Ranking of TV broadcasters in the CFP national championship match
When it comes to the all-SEC CFP final, ESPN has made it clear that it just means more. They made up more options than a QB Lane Kiffin versus an all-out blitz for viewers. Most people choose a channel and stick to it. But with so many options, someone should give some impressions of the many versions of the game that viewers on a single channel have missed.
Unfortunately, my TV package does not offer me ESPN Deportes, so no consideration is given to broadcasting in Spanish. But I have switched between other shows throughout the PSC. Feel free to relive the game, because it all unfolded.
9:55 am remaining 1st quarter, Bama 3, UGA 0: I opened with the Film Room broadcast on ESPN2. First of all, this is a great PR for Texas A&M. They present high-end facilities and present their coaches in a setting where they seem not only to be entertaining, but also directly related. Grab a plate of nachos and a cold drink and Coach Jimbo will tell you about Cover 2.
There’s an unintended comedy, like when the scoop and UGA score come off the board and A&M coaches agree it wasn’t a fumble… only for the confirmation announcement to be followed. of a camera shot of an angry big UGA fan. An assistant laughs and Jimbo admits, “She didn’t think it was the right call.” Blasphemy is absent, of course, but there is personality and a lot of coaching talk.
8:19 a.m. 1st quarter (3-0 Bama): Meanwhile, on the flagship station, Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit are generally astute, following Stetson Bennett’s opening struggles and the Georgia offensive. Funny how Fowler replaced Keith Jackson or Verne Lundquist as the voice of college football. And Herbie, aside from the awkward rejection rant, is still the best colored guy in the business. Although for the color …
5:46 1st quarter (3-0 Bama): I go on the Alabama radio stream and remember nobody knows a team like the guys who broadcast their games all season. Eli Gold, John Parker Wilson and Rashad Johnson are in great shape. Gold immediately informs us that with their early placement this is Alabama’s 283rd straight game without being shutout. It’s the kind of detail that no national guy will casually drop. Most die-hard fans would be delighted to merge the home radio team with the TV stream – especially ESPN’s Team Z gang who get the 12pm SEC game against a MAC team.
4:12 Quarter 1 (3-0 Bama): Jimbo in the movie theater becomes more and more conversational, calling UGA to find Brock Bowers. It is certainly the perfect place for deep dives, in terms of training, staff groups and coaching speeches.
3:26 1st (3-0): Let’s move on to the UGA crew. Scott Howard, Eric Zeier and DJ Shockley keep the Bulldog Nation connected. These guys are solid pros. Howard is one of the best in the SEC… but I still struggle with his obsessive “We”. It might be an old school attitude on my part, but the only way I want to hear a broadcaster say “we” is if they play QB or call plays.
12:35 2nd (3-3): Back to ESPN. Georgia’s offense is waking up and Fowler’s excitement over a long pass to George Pickens suggests he would definitely prefer not to have a 9-6 game like Alabama / LSU in the pre-CFP era.
11:13 2nd (6-3): On ESPN2, Alabama responds with a field goal. Jimbo is slow to spot Jameson Williams’ injury, but the rest of the A&M staff are immediately dismayed to watch the play. The best things about the movie theater are the combination of a locker room atmosphere and a genuine respect for the people involved on the part of the A&M coaches. Incidentally, an interview with the d-line coach is followed by a moment where it seems suggested that DJ Durkin could be featured at halftime. Does Jimbo win everything?
7:07 2nd (9-3): The UGA crew are excited when Georgia arrives with a big bag to avoid a 2 possession deficit. There are some interesting times. Zeier criticizes a pending call on a kick return, but Howard quietly admits that the call was correct … which is good because at exactly the same time, the hold is clearly indicated on ESPN’s camera footage. . Ouch.
3:09 2nd (9-6): Back on ESPN, Georgia’s second solid record is interrupted by a quick chat about Bama LB’s new puppies Will Anderson. This is the best and the worst thing about the flagship show. No one listening to Eli Gold or Scott Howard could give the puppies two flips during the CFP title game. On the other hand, my kids find this much more interesting than, say, Jimbo breaking up protection programs from UGA. UGA enters the derby of the field goal to strangely tie the score of 9-6 that I have already mentioned.
1:33 2nd (9-6): The Alabama team laughed at the anger of the non-SEC conferences when they saw a shootout at the basket. Being balanced makes me admit that Rashad Johnson also adds a “we” and JPW follows with an “our”. Still not a fan of it, and I didn’t feel like Gold would do anything. He drops a reference to the “Golden Flake A-Day game”, which on the other hand, just makes me laugh.
Half, always 9-6 Bama: The A&M coaches seem to disagree somewhat on the management of the end of the half hour. I would pay extra to have a sports bar like trivia buzzers distributed so we could see the staff indicate in real time when they would call down times or not, without having to deal with potentially undermining Jimbo. “They’re happy it’s over and so is he,” Fisher said of Kirby and UGA entering the locker room.
Half time: Rather than endure 25 minutes of talking heads, I turn to cover the marching band at halftime. Alabama is the first and my wife, who I defer to because I don’t know anything about marching bands, is a thug on the Tide. She says their lines are crisp and the music sounds good, but like me, she’s not sure exactly what shapes they’re trying to form. When Georgia’s group comes out and spells out “Georgia” in the script, she’s genuinely impressed. “It’s difficult because they’re curves and not lines,” she admits, and I’m not sure Herbstreit was more precise.
Once that diversion is over, in the second half, I’m going to jump less to try and make sure that I give each show a full opportunity to make its final argument for supremacy. We will open the second half with the UGA radio team.
Mid-3rd quarter, still 9-6: Georgia’s crew begins to look quite frustrated. There’s a wonderful element here of getting cranky with the officiating or the offensive situation, but still hoping the Bulldogs end this decade plus a little streak without a national title. The local color of the hometown ads alone would be worth the price of admission, but with the momentum that could turn to Alabama, it’s time to give Mr. Gold one final taping.
End of 3rd quarter, 13-9, Georgia: Bama’s live stream takes a turn on the downside once I turn around. Georgia is walking on the pitch and we finally have a touchdown. Gold is the best play-by-play voice I’ve heard tonight, which certainly isn’t meant to be an affront to Fowler. But there are only a number of the “us” and penalty-flag-seeking moments that even the most ardent fan of team shows can endure. Better to end up with the national guys and see if my spell somehow spills over to Texas A&M.
Mid-fourth quarter, 19-18, Georgia: Wow, that was a lot of football. Jimbo and his guys seem to have become more comfortable guessing Saban and Smart as the game progressed. It occurs to me that the best find here would be to have a second head coach to offset Fisher. His assistants are certainly not going to do it with the camera rolling. But I can see it now. “I don’t know why he’s calling a time out here.” Enter Lane Kiffin. “Well, I do, Jimbo. Because he wants to score them more points, like I did when we beat you. (Long silence)
There’s a lot of talk about the stores, but also a pretty astute audience. Fisher knew that the UGA’s critical fumble at the start of the quarter was definitely a fumble and that he wouldn’t be told about it. And it’s fun to see Fisher and his assistants being like fans, shaking their heads on an incomplete pass near the goal line and saying things like, “You have to pass the ball in here someday.” “But enough of the amateur hour, let’s finish with the pros.
Final, 33-18, Georgia: Fowler and Herbie bringing it home was a fun choice, although I wish I had missed Scott Howard going mad with Zeier and Shockley on the UGA simulcast. Fowler’s preparation and quiet knowledge of the game runs deep, and Herbstreit is a telestrator master perhaps only matched by Mike Fratello in the heyday of the NBA. UGA’s pick-6 dagger has been aptly named, with Fowler pointing out the parallel to the SEC title game, when Georgia was knocked out with a pick-6.
The main show was rock solid. Fowler and Herbstreit manage to be like the NFL at times when scripting stories intended for mass consumption, but in terms of appeal and game analysis both guys are excellent. I could live without Will Anderson’s puppies or without so many shots of Stetson Bennett crying, but he’s the gold standard when it comes to roadside broadcasting, and for good reason. A-
The cinema screening was suitably different. I would either have coach buzzers to influence strategy without contradicting their boss, or have more SEC head coaches challenging each other’s thoughts and theories. It would also be nice to have a sharper image to see instead of a split screen. Still, it’s very non-traditional and it’s definitely an interesting way to watch the game. I would love to see more confrontation, but a solid idea and reasonably well executed. B +
The UGA network had a game they will always remember. They speak well, they call a good game, but I really wouldn’t mind if they were a little less obvious in the circuit trends. Every call against Georgia isn’t a bad call, Eric. There is no drinking game for every time you let go of an “us” or “our”. They are a great crew and even though they haven’t won the championship themselves I’m sure they feel good to be a part of the day. A
Bama’s network is a personal favorite, simply because Eli Gold is really so good. I once typed Eli God by mistake except it almost didn’t look like a mistake. From what I’ve heard, gold was generally in good shape, and Wilson and Johnson are perfectly solid. Ultimately, they also get an A.
Hardcore fans would prefer radio distribution. Non-fans and families would probably prefer the main stream, and people who weren’t particularly invested but just wanted more entertainment would prefer Jimbo and the movie theater. Maybe it really meant more in the end.