Folwer, Herbstreit Talk College Football Championship, Dynasties, More With Media

Courtesy:  ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

ESPN has released the transcript of Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit’s recent discussion with the media about Monday’s college football championship.  The pair opened the discussion with a talk on Alabama’s domination in the college football realm.  From there, the discussion turned to talk of offensive coordinators, the Heisman vote, and players’ skills among much more.  The full transcript of the conference is included below.
The College Football Playoff National Championship title game will be once again be called by Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit. The duo participated in a media conference call today to discuss the matchup between No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Clemson, which will take place Mon, Jan. 9, at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN.

Transcript of the conference call is available below.

 

  1. Could both of you comment. Alabama is obviously extending their run to nearly a decade. We’ve seen dynasties come and go. How much is too much of one team dominating the conversation? Do you feel like people are getting bored with Alabama being here every year? Or does it make for more drama that someone has to try to knock them off?

 

CHRIS FOWLER: Maybe the answer is both. I think anytime any team rules the top of a sport, or any individual for that matter, a certain percentage are going to get fatigued. On the other hand you get an opportunity to frame something that is among the most incredible stories in the history of the sport.

You’re not supposed to be able to dominate at the top any more the way Alabama has done. They’ve defied conventional wisdom by doing that.

On the one hand you’re describing an incredible reign, sustained achievement. On the other hand, there are many people, even within the SEC, that would like to see a fresh story, new people at the top.

That’s what makes it so difficult to do what they’ve done. You wear a huge target and you wear it year after year and you manage that and you overcome that.

So in one respect you turn up to a game like this, one of the major plot lines is marvelling at what Alabama is continuing to do. Not that there has always been this many games, but nobody has ever gone 15-0 at the highest level of this sport. They have a chance to do it, as Clemson did last year. Five in eight years, that’s not supposed to happen.

On the other hand, you have this dynasty. Plenty of people I’m sure would love to see them toppled and love to see someone else take over. That happens throughout sports, throughout history.

KIRK HERBSTREIT: Speaking for myself, I enjoy it in sports, just being a fan of sports, whether it’s college basketball, even Chris following tennis with some of the individuals that get on like a Roger Federer type of run, a Tiger Woods in golf, what we used to see with maybe a team like Bobby Bowden and Florida State, now with what we’re seeing with Nick Saban, some of the Nebraska teams in the ’90s.

I can just speak for myself. I love it. I love when we have a program that raises the bar and that everybody is aiming for. We kind of mock it and tease it, Hey, we want ‘Bama kind of thing. Yet when I think you talk to the coaches and players in this sport, whether it’s in the SEC or around the country, they see that coach and they see that brand. That’s who they’re trying to bring down.

Whether the viewers at home get tired of Alabama, I guess it’s up to each individual. For me personally, I really enjoy it.

 

  1. With all the supposed drama over the OC, seems like at Clemson, a couple of names that people didn’t know, like Tony Elliott and Jeff Scott have done a remarkable job these couple of seasons following Chad Morris, which Dabo could have gone out and gotten anybody to take that position. What do you think of the job they’ve done? And Dexter Lawrence, what has he brought to the line as such a young guy on Clemson’s side of the ball?

 

KIRK HERBSTREIT: I would just say I’m glad you brought that up because you’re right. Seems like the next few days, a lot of talk about Lane and Sark. Unless you’re really a diehard Clemson fan, what has gone on notice was initially Dabo Swinney looking around and bringing in Chad Morris.

If you looked at how their offense was evolving, they were okay, but they weren’t as consistent. I think that game against West Virginia was maybe a wake-up call for them in that bowl game.

When they brought in Chad Morris and that offensive style, they brought it to a whole different level. When it looked like they got things going, you’re right, he had an opportunity to become a head coach. A lot of us wondered what direction he might go.

The proof is in the pudding. What Tony and Jeff have been able to do, that offensive staff, they’ve been blessed to have Deshaun Watson to help them. They are cutting edge. They’re innovative. I thought the game they had against Ohio State is a classic example of what they’ve been able to do in attacking a team’s weaknesses, being innovative and creative, having a quarterback that understands it. They’re doing it at a very fast pace.

