Rece Davis was apologetic, but Minnesotans certainly can understand why he cut his video conference a bit short.
“I’ve got to run downstairs and get my Juicy Lucy,” the host of ESPN’s “College GameDay” said Friday. “The DoorDash guy just left it; somebody might steal it,”
When asked if the cheese-in-the-middle burger was from Matt’s Bar, Davis quickly acknowledged his faux pas of not choosing the Minneapolis institution. “No … I probably messed up,” he said.
No worries, though. Davis and his crew are getting to know Minneapolis even better. On Saturday morning from 8 to 11, ESPN’s “College GameDay” visits TCF Bank Stadium to preview that night’s football game between the No. 21-ranked Gophers and No. 18 Michigan. It will be the second consecutive Gophers home game for the popular pregame show, which made its initial stop last Nov. 30 for the regular-season finale against Wisconsin.
That appearance was on the Northrop Mall, as thousands braved snowfall, brought homemade signs and gathered to watch the crew of Davis, Desmond Howard, Kirk Herbstreit and Lee Corso, along with guest picker Eric Decker, make its selections.
“It was wet and cold, and they heated the place up,” Davis said of Gophers fans who later endured a 38-17 Wisconsin victory to decide the Big Ten West. “ … They built a giant snowman right behind our set that amazingly was very lifelike — it looked like Herbstreit; didn’t move, looked very cold.
“It’s going to be a different situation this week, obviously, but we’re happy to be back.”
Because of COVID-19, “College GameDay” has an understated feel this year. The show will be held inside TCF Bank Stadium, and no fans will be allowed. The crew sits at curved desk with seats spaced apart for social distancing. Lee Corso, the 85-year-old former coach/comic foil, will make his headgear pick from his Orlando home. Fans are encouraged to participate virtually at collegegameday.com.
“There’s some disappointment with the fans, but they understand the situation,” Davis said. “Seeing the virtual fans and the energy they put into the signs, it’s not the same, but it’s been helpful. We want to make sure they know they’re still a big part of the show.”
“College GameDay” relies on the give-and-take commentary among the on-air talent, and that can be challenging without the immediate crowd reaction and with the slight video delay of Corso working from home.
“When Lee’s sitting right beside us, there’s no hesitation getting the banter back and forth,” Davis said. “That banter that we have is because of his remarkable and instinctive comedic wit.”
Howard, the 1991 Heisman Trophy winner for Michigan, recalled the parallels between last year’s visit to Minnesota and a 2016 trip to Western Michigan, which was led by Gophers coach P.J. Fleck at the time.
“We had the same exact thing happen when we went to Western Michigan,” he said. “It was a blizzard, and not one fan left in the three hours of the show.”
The absence of fans, Howard indicated, shouldn’t dampen an intriguing matchup. He’s especially interested to see how Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown deals with Gophers wide receiver Rashod Bateman.
“It should be a good challenge for Michigan’s secondary,” he said. “Don Brown’s a very seasoned defensive coordinator, and he’s not going to leave his guys out there exposed to a talent like Bateman. You just don’t do that.’’