by David Hershorin

Saturday August 31, 2002 - ABC at Noon
Washington vs. Michigan in Ann Arbor
Coverage Team: Brad Nessler, Bob Griese, Lynn Swann

As usual, Bob Griese set the bar for the first full Saturday's announcers/color-commentators. His analogies and insights were key in translating the action this nail-biter provided. Griese's observations were even missed by guys in the truck when they failed to provide replays at his pace as needed.
In the first quarter and later in the third, pivotal fumbles were elaborated upon by Griese only to have either no replay or replay minutes after the fact. There is no excuse for having untimely replays with today's technology. Griese effortlessly seems to know when and how much to elaborate on an array of topics. His keen senses foresaw how the Huskies took advantage of a second quarter injury to Michigan CB #3-sophmore Marlin Jackson. Washington immediately threw to his side against a cold back-up CB for a big gainer, as Bob predicted. Griese also pointed out the problems Washington had with their deep-snapper on key special team's play(s) that arguably turned the game toward the boys in blue.

Brad Nessler is a good match for Griese, grabbing onto what Griese starts and adding dimensions when needed. Nessler noted how Washington's poor 2001 rushing efforts (ranked 96th) yet strong passing attack (ranked 16th) leave them predictable until these numbers change. The next play was an easy INT for the Wolverines…were they tuned in also? This really was the game of the day from an announcing standpoint too, with Swanny putting this team in another class with his timely input. We'll give the announcing team an A-, giving them room to fulfill an even higher potential. We'll give the technicians and production crew a B-. The replay dilemmas, along with a few missing graphics at key times, at times made for a noticeable loss of continuity. ABC is a better football network than its sister ESPN for the actual games themselves. This game signaled clearly what the network has to fix to stay on top.

Saturday August 31st - ESPN at Noon
Univ. of Central Fla. vs. Penn State at College Park, Pa.
Coverage Team: Bob Davie, Mark Jones, Holly Rowe

This was a game where the camera-work, the angles provided, and just the visual vantage point was the best of any game. There were better overall production levels at other games, yet it seemed like the visuals coming from College Park were the most TV-friendly all day. One camera often covered the entire play's action by zooming-in, panning and such, with extra angles and replays easily found from other spectacular vantage points. From a technical standpoint, this was pre-produced (scouted out) as well as it could have been. The announcers would have had to try to make this a bad broadcast. But they didn't, so we give them a B-. This grade was earned when the booth guys failed to make Joe Paterno a major part of why/what has happened lately with PSU. They did the obligatory coverage of Joe, but failed to breakdown his recent tribulations and what he has done to overcome them. This PSU team barely got a 'w' so many questions still exist, especially recruiting ones which beg to be asked/answered by commentators weekly. Maybe next week... Give the truck and producers an A- for what could have been way worse yet was way better than expected (considering how this match-up was not the primary focus for the network this day).

Saturday August 31, 2002 - FSS at 1pm
Colorado State vs. Colorado in Denver at Mile High
Coverage Team: Chris Spielman, Pam Ward, Rob Stone

The coverage team was both insightful and lackadaisical, so they are hard to grade. Chris Spielman seemed to be more consistent than Pam Ward. He let her do her best, which often times was enough quality banter to carry the game by herself. At other times, though, Ward seemed strained to understand the complexities of the situations presented, so Spielman's timely input became essential. Spielman nailed how the ground caused a CSU fumble with about 6:50 left in the second. But both missed chatting up an INT with 9:10 left in the first half. As the replay ran, the announcers were talking about Van Pelt instead of sophomore Landon Jones' great INT. Ward did seem to know what was up at most junctures (with obvious help from statisticians in her ear-piece), but she was too inconsistent for a Saturday showdown of this magnitude. Therefore, the booth gets a C+ while the production team 'behind-the-scenes' provided a good flow to earn a B. The quality of the game was notably better than the broadcast itself. This proves a good game outshines a lackluster broadcast.

One last note - the interview with (2002 Winter Olympics Moguls gold-medallist) Jeremy Bloom's mother was too short. A top story outside the sports world, here it was a secondary issue, not capitalized upon until Bloom returned a punt for a 75 yd TD much later to start the fourth.