I think that’s the exciting matchup for me personally in this game, not just Deshaun Watson, but it’s going to be Tony Elliott, Jeff Scott and Deshaun in that offense.

After what they did to this defense a year ago, matched up now against Nick Saban, you’re already hearing the Alabama players come out saying, We were embarrassed, this time it’s going to be different, they’re going to get the real Alabama.

I think we all want to see the real Alabama defense against Deshaun Watson. Those coordinators have done a hell of a job.

CHRIS FOWLER: What’s interesting, too, they’re both ex-Clemson walk-ons. When they sit in a room together, they finish each other’s sentences. Very interesting dynamic. Sometimes the co-offensive coordinator thing, which has become a little bit en vogue, it’s difficult, problematic. But those guys’ personalities blend very well.

Obviously their styles during the week and on the day of the game blend very well. I’d echo what Kirk said about the creativity. When you have a month to prepare, Urban Meyer and his staff – rightfully so – have gotten a ton of credit. A lot of brainpower in that Ohio State defensive side of the ball, with Schiano helping out, Bill Davis as a consultant, Fickell, of course.

It was a mismatch in terms of creativity, innovation and preparation for that game on Clemson’s side. It was a masterful game plan, play calling. Of course the execution, but Watson really helps. I’m glad you brought it up as well. Those guys have gotten not nearly enough credit.

For Lawrence, I thought Dexter had a quiet game. You always expect to call his number a lot. We have done Clemson a bunch this year and marvelled at this guy. You can’t look at him and think this is actually a true freshman. What was he like in high school a year ago? How fearsome would it have been to carry the ball against that guy? He’s broken in.

I think the productivity, to use the scout’s phrase, which means just a whole bunch of tackles. You’re not supposed to have that many tackles at that position. You’re not supposed to have that many tackles as a true freshman.

You put those two together, it’s one of the most startling defensive seasons that I’ve ever seen because of the nature of the position and his youth and how well he’s played it.

KIRK HERBSTREIT: Fourth on the team in tackles, which again, you don’t see that for a defensive lineman. His personality for a young guy in this world of five-star recruits, high profile, kind of what’s in it for me, me, me, he just kind of has fit into that group seamlessly with Watkins up there, Wilkins, who is a high-profile guy a year ago. Ferrell is another freshman that’s playing well for them. Austin Bryant. They have a big-time, high-level group there they just keep rotating big bodies in there. You’d think he’s been there for three years the way his personality has been in there.

CHRIS FOWLER: They have a way to chart efficiency. The number of impact plays per snap. He’s number one on the team for that. That says a lot. They refer to tackles or pressured or batted balls. In that metric, he’s number one on the defense, which says a whole lot, given the quality of players they have over there.

 

  1. This game with Clemson’s offense versus this Alabama’s defense is almost the irresistible force paradox. Can Clemson move the ball on this Alabama team, and what are they going to have to do to be able to do that? Alabama, it’s so hard to score on them. Then we’ve seen so many teams kind of ascend to this height, but is Clemson one of the teams that is built for sustainability? Has Dabo built the kind of program where they might not win five of eight, but can they make multiple trips into the College Football Playoff?

 

KIRK HERBSTREIT: Number one, there’s so many things there. Clemson’s offense has an ability, because of the system and the quarterback, to score on anybody that they play, providing that Deshaun is kind of on. Last year he was, what, 30 of 47, for 405 yards and four touchdowns against them. They had ample amount of time to prepare for them.

When I watch ‘Bama, the one thing they’ve kind of been spoiled with, is they have an ability to stop the run, and keep two safeties deep to prevent any kind of deep passes downfield. That’s kind of an oxymoron in today’s college football, when you have an ability to keep two safeties back, and also at the same time stop the run. They did it against Washington. Did not have a quarterback run game.

If they do that against Clemson, you’ll see Deshaun Watson run it 20 to 25 times until they get out of that look, then they can start to throw the football.

