Tennessee football: GameDay strikes right balance with Bianca Belair as guest picker

Nov 22, 2021; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Bianca Belair enters the arena during WWE Raw at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 22, 2021; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Bianca Belair enters the arena during WWE Raw at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports /

Want a Vol for Life? Check. What about somebody from Knoxville? Check. Looking for a celebrity who is in a field that’s popular in Knoxville? Check. Trying to appeal to a younger audience? Check. ESPN’s College GameDay literally hit every mark for Tennessee football with its guest picker for when the Vols host the Florida Gators Saturday.

WWE star Bianca Belair announced she’d be the GameDay picker. Belair is from Knoxville, she was an All-American track and field star for the Vols’ track and field team, for whom she competed in 2011 and 2012, and she is the biggest WWE female star out there.

When you look at that resume, it’s hard to think of somebody who is a better fit to pick a Tennessee football game on Rocky Top, even if there are bigger celebrities. Belair announced that she would be picking the Saturday games Friday evening on Twitter.

Okay, analytics aside, of course there would be bigger celebrities. If ESPN could’ve gotten Dolly Parton or Peyton Manning, they would have. You’ve also got Joshua Dobbs in town for the matchup, which he announced earlier Friday on Twitter, and Candace Parker is now free.

However, Belair is still an excellent choice. Obviously, her regional ties and her success with the Vols stand out on their own. However, her relevance is a big deal. She is currently Pro Wrestling Illustrated’s No. 1 female wrestler and SI’s No. 3 overall wrestler. Currently, she’s the WWE Raw Women’s Champion.

Being relevant now helps her with the younger audience. Nobody can deny that WWE isn’t a relevant sport on Rocky Top either. Glenn Jacobs, who was the legendary wrestler Kane, is the current mayor of Knoxville, and Tennessee is a place with rich wrestling history.

That’s not to say Belair was the only choice. In addition to Manning, Parton Dobbs or Parker, there are celebrities relevant right now who could’ve worked. Johnny Knoxville is a Vol fan and was part of launching a new TV show on Hulu this week. Kelsea Ballerini is also from Knoxville and dropped an album today.

Just because it would’ve worked if ESPN chose those guys, though, doesn’t mean picking Belair won’t work. She’s a great celebrity guest picker for a game Tennessee football is hosting. Now, there is one obvious caveat here. Checking off all boxes to be relevant is worthless if you aren’t good when it comes to giving your picks.

We saw this when the Ohio State Buckeyes faced the Notre Dame Fighting Irish a few weeks ago and Jack Harlow was awful. You can’t just bring somebody on to appeal to younger audiences when they know nothing about college football. It only hurts things.

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However, Belair grew up in Knoxville, and she was around during the peak of Tennessee football. As a result, it’s hard to think she isn’t well-versed on the program and the sport. Taking that into account, there’s a chance ESPN struck gold, but we’ll find out Saturday.