Wednesday, August 31, 2011

College Football Announcing Watchdoggery - Preseason

Well, this could be fun.

It seems like sports broadcast journalism outlets have been under the microscope throughout this summer. It began with ESPN's gross NFL lockout coverage in favor of, you know, sports that were actually happening. Fascinating baseball stories outside of the usual Yankees/Red Sox with some Phillies thrown in have been largely ignored. And now there's the swirling controversy about ESPN's role in conference realignment and whether or not they're factoring in to it with TV deals, namely ownership of the controversial Longhorn Network. As you'll see later, they're treating it like a big time network. Anyway, with a boom in broadcast journalism interest thanks to these events and the continued "watchdoggery" of sites like Deadspin and Awful Announcing, I've decided to jump on the bandwagon.

I've long been an obsessive over sports announcers. I wanted to be one for the longest time (and still wouldn't mind the job, if offered) and they've always had a strong affect on my enjoyment of a game and even whether or not I'll watch it, in some cases. I suppose it's because of my life for words and description and storytelling but I track these guys hard and hopefully you'll see some of that over the coming weeks.

We begin with the week 1 schedule. For now, I'll mostly just give brief thoughts on the announcing crew, since there's not too much to "watchdog" yet.

Murray State @ Louisville (ESPNU, 6:00 Thu) - Rob Stone, Danny Kanell, Allison Williams
Rob Stone really belongs on the sideline, but for bullshit games like these, he's cool on play by play. Danny Kanell's just a great name to look at and have in your life. This is Allison Williams. Suddenly I might watch this game. At least until...
UNLV @ Wisconsin (ESPN, 8:00) - Rece Davis, Craig James, Jesse Palmer, Jenn Brown
Ugh. I HATE Rece Davis on play by play. He's so much more natural in the studio. Can't we move Dave Pasch or Joe Tessitore or somebody to this spot already and stick Bob Wischusen in their place? The fact that Craig James even has a job for ESPN after the Mike Leach saga is an embarrassment. Palmer is one of the few really bright spots on the network - I think only Herbstreit and Blackledge are better analysts than him. Jenn Brown tends to look better in dresses and modeling shoots, not on the sidelines, but she does decently enough. She was never going to fill Erin Andrews' shoes but she works hard.
Mississippi State @ Memphis (FSN, 8:00) - Ron Thulin, JC Pearson, Jeremy Bloom
Jeremy Bloom?! Bit of a bizarre choice for an analyst. A college football star who lost his eligibility because he took skiing endorsements and a massive flop for the Eagles in the pros. Thulin is solid though and Pearson's okay enough.
Kentucky v. Western Kentucky (ESPNU, 9:15) - Dave Neal, Andre Ware, Cara Capuano
Dave Neal used to do play by play for the SEC Network noon game but now he's moved up to ESPNU. Andre Ware's a moron. Cara Capuano is a dog. I wish this had the Murray State/Louisville team since this is a more interesting game with it being at a neutral site (LP Field in Nashville, home of the Titans) because WKU needs to meet attendance quotas with its "home games."

Youngstown State @ Michigan State (BTN, 7:30 Fri) - Tom Hart, Derek Rackley, Lisa Byington

Tom Hart? I've heard him do a game once or twice, he's solid. Never heard Rackley or seen Byington although googling the latter doesn't turn up much. What's this doing on a Friday night? Guess they can slap it there under the guise of, "there's been no football for seven months, who cares?"
TCU @ Baylor (ESPN, 8:00) - Joe Tessitore, Rod Gilmore, Samantha Steele
Class. Watch this and tell me Joe Tessitore's not a big time announcer. Gilmore's a terrific analyst and the two have a real chemistry and understanding. Man, their broadcasts are fun. Definitely not missing this one. Samantha Steele is cute, but a bit overrated by the folks over at Busted Coverage, as they tend to do with various females. Not surprised, they're a fratty joke blog after all. Of course, this one is mostly grading the female sideline reporters by their looks so I'm an asshole too. In all seriousness, I'll obviously rate their performances fairly but it's like this: if you're getting hired at least in part because of your looks, I'm going to take looks in to account.