That will be a little bit of a game within the game, is how Alabama is going to try to play with their safeties, and whether or not they can stop the run and take away the deep ball at the same time.

If they’re effective in doing that, Clemson will punt, like Washington did, almost every series. You got to make them pay for that would be the big thing.

Then just getting Deshaun Watson into his flow, which means to me running and throwing. I expect him to carry it at least 20 times in this game. I think the matchup on the perimeter against Humphrey and Averett, the other corner, will go a long way in determining how this game goes as well.

The ball is going to have to get out fast because of that pass-rush. That means the receivers have to work their tails off to get open and get separation.

CHRIS FOWLER: I don’t see why they wouldn’t move the ball and score points. Alabama came off a shutout in last year’s semifinal. Clemson lit them up. They didn’t have Mike Williams or Deon Cain in that game. When you look at Monday night, the two most dangerous receiving weapons potentially, Cain isn’t as productive or consistent as Leggett, but he certainly has the ability, those guys weren’t even out there last year, especially Williams, who is a complete difference maker.

Deshaun, as Kirk said, has to be sharp, pre-snap, post-snap, process things as quickly as he did against Ohio State, which is a serious challenge. At times they made it look really easy, but it isn’t easy to do what he did. His mind works very quickly. The execution is amazing, as good as we’ve seen in this sport.

He throws picks, that’s what he has to be worried about. You cannot get baited into interceptions. You cannot give Alabama a defensive touchdown. Every opponent goes into the game saying the same thing, yet they fall prey to it. Washington makes a bad decision, throws a ball out there in the flat. Anderson takes it back to the house. It’s a different game right before halftime. That’s the kind of mistake that teams make again and again with them.

Deshaun has made them pretty frequently. They overcame a couple of interceptions. That’s not a good formula to try to do against Alabama.

I think that there’s probably some sleepless nights and some anxious moments on the Alabama side as they get ready for this offense, knowing what happened last year.

Clemson’s program, you watch how Clemson is recruiting. You watch how they recruit in the region. Even to get into recruits somewhat nationally. They have a fertile recruiting area around there.

What they have to sell is a little bit different. They sell it in a different way than some programs. It really is this people first, family, loving environment. Yes, you can win a championship. Yes, you can get to the NFL. But you’re not going to come here and be a cog in the wheel. You’re not going to be a piece in the process. You’re going to be an individual that we look after and take care of and nurture.

I think that’s a message that seems to resonate really well to parents and players. Clemson has a whole lot to sell. I think he and his staff are recruiting as well as just about anybody. I don’t see why it wouldn’t be sustainable.

KIRK HERBSTREIT: I think they’ve reached that status of an elite program. It’s been five or six years now that they’ve been able to recruit consistently. They have a brand-new, multi-million dollar facility which they’re moving over to which will be great to kind of continue. You know how it is with facilities, kind of showing the commitment to the program.

The big thing will be just continuing to get quarterbacks, which they’ve done. They have some guys that already signed, a guy who is a junior, a verbal.

Dabo has a way about him. It’s very, very real. I think parents feel that when they talk to him. I think he has a pretty good track record of recruiting at a very high level, graduating kids, taking care of them.

For him, if you bust your tail, aren’t a five-star recruit, you’re a walk-on, you do everything right on and off the field, he’s going to play you. He does it. That word gets out. So it’s not just about the Deshaun Watsons. It’s about the entire roster. It’s hard to keep an entire roster happy and win at the same time.

I think because of his personality and appreciation for top to bottom on the roster, being a former walk-on, he has a really unique ability to relate to every single guy on the team. That to me, with the resources that they have, the facilities that they now have, there’s no reason that Clemson is going to go away anytime soon.

 

CHRIS FOWLER: That’s a great example. Look at this year’s team. I’ll give you a couple quick examples. Gallman, not highly recruited. Jordan Leggett, not highly recruited. Boulware, barely recruited. Renfrow, walk-on. Mike Williams wasn’t a six-star guy either. His talent is obvious. Deshaun, obviously everybody wanted.

