The Michigan football team’s 5-1 start and No. 12 national ranking has campus buzzing heading into Saturday’s matchup against Michigan State. And on Saturday, that buzz filled the Diag with ESPN’s “College GameDay” in town.
ESPN’s Saturday college football preview show filmed live from the north end of the Diag, with the Hatcher Graduate Library as the backdrop, starting at 9 a.m.
The area directly behind the set held the fans who showed up first, late Friday night or early Saturday morning. Hundreds of students packed that section, and other spectators filled in around the edges. Most of them stayed until the end of the show at noon, when other teams kicked off around the country.
The show opened with a preview of the Michigan-Michigan State game but then circled around to other big games, though the showdown in Ann Arbor was the most prominent. At 10 a.m., the discussion featured the Wolverines’ revival under coach Jim Harbaugh. By then, former South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier — who announced this week he would retire effective immediately — had joined host Rece Davis and analysts Desmond Howard, Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit.
Davis started by reading off the statistics on Michigan’s struggles over the past seven years: 46-42 overall, 4-24 against teams that finished ranked in the top 25. Herbstreit added the negative vibe surrounding the Athletic Department.
But then the topic of Harbaugh entered the conversation, and as the analysts broke down how the coach has revitalized the program this year, the crowd erupted.
Those cheers turned quickly to boos when Davis shifted to tonight’s 8 p.m. kickoff between Penn State and No. 1 Ohio State. The boos continued when ESPN’s Heather Cox interviewed Ohio State coach Urban Meyer on camera.
Around 10:20, ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi did a brief interview with real estate mogul Stephen M. Ross, who last year donated $200 million dollars to the University. Rinaldi introduced Ross’ new nonprofit organization, unveiled Friday, that will attempt to combat racism and bullying through sports.
The show took a break from Michigan for a while before airing a video feature about fifth-year senior offensive lineman Graham Glasgow. In March 2014, Glasgow was arrested for drunk driving, and this past March, he violated his probation by failing a random breathalyzer test. Harbaugh suspended him for part of spring camp but reinstated him under one condition: He had to move out of his off-campus house and in with his 81-year-old grandmother, who would come from her home in Illinois to live in Ann Arbor.
Glasgow, his brother Ryan (a redshirt junior defensive lineman for Michigan) and their grandmother did interviews for the piece.
“I embarrassed myself, and I embarrassed my family,” Glasgow said. “That was the reality of the situation.”
With a change of scenery, Glasgow got back on track and now consistently grades out as Michigan’s best offensive lineman. When he finishes his career after this season, his grandmother will return home to Illinois.
The feature earned an appreciative round of applause and a “GO BLUE” chant from the audience, and before long, the show wrapped up with its game predictions.
Howard picked Michigan — provoking a loud cheer from the audience — as did Spurrier, the guest picker. Herbstreit answered by predicting Michigan State.
Finally, Corso made his headgear choice. He started with a small Michigan State helmet, but he couldn’t fit it on his head, so he threw it down and instead chose a giant winged Michigan helmet.
The crowd roared at Corso’s choice. Most then headed down State Street toward the stadium. Just three and a half hours remained until kickoff.