By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Ohio State’s campus has hosted ESPN’s College GameDay a record 13 times, Alabama has eight to its credit. Even Oklahoma State’s in-state rival Oklahoma has seen the ESPN bus roll through Norman seven times.
But there’s just something about coming to Stillwater that is both exciting and a little nerve-wracking.
“Bedlam is the only time I’ve been here, so it’s neat,” GameDay host Chris Fowler said. “I think before the season, you wouldn’t have predicted this to be the game (we go to). People might have looked and saw that Texas A&M was playing LSU ... This place has been No. 1 on the grid for the last few weeks, and as long as they didn’t stumble it was going to be the game of the day. It’s fun, there’s a lot to like about the town.”
There’s also a lot not to like. Namely the earthquakes.
After surviving his first earthquake atop Boone Pickens Stadium in 2011, ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit was greeted by a 3.7 earthquake at 2:30 a.m. Friday morning.
While Herbstreit may not have had the deer-in-headlights look that turned into an instant viral video on the Internet, there was still a feeling of surprise coming from the former Buckeye.
“What in the heck is goin on?! A 3.7 earthquate this am here in Stillwater!! What is with me showing up at a Okla St gm & earthquakes?!?
“So, I’ve felt 2 earthquakes in my life!! Both here in Stillwater. Is it me or does this sort of thing happen here all he time?!?!” Herbstreit tweeted.
But while Herbstreit may have been holed up in a hotel likely booking the first flight out of Stillwater as soon as the game is over, Fowler said those tremors won’t keep the crew from coming back.
“I wasn’t in town yet,” Fowler said. “I blame Kirk. When Kirk is here the earth shakes. I’ve been in bigger earthquakes than 3.7.
“It was funny, I was talking to him live and he thought the stadium was just shaking and they told him in his ear,” Fowler said of the 2011 earthquake. “I remember he got the big eyes when someone told him, ‘Stay calm, don’t panic, it’s an earthquake.’ I didn’t know this was an earthquake headquarters.”
Earthquakes may not be something Stillwater residents are used to, but waking up early to head down to the Edmon Low Library lawn — or any other campus locale the show chooses — with signs in hand could become an old habit for Oklahoma State fans in the future.
“We’re accustomed for Oklahoma State being pretty dang good,” ESPN’s David Pollack said. “Baylor’s more like Oregon, where they just came on the scene. ... I think it’s a surprise that it’s the game of the week and everybody’s going to be pointing to it, but also a game that has national championship implications.”
“From a national prospective, it’s a very fresh matchup,” Fowler said. “You’ve got programs that traditionally have been a little bit in the shadows, even though Oklahoma State won 10 games quite frequently lately. You could make a case that both Baylor and Oklahoma State traditionally in their conference have been overshadowed a little bit, and now their in the bright spotlight on primetime and battling for conference supremacy.”
Neither Fowler nor Pollack would reveal who they think will win Saturday’s game. But they did say chilly temperatures Friday and Saturday could be a factor in making their picks.
“(Baylor quarterback) Bryce Petty laughed it off,” Fowler said. “I think that anybody that’s ever tried to throw or catch a ball in the cold knows that it’s challenging. Special teams becomes challenging.
“I saw that the wind wasn’t supposed to be howling too badly. If it’s only 11 miles per hour, you folks consider that a calm night, but if it picks up that could be dangerous too.”
And while fans will be on the lawn at the crack of dawn hoping to just catch a glimpse of the show that has turned college football into a gigantic money-making machine, those on air will just be hoping to stay warm and save any more natural disasters for their next visit — whenever that may be.
“(Lee) Corso, no, he’s not going to hold up,” Pollack joked. “I don’t think you’ll see much of Corso and I don’t think you’ll see much of Des(mond Howard). Herbie will be in the booth, so you’ll get Herbie. I think Fowler will be all right, he’s pretty tough. He’s a Colorado guy, used to some tough circumstances and can deal with adversity pretty well.
“But you’ll see us. We’re doing postgame after the game on the field, so we’ll be hanging around watching the game and it will be fun. We want to see this game. I think the weather will be even more intersting to watch. It’s got some big implications and it’s a big game.”