The team is built around guys with different kind of backgrounds. Yeah, they have plenty of the five-star guys, they’ll continue to get them. They’ll also continue to get guys that maybe aren’t as heralded and just really developing. I think those guys will always have a place in Clemson’s program.

Then you look at what happened with Watson graduating in three years, Williams graduating, Leggett graduating all in December, all as juniors. You just throw that out there to parents and players and say, This isn’t spin, this is reality. It’s a very strong selling point.

 

  1. Nick sort of downplayed the change in offensive coordinator based on Alabama’s ability to game plan and script certain situations. How legitimate is that excuse or defense? As an offense, how do you expect Sarkisian and Jalen to respond when things don’t go necessarily as planned?

 

KIRK HERBSTREIT: I think the thing that at least I’ve heard him talk about is, he feels like it’s being blown out of proportion because it’s kind of business as usual as far as the workweek. The preparation for any college offense, I think sometimes we tend to lock in on who the coordinator is. When you get behind closed doors, you realize there’s five or six guys kind of watching film together, formulating a plan together, all that. Sark has been obviously around. That’s why I think he’s saying it’s business as usual.

I think the major difference that even Nick Saban can’t predict is going to be the four hours on Monday night. Steve Sarkisian hasn’t been the quarterback coach or the running back coach or kind of normal involvement as an assistant coach. He’s been an offensive analyst. I don’t even know what that means. But I know there are some limitations on Saturdays in the fall what he can and can’t do.

Now you go from that role to you’re standing on the sideline calling the plays in an up-tempo offense with a true freshman quarterback. To see that won’t be potentially a factor one way or the other is not right. Of course it is.

It might be better, by the way. We don’t know if it’s going to be better or worse. It’s without question going to be different. He hasn’t even called plays in a scrimmage. Now he’s calling plays in a national championship. I’m talking about this offense. Obviously he’s done it at Washington and USC. By the way, he’s more than capable of doing it.

In these circumstances with this offense, we’ve never seen it. So it’s definitely a big storyline during the game itself.

I think Mike Locksley’s role and what he’s allowed and not allowed to do, he’s been an integral part behind closed doors and dealing with a true freshman quarterback in Jalen Hurts. With this system, where Alabama used to be more power football. Now it’s more up-tempo, quarterback run game, which is right where Mike Locksley has been most of his coaching career.

Both of them are going to be involved in a very unique way in this preparation without Lane Kiffin being there.

CHRIS FOWLER: Interesting, too, you mention the true freshman quarterback. It’s his 15th game, but it’s a championship game. Anybody that played them will say the feeling is different. Even though you’re poised and mature for your age, it’s a championship game against a very complicated defense, a defense that is known for throwing a whole bunch of stuff at people. They’ve confused far more experienced quarterbacks than Jalen Hurts in the past with what Venables does.

I think you can expect another aggressive, grab-bag approach that doesn’t make it easy on the quarterback. I think if they can’t line up and smash you, Scarbrough can’t make 120 yards after contact like he did the other day, it certainly makes the play-caller’s chore a little more difficult.

I think it’s fascinating. I really do. If Sarkisian hadn’t been on a big stage in a pressure situation you’d be more concerned. What Kirk said is right. There is rush when you call plays. There is unfamiliarity with the system when you jump into a system and do it for the first time and it’s in the ultimate game. I don’t care who you are. But at least he has been there in a big moment.

What’s interesting is we’ve seen plenty of circumstances where it’s almost play calling in the name of vanity. I don’t think Saban wants that. I think there was not much tolerance for that when a play-caller goes in there and tries to get ‘too cute,’ or call plays to show how smart you are. I don’t think that’s what Sark is going to be charged with doing, even though it’s his very first time doing it on a massive stage.

You have to call plays around what’s going to work best with the personnel you have on offense against that defense. That does require some discipline, it really does, because Clemson doesn’t make it easy on you.

KIRK HERBSTREIT: Your point about how do you call the game to the best of your ability. If you watched their game against Washington, as much as they struggled with continuity, self-destructing with penalties, they did a good job with the special teams of pinning Washington inside the 10 yard line a number of times.

