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Your Guide To The College GameDay Analysts

College GameDay is making its third trip to Happy Valley in as many years for this weekend’s primetime showdown between No. 7 Penn State and No. 16 Michigan.

For those of you who will be up well before dawn hoping to get your sign on national television (like I did last year), it’s important to understand that there’s more to the famous college football show than just signs. Each personality comes with a background worth noting and certain biases that make their comments more or less valuable.

If you’re totally unfamiliar with what College GameDay is all about, here’s what you should know about each of the analysts.

Kirk Herbstreit

Kirk Herbstreit is a closet Penn State fan, despite leading the Buckeye offense at quarterback in 1992 as a senior. 

Herbstreit heaps praise on the Nittany Lions year after year, and his 2019 Herbie Awards were no exception. He named Penn State’s White Out the Best Stadium Atmosphere in college football and named defensive end Jayson Oweh the player most likely to “Burst Onto The Scene.”

Herbstreit really has no reason at all to heap so much love upon Penn State players and fans, but he does it anyway. How about this quote from Herbstreit to USA Today about Penn State’s head coach?

“I think James Franklin is a great coach,” Herbstreit told USA Today. “I’m a huge fan. He won at Vanderbilt, he won at Penn State. Think about what he inherited…I know Bill O’Brien did a good job. But he’s made it cool to go to Penn State again. You know how hard that is after all they went through? When kids in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey say, ‘I’m going to Penn State,’ it used to be like, ‘Oh, that’s your only [major] offer.’ He did that.”

The former Buckeye chose both Penn State and Ohio State to make the playoff in 2016, a year in which many analysts were leaving Penn State out of the top four in favor of the Buckeyes.

Herbstreit is one of the most genuinely unbiased analysts in sports. Even if he picks the Buckeyes to win it on Saturday, he still deserves the love and support of the Penn State faithful.

Desmond Howard

Des Howard is sort of like the opposite of Herbstreit, and not in a good way.

Howard won the Heisman while at Michigan in 1991, making his mark mostly as a return specialist but also as a receiver. Howard is still a Wolverine through and through — he even picked Michigan to win it all this year. 

GameDay’s Michigan homer almost always picks against Penn State (and is often wrong). Howard picked Wisconsin over Penn State in the 2016 Big Ten Championship game and he unsurprisingly picked Michigan to win the White Out in 2017 before his Wolverines were torn apart by a score of 42-13. Howard also picked Pitt to beat Penn State in both 2017 and 2018. 

Like many Penn State haters, Howard probably won’t let the Sandusky scandal go any time soon. 

“I think they have to go a long way of trying to erase the perception that followed them after the Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal, because when most people think of Penn State, they think of that scandal and they think of Joe Paterno and what happened under his watch,” Howard said on College GameDay in 2016.

“They’ve always appeared to be holier than thou, especially with the ‘Catholics vs. Convicts,’” he said about Penn State. Howard was mistaking Penn State for Notre Dame in the famous “Catholics vs. Convicts” game of 1988 against Miami.

Howard most definitely will not get a warm reception on Old Main Lawn. Still, he’ll be stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to picking between Penn State and Michigan.

Lee Corso

Lee Corso is an original member of the College GameDay crew, joining when the show started up in 1987. Corso formerly coached at Indiana but gained a special prominence when he began famously picking winners of the GameDay matchups in a unique way.

Corso makes his pick by putting on the headgear of the team he thinks will emerge victorious. In 2017, Corso brought out the Wolverine helmet before throwing it at Desmond Howard and placing the Nittany Lion head-on, much to the delight of the swarms of Penn State fans at Old Main.

The fan-favorite analyst even crowd surfed with the Nittany Lion at the beginning of the taping.

Lee Corso doesn’t always pick Penn State to come out victorious, but when he doesn’t, he is usually correct. Let’s hope he puts on that old Nittany Lion head come Saturday.

Rece Davis

Rece Davis isn’t really an analyst, but we’re going to spend some time on him here anyway. 

Davis anchors the show, but he also seems to be partial to Penn State. He recently named Penn State as his second-favorite place (and said it could’ve been number one) to host GameDay, which is pretty impressive considering that he wasn’t even hosting the show until 2015 — 2016’s trip was his first time with the crew on campus.

In revealing Penn State at No. 2, Davis noted that “the best crowds [are at] places with great football traditions, [places] we haven’t been [to] in a while.”

Davis probably has a soft spot for Penn State that he didn’t mention while showing his top-five locations to the college football world. Pat Chambers and the men’s basketball team made a real effort to recruit GameDay last season, sending Rece Davis ice cream from the Creamery. GameDay’s host hasn’t lost his love for ice cream.

College GameDay is sure to be a wild scene, but getting to know these personalities should help you digest everything going on throughout the morning.

Note: This post was recently updated to reflect the 2019 college football season.

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About the Author

Derek Bannister

Derek is a senior majoring in Economics and History. He is legally required to tell you that he's from right outside of Philly. Email Derek compliments and dad-jokes at [email protected].

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