‘College Gameday’ Goes the Distance to Find a New Star Quarterback

Kevin Liles/ USA Today Sports
Dec 6, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide running back Derrick Henry (27) carries the ball during the 2014 SEC Championship Game against the Missouri Tigers at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Liles-USA TODAY Sports.

College football fans can’t wait for the first snaps of the season—partly to find out who’s taking them. “Nine of the Top 25 teams have new quarterbacks, so that brings a lot of uncertainty to the season,” says Rece Davis, essentially the new quarterback, i.e. host, for College GameDay, ESPN’s traveling studio show. “People get tired of you talking about the quarterbacks, but you don’t realize the importance unless you don’t have one.”

Alabama has plenty—five competed to succeed Blake Sims—but, as of mid-August, still hadn’t settled on a starter. The Crimson Tide opens the season against Wisconsin in Arlington, Texas (Saturday, 8/7c, ABC), with GameDay set up in nearby Fort Worth. “Playing a quality team like Wisconsin right out of the gate, you’ll find out a lot about where they stand at the most important position on the field,” Davis says. A known quantity in the backfield will be Derrick Henry. “He’s a super athletic, tough, huge running back, bigger than most running backs in terms of height,” Davis says of the 6-foot-3 Henry, whom he calls a “potential Heisman Trophy candidate.”

Two days later, GameDay will be on site as defending national champion and No. 1 Ohio State travels to Virginia Tech (Monday, Sept. 7, 8/7c, ESPN), the only team to beat the Buckeyes last season. Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett are two of the top QBs in the country, but only one can be the starting signal caller for Ohio State. “Obviously, their quarterback issue will be settled by then,” Davis says. “We think.”

College Gameday, Season premiere, Saturday, September 5, 9am/8c, ESPN