As a play-caller in a game like this, as good as Clemson’s defense is, sometimes a punt is okay. Sometimes playing field position and relying on that Alabama defense to try to get a short field with a turnover, especially with Deshaun Watson sometimes turning the ball over through the air, that’s sometimes okay.

That will be a big message I would think to Jalen Hurts this week, is throwing it away, not taking sacks, not turning the ball over, punting the ball and playing field position. Worst case is not necessarily a bad thing for ‘Bama with the defense and special teams that they have.

CHRIS FOWLER: What’s so fascinating is we just don’t know how well they’re going to stop Clemson’s offense. The chore becomes different. If it doesn’t become a field position kind of game, you have to open it up. Then it becomes more interesting what they’re calling on offense.

KIRK HERBSTREIT: He’ll call the play, like any coordinator will, based on the flow of the game, how well their defense is holding up, field position, things like that.

 

  1. I’ve been banging this job for a couple years now. I’d like to ask you guys, why has there not been more public pressure for reform when it comes to the timing of the Heisman vote? A lot of people out there think that Deshaun Watson should have been back-to-back Heisman winner, let alone the winner this year with the way Lamar Jackson finished. It’s not just Watson. You have 2005 Reggie Bush against Vince Young. A lot of people thought that Vince Young might come out on top if the vote came out after that game. Baker Mayfield, the way he played against Auburn. Most coveted award in all of sports. Why can’t we have the vote after the most important game has been played?

 

CHRIS FOWLER: I mean, they’ve done it 82 years, and they’ve done it this way. It’s tradition. Obviously when the award was conceived, post-season play wasn’t what it is. I don’t think that they see any need to shift it.

Your argument is passionate. You definitely have a horse in the race in your mind. I think if you looked at year’s past, sure the winner might have been different had it been different after the bowls or the playoffs. That would have happened quite a lot over the years.

The voting is done at the end of the season. In some ways there’s a fairness to it in that you do have a chance to be involved in the award, even if your team isn’t in a major bowl or in the playoff.

Listen, I think you can have whatever opinion you want. I don’t reveal my vote. Obviously enough people felt that Lamar Jackson had done enough throughout the totality of the season to survive some turnovers and some losses down the stretch. Clemson fans obviously wouldn’t agree.

Having said that, as brilliantly as Deshaun plays, stats become a big part of evaluating a player. You could argue too much. But he threw a lot of interceptions, a lot of interceptions for someone who would have won the Heisman, regardless of how productive he is.

A few of the picks early in the season might have gotten in the way of people voting for him. Who knows what went into their decisions.

To your point, I don’t think that’s going to change. I think they’re going to continue to award the trophy at the end of the regular season.

 

  1. I would like to know what are some of the key matchups that you all believe can determine the outcome of Monday’s game? Also, do you think there are any experiences that Clemson can draw on so that they can possibly pull out an upset from last year?

 

KIRK HERBSTREIT: I think the biggest matchup is going to be Deshaun Watson against the defense in general, the coverage, the multiple coverages. Obviously the offensive line is going to have to help out, the receiver’s going to have to win. I think in general Nick Saban’s mind and angst after last year’s performance, how he decides to defend Deshaun Watson is going to be a great matchup.

I think if you’re looking for just one-on-one type of stuff, we talked about Mike Williams, Deon Cain, Hunter Renfrow who had a huge game last year against these guys. They match up favorably.

If you’re going to attack Alabama in any way, you’re going to do it through the air. These guys have the quarterback and receiver to give them a chance to be effective with some downfield passers. The receivers against the secondary. Deshaun against Nick Saban I think is going to be a great matchup. Then with all the talk about Sark coming in to take over, it’s not just going up against any defense, he’s going up against a defense right now of Brent Venables that’s coming out against a shutout against Ohio State and is probably playing with as much confidence if not more confidence than any defense in the country, including Alabama.

Specifically on that side of the ball, I would say, to me, the Alabama offensive line, which is not your traditional dominant offensive line, especially on the inside, how do they hold up against a really, really good defensive front from Clemson I think is another matchup that could go a long way in determining how the game goes.

CHRIS FOWLER: I like that matchup, too. I think you look at Alabama’s offensive line, it’s very left-handed. Robinson over there. Pierschbacher is a good guard. But Clemson’s guys, the rotation we talked about earlier, which is basically four sophomores, a couple freshman, one junior and one senior who keep each other fresh, all of them can make impact plays. All of them cannot just eat up blocks, but invade the backfield when they need to. It’s hard to do that against ‘Bama.

I think if you looked at this offensive line, the very high standards they have at that program would not rank as one of the great ones they had. Opponents would tell you that.

I think it’s a terrific matchup. If you can clog the middle, let the linebackers run, do what they do behind you, it forces Alabama into some uncomfortable situations.

I like that matchup, too.

KIRK HERBSTREIT: I think as far as experience, last year’s experience is the best experience that gives them confidence. I mean, in their minds they blew the on-side kick, they let a kickoff return get out from Kenyan Drake. But I think in their minds they probably gained more confidence in standing in the middle of the rain going toe-to-toe with Alabama for four quarters than anything else that they can look at on film.

They’ve been there, they’ve done that. They competed. They didn’t secure things in special teams. They ended up losing the game. But it wasn’t as if they got blown off the field and had to regroup and think, Oh, my gosh, what are we going to do this time. They were right there stride per stride, had a quarterback play out of his mind in that game. I think a lot of us left that stadium thinking Deshaun Watson is a bad man, including Nick Saban.

Alabama won the trophy, but Deshaun Watson won a lot of people’s hearts that night, for sure. If I’m a Clemson player, I’m looking at that film knowing that I can play with Alabama.

 

  1. With Deshaun’s propensity to throw interceptions, Alabama’s ball hawking defense, say Deshaun throws two or three interceptions, Alabama takes one back to the house, how much of an impact do you think that will have on the outcome of the game?

 

CHRIS FOWLER: I don’t know. Study the impact of pick-sixes in most games. It’s extremely favorable for the defense that can create one.

I don’t know. I’d defer to Kirk in how able Watson is able to change what has become a pretty frequent pattern. He trusts his guys to make plays to an extreme degree.

A lot of his picks aren’t necessarily awful decisions. They’re 50/50 balls that he has so much belief that a Leggett or a Williams can win that matchup, so he’ll put the ball up there. Against guys as good as Alabama has got, you’re not going to win all of them. They win their share.

Whether or not he regulates that, modulates that, the instinct to allow his guys to make plays, plays a little bit more cautiously.

It’s devastating to give up a pick-six, especially if the game is not a shootout. Clemson almost survived all the special teams issues that Kirk just described and they still had a chance at the end despite all that. But, boy, you’re living with a slim margin for error when you do that.

Alabama is hard enough to score on without letting their defense get in the end zone, so… I’m sure that’s going to be talked about a lot at Clemson. If you give up a turnover, you ask your defense to go out there as they did against Ohio State and minimize the damage or prevent the other team from getting in the end zone.

Remember Alabama’s offense had great field position throughout almost the entire game against Washington. Definitely in the first half. They only scored one touchdown. They had the ball at midfield or in plus territory a lot, and didn’t cash in. Even if you give up a turnover and don’t let them score, the defense has got to go out there and try to prevent the damage from happening.

KIRK HERBSTREIT: Yeah, all of college football games are games of momentum swings, back and forth, sudden change, how your own defense responds to a turnover. If there’s a pick-six, I think in Clemson’s case, you’re very fortunate to have a quarterback that’s played a ton of football, has an ability to bounce back from mistakes. If you look at his track record, it’s not like he goes in the tank after he potentially throws a pick or a pick-six.

I’ve always been really impressed by him. We’ve called a lot of his games. Just when you think the average quarterback, Wow, he threw a pick in Tallahassee, what is he going to do? He gets the ball back the next series, it’s like it never happened.

Yes, it will obviously affect the game, momentum, energy in the stadium, score on the scoreboard. I don’t think it would lead to potential further damage just because he may throw a pick.

I think he needs the defense to step up, like Washington did last week, when they were put in some tough spots.

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ESPN Offering Extensive Coverage Of College Football Playoff Championship

Courtesy:  ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

Next Monday night the 2015 – 2016 college football season finally comes to an end.

A season of hits and hard work finally comes down to just one game next Monday night when Alabama (SEC) and Clemson (ACC) face off for this year’s college football championship.  And ESPN will have full coverage of this year’s championship game.  Kickoff is set for 8:30pm ET on ESPN.  Chris Fowler will have the call for Monday night’s game, presented by AT&T.  He will be joined in the booth by Kirk Herbstreit.  Heather Cox and Tom Rinaldi will also be on hand on the sidelines for additional commentary and reports throughout the game.

Those that won’t be near a TV Monday night can still catch the game as it will be simulcast on ESPN Radio and online via ESPNRadio.com, the ESPN app, SiriusXM, Apple iTunes Radio, Slacker Radio, and TuneIn.  Mike Tirico will have the call for the game’s broadcast on ESPN Radio.  He will be joined in the booth by analyst Todd Blackledge.  Holly Rowe, Joe Schad, and Bill Lemonnier will all be on hand on the sidelines for additional commentary and reports for ESPN Radio throughout the game.  Additional information for Monday night’s broadcast of the College Football Championship will be announced as the week progresses.

As the days tick by and anticipation builds for this year’s College Football Championship, ESPN and the ESPN networks will have plenty of in-depth coverage ahead of the big game.  College Football Live will come live from the campus of both Alabama and Clemson.  It will also have a live broadcast from the University of Phoenix Stadium, the site of this year’s championship game.  Joe Tessitore will be live at Alabama’s campus.  He will be joined by analysts Mark May and Booger McFarland, and reporter Tom Rinaldi.  Chris Cotter will be live from Clemson alongside Danny Kanell and analyst Joey Galloway.  Reporters Samantha Ponder and Marty Smith will also be on hand for additional commentary and news.  On Friday, Chris Cotter will anchor College Football Live on site at the University of Phoenix Stadium.  He will be joined live by analysts Joey Galloway, Jesse Palmer, Mack Brown and Todd McShay, and contributor George Whitfield.  That broadcast will air Friday at 1:30pm ET on ESPN.

Along with broadcasts of College Football Live ESPN will also offer college football fans live editions of SportsCenter in the days leading up to the College Football Championship.  David Lloyd will host SportsCenter  Thursday at 1pm ET.  Lindsay Czarniak will host the 6pm edition of SportsCenter Thursday and Friday evening.  Thursday’s broadcast will air live from Alabama and Friday’s from Phoenix.  Saturday morning, SportsCenter will air live from College Football Playoff Media Day from 8am ET – 12:30pm ET.  Matt Barrie, Joe Tessitore will be on hand for the early edition of SportsCenter while John Anderson and John Buccigross will be on hand for the late edition of SportsCenter.  On Monday, SportsCenter will be live from 9am ET to 2:30 pm ET on-site from the University of Phoenix Stadium.  There will also be a follow-up edition of SportsCenter following the game.  Lindsay Czarniak will wrap SportsCenter’s coverage of the College Football Championship Tuesday night at 6pm ET.

The ESPN networks’ extensive coverage of the 2015 – 2016 College Football Championship includes not only coverage from its flagship news broadcast and one of its college football broadcast but also on Face To Face with Hannah Storm.  Monday afternoon at 2:30pm ET, Alabama head coach Nick Saban and Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney will sit down with ESPN’s Hannah Storm for a special interview.  The coaches will discuss their respective teams’ seasons, the championship game, and much more in a special half-hour edition of the program.

Over on the radio side, Mike and Mike will broadcast on-site on Monday and Tuesday live from the University of Phoenix Stadium as will Rusillo and KanellMike and Mike will be simulcast both days from 6am ET to 10am ET on ESPN2. Rusillo & Kanell will air both days at 1pm ET live from Phoenix. As an additional bonus for fans NFL great Steve Smith, Jr. will join Golic and Greenie Friday morning on Mike and Mike. His appearance comes on the heels of his announcement that he will be returning to the Ravens in 2016 instead of retiring as he had previously announced. Smith will be live from 7:30am – 10am ET.

More information on the ESPN networks’ extensive coverage of the upcoming College Football Playoff Championship is available online now along with all of the latest college football headlines at:

 

 

Website: http://espn.go.com/college-football

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/CFBonESPN

 

 

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

ESPN Family Of Networks Covering Entire Men’s 2014 NIT

Courtesy:  ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

The 77th annual National Invitation Tournament (NIT) tips off tonight and the ESPN family of networks will have exclusive coverage of the entire tournament.

Every game of the annual NIT will be carried across the ESPN family of networks and online on ESPN3 via WatchESPN.  Round One tips off tonight at 7pm with games on ESPN, ESPN2, and ESPNU.  The Mountaineers of West Virginia will take on the Georgetown Hoyas on ESPN, while the Florida State Seminoles will face Florida Gulf Coast on ESPN2.  The third of the 7pm games sees Robert Morris on the road against St. John’s on ESPNU.  St. John’s is making a record 30th appearance in this year’s NIT and is one of six teams in this year’s tournament that also made an appearance in the 2013 NIT.  The other five teams on that list are: Florida State, Indiana State, Louisiana Tech, Robert Morris, and Southern Miss.

Illinois and Boston University lead off coverage of Day Two at 7pm on ESPN2 with Iona and Louisiana Tech following at 7:30pm on ESPN3 at 7:30pm ET.  Florida Gulf Coast reached the NCAA Tournament’s “Sweet Sixteen” round in 2013.  This year marks the first time that the school will play in the NIT.  It is one of three schools that will make its first ever appearance in the NIT this year.  The other two schools making their first appearance in the NIT this year are High Point and Utah Valley.

Round Two of the NIT is March 20th – 24th.  Quarterfinals are scheduled for March 25th – 26th.  Semifinals are April 1st and the NIT Championship follows April 3rd.

The complete NIT First Round coverage schedule is listed below.

2014 NIT First Round Schedule:

Date Time (ET) Game Network
Tue, March 18 7 p.m. NIT First Round: West Virginia at Georgetown
Mike Patrick & Dan Dakich
ESPN
7 p.m. NIT First Round: Florida Gulf Coast at Florida State
Mark Jones & Darrin Horn
ESPN2
7 p.m. NIT First Round: Robert Morris at St. John’s
Dave Pasch & Tim Welsh
ESPNU
8:15 p.m. NIT First Round: High Point at Minnesota
Clay Matvick & Mark Wise
ESPN3
8:15 p.m. NIT First Round: Belmont at Green Bay
Jim Barbar & Sean Harrington
ESPN3
9 p.m. NIT First Round: Indiana State at Arkansas
Brad Nessler & Jimmy Dykes
ESPN
9 p.m. NIT First Round: Davidson at Missouri
Bob Wischusen & Malcolm Huckaby
ESPN2
9 p.m. NIT First Round: Georgia State at Clemson
Tom Hart & Bob Valvano
ESPNU
11 p.m. NIT First Round: Utah at St. Mary’s
Dave Flemming & Sean Farnham
ESPN2
Wed, March 19 7 p.m. NIT First Round: Illinois at Boston University
Sean McDonough & Tim Welsh
ESPN2
7:30 p.m. NIT First Round: Iona at Louisiana Tech
Brett Dolan & Daymeon Fishback
ESPN3
8 p.m. NIT First Round: Vermont at Georgia
Joe Davis & Dino Gaudio
ESPNU
8:30 p.m. NIT First Round: Toledo at Southern Miss
Roy Philpott & Joe Dean
ESPN3
9 p.m. NIT First Round: UC Irvine at SMU
John Saunders & