STILLWATER — ESPN's “College GameDay” host Chris Fowler stood inside Oklahoma State's Willard Hall, taking a brief break from a production meeting to talk about the highly anticipated matchup between the No. 10 Cowboys and fourth-ranked Baylor.
Three months ago, he didn't necessarily expect the popular college football pregame show to visit Stillwater for this particular game.
But with Baylor's status as a national title contender, plus the Cowboys' resurgence following a stunning loss to West Virginia in late September, the prime-time contest in Stillwater is, without a doubt, Saturday's premier game.
“Bedlam is the only time we've ever been here, so it's neat,” Fowler said Friday afternoon. “Before this season, you wouldn't have predicted this to be the game (we'd visit). People might have looked and saw that Texas A&M was playing LSU. We would have predicted that that would be (the game).
“But this is good. This place has been No. 1 on the grid for the last few weeks and as long as (Baylor and OSU) didn't stumble.”
Fowler called the OSU-Baylor showdown a “very fresh matchup” between two nontraditional programs that have recently risen to national prominence. He also called the game “by far Baylor's biggest test” of the season because of the quality of opponent, the anticipated atmosphere in a sold-out Boone Pickens Stadium and, perhaps, the weather.
But GameDay, of course, isn't just about the actual game. There is an entire production involved.
Saturday's live show from 8-11 a.m. — along with periodic live hits that already hit airwaves Friday — essentially serves as a three-hour commercial for OSU. The Edmon Low Library will be the backdrop. Fans decked out in orange and black will wake up before dawn and brave the freezing conditions to support the Cowboys and perhaps get their 15 seconds of fame on TV.
Here's an unofficial guide to Saturday's GameDay Festivities.
Loyal and true, indeed
Fans can begin arriving at the GameDay set at 6 a.m. Many will travel from other parts of the state — and beyond. And with a 7 p.m. kickoff, that makes for a long day for Cowboy supporters.
Here's a look at how some fans plan to spend their day:
Blaine Cook, Edmond: “My older brother is flying in from Calgary (Friday night) at 11:30. We are going to Stillwater (from Edmond) before 7 a.m., and staying the whole day for GameDay and the game. We don't have tickets yet but are hoping that we can meet up with an OSU fan on Twitter to buy his tickets tomorrow … I went to the game last weekend in Austin and didn't plan to go to this game. (My brother) texted me last Sunday and he is coming because he can't miss this game.”
Christopher Snodgrass, Tulsa: “I will be attending GameDay tomorrow with my wife and four friends of ours. We are coming in from Tulsa and plan to leave town at 5:30 in the morning … GameDay has only been to Stillwater a handful of times and we are determined not to miss the experience. We have lived through some rough years of OSU football, but that's only made us more appreciative of the current status and direction of the program. I can't think of a better way to spend 17-plus hours than supporting the Cowboys!”
Bo Breuklander, Tampa, Fla.: “My wife and I flew from Tampa (Friday) morning and plan on driving to Stillwater early Saturday morning. Long trip, but worth it! Part of a big Thanksgiving trip.”
Jim Scoggins, Stafford, Texas: “Planning on leaving Houston (Friday) with David Case, Frank Eaton's great grandson. (Eaton was a Deputy U.S. Marshall and the inspiration for OSU's Pistol Pete mascot.) I have not been to a game since I left Stillwater in 1999. I won a silent auction at a Houston Alumni event.”
Fowler will be joined by analysts Lee Corso, Kirk Herbstreit, Desmond Howard and David Pollack with reporting by Samantha Ponder, Tom Rinaldi, Scott Van Pelt and Gene Wojciechowski.
Sign me up
GameDay has become famous for its creative fan signs, which can range from passionate to witty to borderline controversial. What sort of wackiness will be spotted Saturday?
Who picks 'em?
A celebrity connected to the host school serves as a guest picker at the end of each show. Producer Lee Fitting tweeted Friday that OSU's picker will fall into a “first ever” category. That rules out folks like OSU booster Boone Pickens (Oregon megabooster Phil Knight has held this role) and golfer Rickie Fowler (Bubba Watson was Georgia's picker earlier this season). Who could it be?
Another GameDay staple is Corso donning the mascot headgear of the team he picks to win. He is 2-1 in his headgear picks in Stillwater, including an incorrect selection of Pistol Pete and the Cowboys in 2010.
What the GameDay crew is saying
Fowler: “Even though Oklahoma State has won 10 games quite frequently lately, I think you could make a case that both Baylor and Oklahoma State have traditionally, in the conferences, been overshadowed a bit. And now they're right in the bright spotlight on prime-time battling for the conference supremacy. And also, the fact that Baylor is still very much in the BCS title game hunt, (I'll be watching) kind of how they handle the big target, how they handle the pressure. It's a real test of mental maturity. It's the biggest test Baylor has undergone this season, by far, because of the quality of the opponent and the atmosphere, perhaps the weather. What they've done so far is impressive. None of us are expecting another 60-point performance. I think it's gonna be by far Baylor's biggest test.”
Pollack: “Coming into the season, I thought Baylor had a good shot in the Big 12 and I thought Oklahoma State was up there. But I think everybody else thought Texas was up there, as well. I think it's a surprise that it's the game of the week (nationally) and everybody's going to be pointing to it and also a game that has national championship implications. Imagine if Oklahoma State doesn't lose to West Virginia? This game is even bigger.”