Saturday August 31, 2002 - ABC at 3:30pm
Virginia vs. Florida State in Tallahassee
Coverage Team: Sean McDonough, David Norrie

Anyone who tuned into this one past the first quarter must have been a diehard fan of either school, or asleep. A lack of competition tests any commentator and the ability to carry a game on one's verbal shoulders. McDonough and company did a pretty fair job of this. The best statistical observation of the day was McDonough pointing out how four of the five fumbles for Virginia last week came when upperclassmen had the ball. This led to why Head Coach Al Grogh played so many underclassmen this week, somewhat of a surprise. Eventually, critical missed calls and production mistakes seemed trivial as the game sucked the life out of my existence more and more. That makes games such as this hard to grade.

But, if anything, the game provided a chance for these guys to breakdown the difference between FSU's success this week and their near-failure last Saturday. It didn't happen to the extent many core College Football fans desired (like me). They touched on the Nole's defensive problems without isolating them to the secondary. FSU's defensive secondary glitches then became glaringly apparent in the fourth quarter as Virginia did some damage there with two late scores. Other keen observations fell on deaf ears as FSU anemically thrashed Virginia. This was the kind of uphill path the announcers climbed all day. The 1995 highlights of Virginia handing FSU its first ever ACC loss provided some of the broadcast's best football all day. So give the booth and the production itself a solid B for a tough grinding game of barely competitive football.

Saturday August 31, 2002 - FSS at 6:00pm
Mississippi State vs. Oregon in Eugene
Coverage Team: Steve Physioc, Tom Ramsey, Lewis Johnson

Here is another game in which hindsight could have saved us from wasting 3 hours, with the exception again being core fans from either school (or the extremely-bored). One learned about 220 lb. junior ILB Kevin Mitchell and how he plays much bigger than he seems. Also positive was the scrutiny shown in declaring Duck QB Fife's initial score as no-good due to his knee being down on the one-yard line. Replays confirmed this huge missed call. But, like other blowouts, this game was bad enough that production problems seemed trivial. The best comment all day came from these guys when we were told about one player who is so fast that "…if you, me and him were in a phone booth, we still couldn't catch him." Other verbal faux-pas' and replay mess-ups (bad angles, totally missed calls) allow for a C+ in both areas, talent and production. FSS still seems to be catching up production-wise with the rest.

My main beef with FSS is with their banner atop the game being shown. How can they think the white graphic hanging off the main banner, which tells us the status (i.e. 3rd and 5) is not distracting? The white yard-markers seem to wash this information most of the time, making it a distraction at best. Above the banner (about 15% of the total image) we get the rest of the image presented in a darker tint than the part below it. This, too, is distracting, making it seem like it is nighttime above the graphic while it is daytime below it. Can't the guys upstairs at FSS see how this much wasted space takes away from what we could be seeing?

Saturday August 31, 2002 - ESPN at 7:45pm
Clemson vs. Georgia in Athens
Coverage Team: Ron Franklin, Mike Gottfried

The talking portion of this broadcast came across well. This highly competitive battle was well outlined for the viewers. The main glitch seemed not to be the booth's fault, though. As penalty after penalty piled up (on Georgia mostly), we waited for replays to show us the subtlety of each infraction in slower motion. Were these good calls the refs were making? I often held my breath only to see the next play instead of a needed replay. Too bad later on when a graphic accentuated the rampant penalty calls, further outlining the network's own inability to provide visuals of these marginal calls. Yet, by seeing other replays provided readily, I believe they could have done better if they tried more consistently. The announcers made up for these penalty replay problems with savvy by instead discussing what had happened. They pointed out in the third quarter how all six Clemson fumbles were self-recovered. We also learned how the 91 yard second quarter punt return for TD by Georgia's Gibson was the first return of any kind for a TD against Clemson in the Bowden-era. So, all-in-all, a well-covered game with too few penalty replays posing the only major problem. The game gets an A, the booth a B+ while the truck and producer get a disappointing C.

Saturday August 31, 2002 - ABC at 8:00pm
Notre Dame vs. Maryland at the Meadowlands, N.J.
Coverage Team: Brent Musburger, Gary Danielson, Jack Arute

