Week three has come and gone, and the early returns on ESPN's college football announcing teams have begun to take shape.
After the reshuffling that took place in the offseason, it was going to be interesting to see who would benefit from having new partners, and who would seriously have to consider strangling Paul Maguire (luckily, no one this year).
I have particular tastes in announcing, so remember, this is only an opinion. Although I think we can agree that Keith Jackson is sorely missed, and that nobody misses Andre Ware, currently wandering around the halls of the SEC Network.
And as usual, nobody does it better than these guys.
This is a solid team being deployed for ABC's Saturday Night Game.
Brent Musburger occasionally slips into Keith Jackson-wannabe territory, and there's an extremely effective drinking game out there that has his predictable responses pretty well anticipated, but he's as old-fashioned and classic as they come, and eventually the appeal gets you.
Herbstreit being in the booth definitely helps—he gives intelligent and enthusiastic color commentary to counteract Musburger's grouchiness. And he's one of the ballsier talking heads at ESPN.
Case in point: he picked Miami to be ranked fifth in the AP this week based on the strength their resume. You know I'm down with that.
Grade So Far: A-
Mike Patrick commentates on football games like a confused old man at a parade in another dimension: he's hearing and seeing a lot of exciting things but has no idea who these people are or what their relevance is.
If he comes anywhere near one of your games, be prepared to shout out the real names of the players on your roster, because this year Mike Patrick prefers to call everyone "Floyd Simmons."
It would be easy to call Craig James just a big Southern dunderhead, but he's stepped up his game a little bit this year. In fact, he's practically carrying this team on his meaty shoulders. In terms of actual color commentary, James can usually offer a story or two about how everything that's happening on the field relates to his days as a running back at SMU. Just imagine what he's like in person!
For pure entertainment value, these two are second to none.
By none, I mean a bunch of blind-drunk strangers at a bar.
Grade so far: C
They only do Notre Dame games, but I included Hammond and Haden to give them mad props on maintaining neutrality despite being knee-deep in Irish
Grade So Far: B
McDonough's approach is too droll and low-key for my tastes—he's like a female version of Pam Ward (psyche!).
In fact, I don't believe those two have ever been seen in an announcing booth together. Coincidence? Toupees involved?
Millen was serviceable, but nothing special in his first call of the Michigan-Notre Dame game. If he completely mismanages this gig and drives momentum directly into the ground, we can at least hit mute.
Grade So Far: C-
Oh boy. Pam Ward and Some Guy are still assigned to noon Big Ten games, as if Iowa-Minnesota in a 3-3 tie at halftime isn't dreadful enough.
I don't even have the energy to look up what Some Guy's story is; a replay of Wisconsin-McNeese State is on, and Pam Ward just asked to take a break to drain the lizard. /yawnsandgoesbacktosleep
Grade So Far: D
Chris Fowler is the total package as an announcer—snarky, well-informed and easily excitable when the action gets exciting. The Thursday night barnburners have so far been kind to his M.O.-they've been high-scoring affairs that let him cut loose in his play-by-play.
Jesse Palmer is another announcer who has made a sincere effort to step past his fratty roots. He's sandwiched some interesting line-blocking analysis in between broad-as-a-barn quarterback criticism.
Craig James: still Craig James. Did he mention his son plays for Texas Tech? Aww.
Grade So Far: B+
Maybe it's just my years of endlessly playing the NCAA series, but no announcer is closer to the Ideal than Brad Nessler.
Liberated from the atrocious Paul Maguire, Nessler is currently flourishing alongside Todd Blackledge, Mike Patrick's former better half, with sideline help from Erin Andrews. Nessler's another easily excitable PBP guy, and I still hear "in and out of his hands!" every time a wide receiver bobbles a pass.
Call me corny, but I also dig Blackledge's Taste of the Town bits. He picks what look like great places to eat, and his color commentary typically goes beyond "Well, he put the pass in the receiver's hands, Brad" that we've almost come to expect from the NCAA series. These two covered the Miami-Florida State game with just the right amount of back-and-forth.
Erin Andrews also prowls the sidelines. Did you see her in glasses? Yow!
Grade So Far: A
Good lord, these guys are bad. In the game I watched, they argued that Carlos Brown and Brandon Minor have "similar skill sets." The Michigan interception somehow wasn't the defensive play of the game.
They do that thing where they slur the end of their sentences when they know they've made a mistake, and just sort of hope the crowd drowns them out.
They shouldn't have names, they should have blurry serial numbers, since they were obviously assembled by cheap labor in some shoddy tent in Indonesia.
Grade So Far: F F F F-
I'm bummed to see Griese flanked by Spielman and Dave "Bland Patch" Pasch. Griese's lost a step or two in his analysis, but he's got the quarterbacking knowledge to hang with the big dogs. There's just no chemistry in this booth.
Spielman's just a rah-rah guy who offers the easy, "Just go up and make the tackle, guy," kind of advice that helps no one.
Dave Pasch and stale cereal have a difficult time telling each other apart.
Grade So Far: C-
The Return of Verne, as I liked to dub the Florida/Tennessee game on CBS, reintroduced us to the classiest and most entertaining announcing team in college football. I know, I know, Gary Danielson says strange things sometimes, but give him a break: he's in love.
These two have honed their skills over the years and have great chemistry. They're also terrific in the NCAA basketball tournament. Their rapport is entertaining beyond the game without being self-aggrandizing, which is what we should expect as fans. Plus, they like fun.
Grade So Far: A zillion Tebows, as long as you two never die or change
For more college football action, why don't you check out my list of the Twenty Best Leaps In College Football History?