This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
On Saturday, ESPN's "College GameDay" comes to Salt Lake City again and something feels different about this time.
Not because it's the second time that Lee Corso, Rece Davis, Kirk Herbstreit, Desmond Howard will be telecasting from Utah in just over a year. Not because this will be "GameDay's" fourth trip here.
It's different because the Utes' place in college football has changed enormously since "GameDay's" first couple of stops here. In 2004, the Utes were on the outside looking in a member of the Mountain West Conference battling for respect(beating BYU).
"They are carrying the flag today for all of the college football outsiders everywhere," said then-host Chris Fowler.
In 2010, Utah was a season away from joining the Pac-12, but still trying to prove it belonged (TCU won 47-7). And it still felt like the "GameDay" visit was somehow a validation for the Utes.
But in 2016, that's no longer an issue. Yes, that "GameDay" is coming to Salt Lake City for the second year in a row (Utah beat Cal 30-24 in 2015) is nice recognition that not only are the Utes in the club, they're playing big games. And No. 17 Utah hosting No. 4 Washington is definitely a Big Game.
This is just what happens when you've arrived.
It's worth pointing out that ESPN chose Utah-Washington over No. 7 Nebraska at No. 11 Wisconsin and No. 3 Clemson at No. 12 Florida State. It's also worth acknowledging that Wisconsin has been featured on "GameDay" twice already this season; FSU has been featured once.
Don't get me wrong. Hosting "College GameDay" is a big deal. At a time when so many college football traditions have been cast aside, "GameDay" has become part of the fabric of the sport.
It is the definitive TV show about college football. Three hours (7-10 a.m. Saturday) filled with news, features and fun. And nothing is more fun that the predictions.
As goofy as it is, fans up at Rice Eccles Stadium and watching at home will be waiting to see which mascot's head that Corso will put on to indicate who he's picking in the Utah-Washington game.
Corso donned Ute mascot Swoop's head in 2004 and both Corso and Herbstreit put on sombreros and tossed Tostitos, signaling their (correct) prediction that Utah would beat BYU and go to the Fiesta Bowl. In 2009 in Fort Worth, Corso held up and tossed away a Ute helmet, and put on the Horned Frog head and he put the Frog head on again in 2010.
Last year, he was back to wearing Swoop's head, make him four-for-four in headgear predictions involving the Utes.
After a bad 2015 Corso went 5-11 in his headgear picks the 81-year-old ex-coach has bounced back in 2016. He's 5-2 in headgear picks and 52-24 overall.
Yes, Utah's s five appearances (four at home, one away) is way down the "GameDay" list tied for 31st, far behind the 37 each by Alabama and Florida. We're not as accustomed to it.
But when "GameDay" goes to Tuscaloosa or Gainesville, it's still a big deal and a great thing for those universities.
Tribune sportswriter Kyle Goon reported that, according to Utah athletic director Chris Hill, the university spent about $40,000 on logistics when "GameDay" came to campus last year. And it's absolutely money well spent.
If the Utes can pull off the upset, so much the better. But even if they can't, it's great publicity for the university.
And a clear sign the Utes belong.
Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Tribune. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter: @ScottDPierce.