Akron @ Ohio State (ESPN, 12:00) - Dave Pasch, Chris Spielman, Urban Meyer, Quint Kessenich

So we have Chris Spielman, an Ohio State graduate and Urban Meyer, who grew up in Ohio, providing color commentary on the Ohio State Buckeyes, the school who spent the most time under the microscope of rules violations. Add in Pasch being a usual (after)noon delight, and that'll be fun. Kessenich, a nice guy whom I've actually met, does an underrated job on the sidelines as well.
Utah State @ Auburn (ESPN2, 12:00) - Beth Mowins, Mike Bellotti
I'm not sure what's scarier - how bad Beth Mowins is or the fact that she's somehow an upgrade from the woman who used to be here: the University of Maryland's own Pam Ward *vomit.* Bellotti's a terrific analyst though, but that was with Carter Blackburn. This will be tougher.
Miami (OH) @ Missouri (FSN, 12:00) - Bill Land, Dave Lapham, Jim Knox
They're okay, I guess. FOX needs to start stepping up its announcing teams now that it's scored some tasty new TV deals. This isn't a Pac-12 game though, which is perhaps why they skimped.
Indiana State @ Penn State (BTN, 12:00) - Matt Devlin, Glen Mason, Dionne Miller
Matt Devlin's finest hour. That's far from his only embarrassing moment on play by play. But it is quite funny when he tries to get excited and yell and it just comes out as an odd grunt. Glen Mason's a joke forever and always. Dionne Miller...yawn.
Middle Tennessee @ Purdue (BTN, 12:00) - Wayne Larrivee, Joe Tiller, Jon Jansen
Oh man, Wayne Larrivee calling a game drooling with upset potential? What a way I might be able to break in Big Ten Network. Fun fact: BTN's first ever game was Appalachian State/Michigan. Since, this timeslot has become infamous for near and actual upsets as well as wild fun games. This one has all the potential to meet those standards.
Tennessee Tech @ Iowa (BTN, 12:00) - Tom Werme, Danan Hughes, Stacy Paetz
Had not heard of any of them before doing this post. As you may have guessed from the name, Paetz is a Latina and not that great looking of one at that. Seems like this team is the bottom Big Ten Network team for a reason...
Appalachian State @ Virginia Tech (ACC, 12:30) - Steve Martin, Dave Archer, Mike Hogewood
Dave Archer's a nice addition. Then again, a block of wood would be an upgrade over Doc Walker. This remains one of the worst broadcasting teams on television. You think Joe Buck sounds boring? Listen to Steve Martin call a game. And Mike Hogewood's just in the way at this point. No one cares about your southern drawl.

USF @ Notre Dame (NBC, 3:30) - Dan Hicks, Mike Mayock, Alex Flanagan, Anthony Herron
I have a feeling Dan Hicks on Notre Dame games is going to be an abortion. Doesn't seem like the football type. Then again, there was once a time that Chris Fowler didn't seem like the tennis type, so these things can change. Mayock's a brilliant analyst though that should keep the broadcast at least above average. Alex Flanagan's hot enough, even if her voice is droning and I thought Anthony Herron was suspended for the first five games of the season. Nope, that's Boom Herron.
Minnesota @ USC (ABC/ESPN2, 3:30) - Carter Blackburn, Brock Huard, Shelley Smith
I'm not a Blackburn fan. He's okay but he's nothing great. Huard is, though. I think every assignment Shelley Smith has covered over the last seven years has been related to USC football.
Western Michigan @ Michigan (ABC/ESPN2, 3:30) - Mike Patrick, Craig James, Jeannine Edwards
How little did Mike Patrick know about Western Michigan before getting that assignment? For example, there's no way he knew they were in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Do you think he knew Jason Babin went to WMU, never mind being born there? What about the fact that they played in a bowl a couple years ago? At least James isn't an asshole and Edwards isn't a horseface. Wait...
UCLA @ Houston (FSN, 3:30) - Craig Bolerjack, Joel Klatt, Petros Papadakis
Craig Bolerjack doing weekly football - as opposed to a couple CBS games a year - is a good, good thing. This is a terrific broadcast team. Klatt's a good young analyst and Papadakis is quirky but it's a good quirky. He's worked with Barry Tompkins for a while though so there may be an adjustment period here.
UL-Monroe @ Florida State (ESPNU, 3:30) - Pam Ward, Dan Hawkins
This is what Hell is. Right here. This announcing team.
Delaware @ Navy (CBSSN, 3:30) - Tim Brant, Randy Cross, Kaylee Hartung
A lot of people hate Brant but I've always been a fan. Randy Cross?!?! The hell?! He's always been an NFL guy and an obnoxious one at that. There's no way this ends well. As for Kaylee Hartung, here she is. I like. Man, I wish somebody made videos like these for Jill Arrington back when she was on CBS. Hottest sideline reporter of all time, for my money. You could tell she didn't even care, she just loved showing off her body. Okay, that's enough out of me. Fun side note about this game - these two teams have played a few times recently, including a shootout in 2007 that Delaware won when Joe Flacco was still their QB. Nope, he didn't blow it at the end; I was shocked too!
Chattanooga @ Nebraska (BTN, 3:30) - Kevin Kugler, Kelly Stouffer, Ahman Green
Ahman Green should be fun on a Nebraska game. Kelly Stouffer's sort of a hack. Kevin Kugler I've never heard of. Jeez, there's way too much football on TV these days.
James Madison @ North Carolina (ACC, 3:30) - Rich Waltz, Keith Jones, Jenn Hildreth
Keith Jones?! Oh god, not this guy. And Jenn Hildreth is really not that hot - on TV or in person. Nor is she particularly good at her job. Moments like this are when I get happy that FSN no longer has ACC Sunday Night Hoops. Never heard of Waltz, which is probably why he's doing a JMU/UNC game.
BYU @ Mississippi (ESPN, 4:45) - Bob Wischusen, Bob Davie, Jessica Mendoza
Bob Wischusen on a sneaky interesting BYU/Ole Miss game is an odd decision. He's fine enough I guess, but Tessitore/Gilmore couldn't swing over from Waco to call that one? BYU's kind of a huge deal independent - their specialty and ESPN gave them Saturday Primetime last year involving SEC teams (LSU/Florida, when Nessler/Blackledge called the Rutgers/UConn Friday game.) Or maybe I just went Tessitore/Gilmore on every semi-decent mid major game on the ESPN family after the aforementioned Boise/Nevada classic. Davie isn't a great analyst but he isn't a horrible one. Jessica Mendoza on the sideline? Has she ever done a non-softball broadcast for ESPN? Interesting.

