Ranking ESPN's College Football Announcer Pairings for 2010
Today, ESPN released the official announcement duos and trios for college football broadcasts this fall. Some were altered, some remain unchanged from last year.
Who is best and worst among these broadcasting groups is something that will be debated in living rooms and on the internet almost as much as the quality of the teams they announce for.
In the spirit of innumerable preseason top 25s and in anticipation of that heated debate, I'd like to offer a lighthearted look at who I think the best and worst of these groups will be.
Take a look.
Worst: Pam Ward and Danny Kanell, ESPNU Saturday Afternoon
That man you hear mispronouncing your quarterback's name or taunting one of your injured players is actually Pam Ward. She's considered so unprofessional that she has the weekly awards for college football's worst announcing moments named after her. She's the Vince Lombardi of poor analysis.
Luckily, ESPN is not opposed to evolution. They moved Pam and her new color commentator, former FSU quarterback Danny Kanell, to ESPNU's afternoon game. For most people, that game will be the seventh priority, after the two on ESPN/ABC, the ESPN2 game, the CBS game, bullriding on Versus and DVR'ed episodes of Tim and Eric.
Best of luck to Pam and Danny on what should be a lonesome season.
Second-Worst: Mark Jones and Bob Davie, ESPN 2, Saturday Night Primetime
Two bones of contention.
One, most college football fans should be familiar with: Bob Davie. The guy not only likes to talk about the footbaw, he likes to think he knows everything about footbaw. When he diagnoses a play, it is typically incorrect. That usually forces him to cap it off by saying inane like, "That's what running the footbaw is all about," or, "That's runnin' the footbaw," or simply, "That is the footbaw."
Two, this is an unfairly lucrative spot for such a divisive character. The Saturday night ESPN 2 Primetime game is still within the realm of a Clemson-Georgia Tech or a Penn State-Wisconsin game, not something you want to be forced to watch on mute (that means wives and girlfriends will be able to talk to you). To entrust it to Boob Davie is gross mismanagement.
Sad, too, because Mark Jones is a capable announcer, but he's getting sandbagged again this year.
Very Poor: Mike Patrick and Craig James, ABC Saturday Afternoon
I'll go on the record saying I like how bad Mike Patrick is at announcing. It's like going out to eat at Denny's. Did you expect to be wowed?
To his credit, he gets excited even when it's a touch misplaced. Plus, his call on the Denard Robinson inaugural run at Michigan was actually pretty sweet.
On the other hand, college football fans will be staring into the face of pure, dumb, uber-Christian evil when they see Craig James giving his super-obvious keys to the game. That guy got my favorite coach fired!
These two haven't been moved from their slots on Saturday afternoons calling games that are in the ballpark of important. They give hacks like me hope.
Poor: Ron Franklin and Ed Cunningham, ESPN Or ABC Sat. Afternoon
It's practically inconceivable, but at some point during the season, you will be bored watching college football.
Perhaps it has less to do with the action on the field than with dry, professional-except-when-they-get-briefly-unprofessional announcing duos like this one.
Little wonder why they take the regional game not being broadcast on ABC or ESPN. Coming to a Nebraska-Iowa State matchup near you.
Needs Work: Dave Pasch, Chris Spielman, and Bob Griese, ESPN Saturdays
Griese: Not a Cheesy Gordita Crunch Fan?
This group didn't gel like I think ESPN thought it did last year.
Griese and Spielman got on my nerves debating inane technical points long after the plays were over. Pasch's voice is almost too sports-castery. And Griese showed signs of wear and tear, missing calls and getting in trouble with the PC police over an inane flap about Nascar driver Juan Pablo Montoya.
I consider Griese a great color man from his days with the legendary Keith Jackson, and Spielman has been getting some good buzz. But combining the two hasn't led to chemistry.
Maybe with another year, they'll settle in better.
TBD: Mike Bellotti, Brock Huard and Carter Blackburn, ESPN/ABC West Coast
Pac 10 fans will have to clue us in on their experiences with this group, which includes former UO coach and athletic director Mike Bellotti and former Washington QB Brock Huard, along with Carter Blackburn. They'll be taking most afternoon West Coast games, when the rest of the decent world is busy napping off an afternoon buzz.
I nominate this group as the Pasch/Spielman/Griese awkward fit of the year. Bellotti, though notorious for finding good assistants, will probably be too green around the gills to really transcend the sportscasting medium. Huard is also new to broadcasting, and I'm not quite sure how he's planning to pull double duty.