This game became another trying TV-watching experience as ND took over early. The biggest question with Brent is usually in guessing how many cups of coffee he has had. My guess for this game is three. Brent is sharp regardless, no doubt at all. He didn't need stat charts after the halftime break to tell us the disparaging halftime total-yard amounts, ND with 180+ and the Terps a measly 92. But does he really have to hype us so much, seeing as we are already watching? Madden is a good example of being excited without over-exciting those around you. Talkative Brent is like spiking speed. His prowess for the game compensates for his energy, though. Gary ____ provided other insights. Showing much class, he recanted his and others (this site's) earlier predictions of a weak Irish defense. He also showed us how at specific times, when ND got a WR matched-up against the strong safety, new Head Coach Ty Willingham exploited this for big gainers. The only thing he seemingly missed was how open the game remained as Maryland held a surging ND offense to just three FGs and a 9-0 first-half lead. Maryland never made this fact matter, though. An eventual blowout made the football banter flow slower and slower. Brent & Co. get a B on this tough test of our sanity (after nine other games). Adequate replays for both penalties AND crucial situations were provided in a timely manner, making the overall broadcast better than the score. Hopefully this technical crew can get a good game for all their obvious behind-the-scenes talent. An A for this fine production effort, what they could make out of this snoozer.

Sunday September 1, 2002 - ABC at 2:30pm
L.S.U. vs. Virginia Tech in Blacksburg
Coverage Team: Tim Brant, Ed Cunningham, Samantha Ryan

This was a disaster of a broadcast, as LSU didn't show up until late in the second half. With this being the only College Football game on at the time (unlike Saturday's blitz of close to 20 games in 10 hours), we were left flipping by old movies and the US Open, waiting to get to the stellar 6pm match up to come. The commentators seemed caught up in LSU as the 2001 SEC Champions instead of on what has changed since then. The difference in LSU a year later quickly became apparent as the rout ensued. They did make sure to mention after each quarter how this was LSU's first time ever playing in the state of Virginia. They never stated the obvious - that the drubbing LSU received might be the reason why they hadn't been to Virginia yet. Something in the water maybe…
Decent replays of LSU dropping passes thrown right between the numbers don't make for a fun watching experience, especially when the talking lags as much as the game. A well-deserved C for the talking portion, while the production crew gets a B for no lost fumbles on their part. Church could have been a wiser choice.

Sunday September 1, 2002 - ESPN2 at 6pm
Kentucky vs. Louisville in Louisville
Coverage Team: Mark Malone, Sean Salisbury, Tracy Wolfson

It always gives us viewers a fresh angle when they pull guys who usually cover NFL into the college booth. By default, these guys are definitively scouting each player's professional potential as they announce. College-level fans may not enjoy this tact as much as fans of the game at both this and the next level do. Malone & Co. know football on any level, so it really is a subtle point to make. Thumbs up from this armchair critic. One noticeable yet small quirk: Malone rightfully blamed the Cardinal's young OL many times as Louisville was flat in the first half. Why did it take until the fourth quarter for Malone to recognize their improved second-half play? Production glitches were few and far-between also, making this exciting game a consistently exciting broadcast, too. Great replays (on time, as needed) and football savvy garner a B+ for the entire effort. College Football on Sunday…what will they think of next?

Monday September 2, 2002 – ABC at 8:00pm
Auburn vs. Southern Cal. in Los Angeles
Coverage Team: Keith Jackson, Dan Fouts

Whoa nelly! What a weekend of holiday football. These past five days of games won’t be matched until the end of the season. As for what was/wasn’t home-viewable, tonight’s game was a nice book-end to go with the Washington/Michigan Saturday opener. Jackson & Fouts seemed to be sharp the entire broadcast, with replays readily matching the announcers’ observations. Great camera angles answered definitive questions with slow-motion/freeze-frame(s) to consistently confirm the booth’s calls. An A- for their efforts affords them the same motivational reasoning as Griese & Co. – room for the bar to be set higher as the season progresses. The truck gets an A for the best broadcast all year from a production standpoint. It may get better than this, but not much. Everything came together for an errorless evening.

R&R seems to bode well for Keith. Obviously well rested after being off for the summer (and no grueling weekly grind after 30+ years), Jackson was unusually focused. I love Keith, really I do, but in the few years before he semi-retired, his banter seemed dated, with colorful colloquialisms used in place of keen observations. I had come to expect less as Jackson’s obligatory appearances became few and far between. This year’s version seems recharged. It is great to see this venerable stalwart back in classic form. I just hope it isn’t a one-time-deal and KJ can keep it up, so to speak. Fouts works well as his color-man, better than Griese did. Maybe KJ was unable to keep up with the never-ending pace Bob demands. At any rate, Dan’s laid-back approach seems to make Jackson more relaxed AND more on his toes simultaneously. This combo works well for Keith, and we don’t have to listen to the radio broadcast instead. Kudos Keith.