Florida Atlantic @ Florida (ESPNU, 7:00) - Clay Matvick, Brian Griese, Allison Williams
I like Matvick's voice, haven't heard too much of him on relevant games. Griese's a decent analyst. Seems like they're trying to make Allison Williams the "new Erin Andrews," which is something certain sectors of the internet already believes (oh look, that's where I got that video from before!)
East Carolina v. South Carolina (SEC, 7:00) - Bob Rathbun, Tim Couch, Kristina Akra
Bob Rathbun on football. Yikes. Tim Couch?!?! That seems like it'll be yikes too. And Kristina stunningly beautiful. That is most definitely yikes. She'll move to ESPN by the end of the year.
Oregon v. LSU (ABC, 8:00) - Brent Musburger, Kirk Herbstreit, Erin Andrews
Musberger just doesn't care anymore. "This is for all the Tostitos" legitimately isn't even trying. Shame because Herbstreit and Andrews are arguably the best at what they do and that's why they're here.
Boise State v. Georgia (ESPN, 8:00) - Brad Nessler, Todd Blackledge, Holly Rowe
This is the best announcing team on the ESPN family and it's not even close. Might be the best team in all of college football announcing. Each of the three is the best or among the best at their role. Just a fantabulous crew. Also, there need to be more weeks where Saturday Night Football (ABC) and Saturday Primetime (ESPN) just have duel epic games. Oregon/LSU at Jerryworld and Boise/Georgia at the Dome. Sheesh.
Tulsa @ Oklahoma (FX, 8:00) - Gus Johnson, Charles Davis, Tim Brewster
This is FOX's lead team. Gus Johnson on college football on a basic cable channel (BTN wasn't for most people) is something that should've happened years ago. Particularly for sure-to-be shootouts like that one. Charles Davis is among the top analysts in the game. Not a clue what Tim Brewster's doing on this team - usually low-profile ex head coaches start on lower teams like Hawkins (who's a LOT more high profile than Brewster.) Guess the ex Minnesota man must have interviewed really well? Looking forward to seeing if he's worthy of being on this team.
Rice @ Texas (LHN, 8:00) - Mark Jones, Ed Cunningham, Samantha Steele
Okay, here we go. Mark Jones and Ed Cunningham, a solid upper midcard ESPN announcing team, announcing a Longhorn Network game sticks out like a sore thumb in light of everything that's happened over the past month. Particularly considering that other ESPN-affiliated regional networks have either the stuck-in-the-1970's Raycom broadcasts (ACC) or get donk ESPN Plus leftover announcers and ESPN3 mainstays (Big East.) This game is not worthy of these announcers. But of course they get them because Texas brings in the eyeballs and the money, which we've painfully learned over the past few months is all that matters.
Colorado @ Hawaii (ESPN2, 10:15) - Dave Lamont, David Diaz-Infante Dave LaMont's underrated. That's all.

Miami @ Maryland (ESPN, 8:00 Mon) - Sean McDonough, Matt Millen, Heather Cox

Sean McDonough isn't just underrated, he's pure class. He'll make our game fun, guaranteed. And Millen's good, Jacory/Jarrett nightmare aside. Heather Cox does an underrated job on the sideline. These guys are usually your top ABC 3:30 game, which is a good thing since that game is basically a national game every week with the reverse mirror on ESPN2.

Next week will be our first reviews. No idea how many games I'll get to watch but I'll try to toggle around. I get most of the channels the games are on (LHN and CBSSN are notables that I don't) so I should hopefully be able to get a wide array of opinion.

COMING - NCAA football preview and week 1 picks, fantasy football draft analysis, Champions League group preview

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