ESPN GameDay Crew Warms Up In Stillwater

STILLWATER - Shaking off the cold while geared up in overcoats and gloves, ESPN GameDay analysts Desmond Howard and Kirk Herbstreit were laughing as they rushed in from the sleeting conditions on the Edmon Low Library lawn and into their sanctuary of Willard Hall on the Oklahoma State campus. The two former players were followed into the campus administrative building by show host Chris Fowler.

GameDay has a few designated stops along the way during the college football season, but most weeks they go where the story is. Fowler, who is very protective and controlling of the franchise he has really had the largest role in developing, said the biggest story and most compelling game in the nation is right here in Stillwater, Okla.

"You probably wouldn't have picked this game at the beginning of the year," said Fowler, the host and father of College GameDay. "If we had looked and saw that Texas A&M was playing at LSU we might have thought that was the game at the start of the season, but this is clearly the place that has been number one on the grid for several weeks, as long as neither side stumbled, and it is the game of the day. There is a lot to like about this matchup."

It's interesting that Fowler, shortly after he cranked up GameDay and it began its climb to being the number one show attached to the sport of college football, was invited (and paid) to come to Stillwater to tape an interview with then Oklahoma State athletic director Terry Don Phillips. The conversation was made into a video tape that was sent to OSU alumni and supporters to draw interest and raise money for the Gallagher-Iba and Athletic Center projects.

In a way, Fowler was on the ground floor of the facilities renaissance that has led OSU to where it is today.

"I would take no credit for raising the money, I simply pointed out, from a national perspective, the importance of facilities in attracting top athletes," Fowler said while remembering that trip to Stillwater.

"I think the image of the program, in general, has really progressed, and clearly a lot of folks and one main person have stepped up here and the facilities are tremendous. The growth of the program, and not just the football facilities, is impressive here. Oklahoma State doesn't take a backseat at all."

That may be true but while GameDay is here this week the main star of the day is the unbeaten and fourth-ranked Baylor Bears. Oklahoma State is 10th in the BCS standings, but last week while the GameDay cast were unanimous in selecting Baylor to stay unbeaten against Texas Tech all but recent GameDay addition David Pollack picked Texas to beat Oklahoma State in Austin. The Cowboys won convincingly 38-13.

"Oklahoma State started slow this year, especially offensively, but I think if you watched them once Desmond (Roland) came in the lineup you started to see the running game click a little bit and you've definitely seen that the last four games," said Pollack.

"I also like (Oklahoma State's) defense. I don't think there is an individual guy outside of (Justin) Gilbert that you point to and say, he's the superstar, but I think they play really well together. They play disciplined and they tackle well. It's been impressive."

You would think that with Baylor being a 10-point favorite in Las Vegas that the GameDay crew, including former Indiana football head coach Lee Corso and additional segment host Samantha Ponder, would all take the Bears. It should be a shoe-in that Corso with his ceremonial show closing of donning the mascot head of his choice would put on the Bears head.

Pollack, however, sounds like he may stick with the Cowboys.

"I think Baylor is dealing with a lot of injuries. Can you keep it up? Now they've lost their left tackle (Spencer Drango), they got banged up at the linebacker spot, you've seen the receiver spot, and two running backs and they are down to the third-team back," Pollock continued.

"This offensive pace that they are on, can anybody keep that up? Nobody has done it in the history of college football like this especially if the weather is like this tomorrow. Can they have the same success offensively?"

Fowler also believes that Oklahoma State will either prove Baylor as a pretender to the BCS National Championship or help them prove they are worthy of being considered as a threat to Alabama or Florida State and certainly better than Ohio State.

"This game is the big stage in the national spotlight and Oklahoma State has been in that, but for Baylor this is new and this will be a big test of their mental maturity," Fowler explained. "It is the biggest test Baylor has undergone this season by far because of the quality of the opponent, the atmosphere, and maybe, the weather. This is a chance to learn more about Baylor."

Friday was a chance to learn more about at least two members of the GameDay cast. Pollack, a former three-time All-American linebacker at Georgia, has been a strong addition to the show and admitted as he stood in front of local media in his make-up that he did not initially see this as his future.

"I never assumed I'd be putting make-up on, dog," Pollack said laughing. "That is the hardest part of my job. You know me and my wife talk about it and I always thought I was put on this earth to play football and be a football player and I had that taken away in my second year in the NFL when I broke my neck and now I feel I was put on this earth to be a broadcaster.

"I know on Sundays I don't feel like I was run over by a truck. This is a dream. This is fun and it is not even work. We get to go see the best games every week and see crazy atmospheres. It is a blessing and I don't take it for granted."

Having GameDay in Stillwater is a blessing for Cowboys fans. It means you have a good team, that your good team is involved in a great game, and it brings all kinds of incredible exposure for your program.

There are three prospects (defensive tackle Jeremiah Ledbetter, defensive end Trey Carter, and safety/star linebacker Derick Moncrief) are scheduled to make official recruiting visits this weekend. Do you think a stop by the Edmond Low Library lawn between 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. will be part of their campus tour? I bet it will. GameDay can help in all sorts of ways.

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