COLUMBIA — As thousands of Missouri alumni returned to their old college campus, Columbia made its first impression on ESPN’s "College GameDay" crew.
“It’s a nice college town,” the show’s host, Chris Fowler, said. “I love the campus. The setting here could not be more perfect. Behind the set it’s a perfect collegiate setting.”
"GameDay" set up its stage on the north end of Francis Quadrangle with Jesse Hall and the columns providing the backdrop.
“We like to take the show to where the students are versus asking them to come to traipse over to a parking lot outside a stadium,” Fowler said. “I think this is a perfect setting.”
The show taped segments Friday morning in front of what the crew described as a surprisingly large crowd.
“Our turnout on Friday for our segments we were taping for 'College Football Live' and 'SportsCenter,' I mean, it was insane,” ESPN’s Erin Andrews said. “It was kind of a better crowd than we had at Wisconsin for the Saturday ‘GameDay.’ ”
“That Friday display was ridiculous,” Fowler said. “We’ve had Saturday crowds that aren’t as fired up with as many signs as that Friday crowd. ... It’s not really a lot of entertainment value in my opinion, but they turned up on a beautiful day and made us feel welcomed and excited for what’s going to happen tomorrow.”
But Friday morning was not the hosts’ first experience with Columbia. After arriving Thursday, they explored downtown.
“We went to Harpo's, and we got out in the mix,” Fowler said. “That’s part of the fun. We don’t always come in on Thursdays, but all of us were in on Thursday because it’s a new place, it’s fun and it’s not easy to get to. We enjoyed what Columbia has to offer.”
Missouri fans made a good impression. Andrews said the city was welcoming and excited for its first "GameDay" appearance.
“You walk by and it’s not like when you go to some of the SEC schools and it’s kind of like old hat that we’re in town,” Andrews said. “I’m in a good mood, which is a big thing for me. I walked in this morning and I was dancing and singing to the guys and they’re like 'What’s wrong with you?’ I’m like, ‘I’m excited we’re here.’ ”
ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit said the added pressure of "GameDay" can affect what happens on the field.
“I think, in Oklahoma's case, they have got enough players and coaches who are used to being in this environment,” Herbstreit said. “And in the past OU not only handled this, they have flourished in this kind of setting.”
Although Oklahoma might be more used to the spotlight, Herbstreit said Missouri could pull off the upset by feeding off of the home crowd.
“Early success is key,” Herbstreit said. “I think that a big key when you are a home underdog is the crowd, the energy.College football, more so than the NFL, is affected by momentum and by taking advantage of the energy in your stadium.”