily just been being in the Big Ten, I think it’s trying to find the right coach, trying to find the guy that can get them back to who they used to be,” Herbstreit said. “...this guy, Scott Frost, is the right guy to bring that back.”
“I think he’s putting in a foundation that’s going to last for the long haul. He fits, he understands the program, the history, the culture,” Davis said.
Overall, Saturday will be a great opportunity for both Nebraska and Ohio State to prove themselves to a national audience.
“People are intrigued about Ohio State, they’re intrigued also about Nebraska,” Herbstreit said. “The fact that Nebraska gets this game in Lincoln, the whole nation’s watching and anticipating a matchup, it really gives a phenomenal platform for Scott and his team.”