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Stadium, Mark Cuban kick off GameDay

As many as 90,000 fans are expected to rock Cowboys Stadium on Saturday night for college football's prime-time, season-opening matchup pitting No. 3 LSU against No. 4 Oregon in the Cowboys Classic.

The party gets rolling 11 hours before the 7 p.m. kickoff in Lot 3 outside of Jerry Jones' steel-and-glass palace in Arlington, Texas, with the season debut of ESPN's "College GameDay."

Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit, Desmond Howard and Lee Corso will be on set to launch the college football season with a three-hour live broadcast starting at 8 a.m. It's the GameDay crew's first trip to the Taj Mahal of football stadiums and their first visit to the area since broadcasting 15 miles to the west in Fort Worth for TCU's November 2009 showdown against Utah.

They'll be joined by North Texas' suddenly most prominent college football fan and idea man as Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban hops on the set as GameDay's guest game picker.

Throughout the broadcast, a co-existing swarm of purple-and-gold and green-and-yellow is expected to transform the parking lot behind the GameDay set into a dueling pep rally. Those who come out for the morning broadcast should catch a break from the scorching heat wave with unusually reasonable temperatures in the high 70s and low 80s.

"Short of our [New York] Giants game to open the building [in 2009], this is one of the hottest tickets we've had," Dallas Cowboys spokesman Brett Daniels said. "There is a huge LSU fan base here and a lot of fans that didn't get a chance to come out for the Cotton Bowl [LSU vs. Texas A&M ] have a chance to see their team now."

For Oregon and its fans, the Ducks have certainly recruited a number of Texas high school recruits to the Northwest, such as swift tailback LaMichael James from Texarkana, heralded quarterback Darron Thomas from Houston and wide receiver Blake Cantu from nearby Southlake. Yet this is the team's first regular-season venture to the state since the 2005 opener at Houston and first time in North Texas since a 1977 visit to TCU.

Daniels said ESPN and the Cowboys continue to work with the two schools to encourage fans to come out early and that informational emails were also sent to Cowboys season-ticket holders.

ESPN has convinced one local billionaire sports fan to join the festivities in Lot 3 as Cuban, still celebrating his team's NBA championship, might or might not bring along the Larry O'Brien Trophy as his special guest.

Why invite the owner of the NBA champs to pick college games in the first place?

"I'm jumping in because I'm a college football fan," Cuban said via email. "And, I'm following up on the blog posts I wrote in December."

Ah yes, the outspoken basketball owner who wouldn't mind adding a baseball team to his portfolio has leaped into the college football fray as one of the more unexpected proponents of change.

A thought process Cuban first shared on his blog in December during the annual BCS controversies pointed to the need for a playoff system. Cuban then founded a company to examine avenues of change and after a relatively under-the-radar process, the notion of a playoff system has evolved into Proposal 2011-87 for NCAA consideration: two December matchups pitting teams from conferences that don't play championship games, or independents, to play a pair of invitational games during championship week.

The concept is the extra game gives those teams a chance to bolster their postseason resumes, or simply an opportunity to play a 13th game just as the champions of leagues with a conference title game.

"Not much more to add," Cuban wrote. "It comes down to conferences voting for it."

The GameDay crew will surely pick Cuban's brain on his leap into college football politics. The more pressing matter of the day will be the Indiana Hoosier alum's pick of the day as he's surrounded by Tigers and Ducks.

LSU or Oregon?

Jeff Caplan covers colleges for ESPNDallas.com.