It’s that time of year where a sport whose games are generally piled on top of each other for thirteen hours on Saturdays are spread out across almost three weeks of the calendar. On the field, this generally leads to a strange combination of malaise, wacky play-calling, and unexpected excitement, but it’s also a time to pay closer attention to those in the broadcast booth toiling away, knowing that their work will be more scrutinized with fewer options to flip to. With the season winding down, here are 2011’s best ten college football broadcast booths:
Often relegated to smaller Big 12 or Conference USA games either on Fox Sports or Fox College Sports, these two would be easy to miss, but worth the search if you’re even vaguely interested in their matchup. In listening to Physioc, you can instantly hear just how many games he’s called (in a good way), and with the recent addition of Yogi Roth, the broadcast is infused with the genuine enthusiasm and insight of someone who’s both played and coached at a high level at a young age.
I don’t know if it’s the late night west coast kickoffs or the fact that Blackburn may, in fact, be 20 years old, but these two are rarely brought up as rising names in the broadcasting world. Perhaps a little of my west coast bias is sneaking in here, but these two are always on their game, especially since Huard’s playing experience is on the very coast in which he’s calling games. It can become grueling calling those late night Arizona and Arizona State games (late starts because of weather), but they’re able to make even those palatable.
It’s always a concern when a coach makes his way into the booth -- especially a recent one – because of the tendency of the newly-minted analyst to criticize his coaching brethren with kid gloves. Bellotti, though, is fair in both directions and quick to point out when he doesn’t at all understand why a coach is making a certain move. On top of this Mowins has risen nicely up the ranks and is as sharp as anyone calling those mid-day B1G games.
This is one of those pairs you take for granted because they seem, more often than not, effortless. Nessler is well researched and just sounds like the consummate pro, while Blackledge has very quick eyes and picks up things in real-time as fast as anyone in the business. Also, Blackledge goes and eats food -- always a plus.
Save for Mr. Danielson’s little picture SEC views (forgive him, he knows no better), the voices of Uncle Verne and Gary are now inescapable (in a good way) when tuning in to Saturday’s biggest SEC stage. Even if Verne’s act (the guttural laugh, the “OH MY!” etc) at times borders on shticky, it’s something most of us have grown to welcome and couldn’t imagine Saturdays in Fayetteville or Tuscaloosa without.
I suppose Gus Johnson and his enthusiasm/volume has become polarizing among TV viewers, but being TOO into a game and big plays will always be better than being too emotionally detached. The only real problem with Johnson and Davis in 2011 is that their games, on the whole, weren’t all that big or important. Soon enough.
With the surprisingly eventful Friday night gig, Tessitore and Gilmore, among other games, called TCU-Baylor, Arizona State-Mizzou, and Iowa State-Oklahoma State with appropriate levels of shock and awe. Tessitore in particular always has control but manages to rise with the drama of the game. By the end of the year, it was normal to recognize when a matchup was a “Tessitore Game.”
These two generally have the highest weekly degree of difficulty, due to the usual importance placed on their primetime ABC game of the week. To their credit, they’ve established themselves as the ubiquitous voice of an important Saturday nights, Rose Bowl afternoons, and BCS National Championship Mondays on the back of Musburger continuing to care about his craft (and still remain folksy) and Herbstreit quickly filling in the gaps between plays with spot-on insight and genuine reactions to what we’ve all just seen. They own Saturday nights.