And Blackburn has been called the Chuck Bass of CFB announcing, which means everyone will have slept with everyone else's girlfriend (or boyfriend) by the end of week two. Not that I watch Gossip Girl...my ex, you know, she was into that stuff.
TBD: Bob Wischusen and Brian Griese, ESPN2 Sat. Afternoon
Another pair of untested rookies.
Brian Griese just joined College Football Live (which I watch on mute, anticipating the Michigan-bashing) and has been serviceable so far.
Wischusen (pictured) was not a name I immediately recognized, but he looks and sounds the part of a Saturday afternoon play-by-play man.
If Griese can loosen up a little bit and Wischusen doesn't start to resemble a poor man's Dave Pasch (poor, indeed), this could be a good nominee for most improved by the end of the year.
Gets By: Joe Tessitore and Rod Gilmore, ESPN Fridays
Nothing really positive to say about these two. Tessitore is a bit of a freak in a used-car-salesman way. Gilmore treads water through most of the broadcast.
But they are your link from Thursday to Saturday action, so give thanks. Without them, football would only be on three days a week.
Intriguing: Joe Tessitore, Tim Brown and Ray Bentley, ESPN 3D
Tessitore returns with MORE GREAT DEALS FOR YOUR DRIVEWAY, but I'm more interested in Touchdown Tim Brown leaping out of my television and stiff-arming my sweet mother...in 3-D!
Ray Bentley, formerly Pam Ward's color man (shudder for what that might have involved), will be too shocked both at the wonders of 3-D and the revelation that this job doesn't need to suck to actually give any commentary.
A recipe for disaster...but the good kind. Hopefully, B/R will spring to cover this on my cable bill.
Getting Warmer: Rece Davis, Craig James, and Jesse Palmer, ESPN Thursday
I was sorry to see Craig Fowler traded out for his near-clone, Rece Davis...whom I've come to dislike ever since someone pointed out that he swallows his L's.
Craig James is still a jerk, but count me among those who were able to look past Jesse Palmer's obvious frattiness and see a guy who did his research and really tried his best to diagnose plays accurately and consistently.
Individually this group doesn't seem viable, but it had some of the best chemistry of any last year with Fowler at the helm. That may have had something to do with how good Thursday night games were...Ole Miss/South Carolina in particular comes to mind.
Hopefully, Rece can pick up where Fowler left off.
On The Verge: Sean McDonough and Matt Millen, ABC Sat. Afternoon
Easily the most improved broadcaster of last year, Sean McDonough returns to his spot covering ABC's Saturday afternoon broadcasts.
I enjoy the way he combines a dry delivery with the ability to let 'er rip when the action is getting exciting, something he wasn't doing two and three years ago.
Millen stumbled through his rookie year, never distinguishing himself and never really doing himself any favors. He's arrogant and not thankful enough for the great job he has.
But McDonough successfully rolls right past him during the broadcast, and it helps me do the same.
Great: Brad Nessler and Todd Blackledge, ESPN Primetime, Saturdays
If it ain't broke, don't fix it. These two announcers were a perfect combination last year.
Nessler, the preeminent play-by-play man of our generation courtesy of the NCAA series, is right on track to take over for Musburger when the latter retires. He returns to cover ESPN's Primetime game.
Blackledge is an excellent color man and a capable down-by-down diagnoser. Call me corny, but I love the side stuff that he does with local restaurants, etc., which really capture the holistic college football experience.
Kudos to ESPN for keeping a great thing going.
Tops: Brent Musburger and Kirk Herbstreit, ABC Primetime
This pick will divide me from many college football fans who have grown tired of Musburger's folksy appeal...but when Brent's voice comes over that TV set, don't tell me you don't slip into a bit of a transfixed coma like I do.
His hype pieces leading up to the Rose Bowl gave me chills, and his broadcast of that game was superb.
He'll never top Keith Jackson, and maybe that's his legacy, but Musburger is a slice of college football history and is as deserving of this hallowed spot as anybody.
Helping him out immensely is Herbstreit, another excellent play diagnoser whose teasing and lighthearted asides are an excellent complement to Musburger's dry, austere (and, yes, occasionally repetitive) personality.
The camaraderie, the pageantry, the blend of old and young are emblematic of college football, so appreciate them while they're there. When I finally see these two on the screen, I'll know we're back in business.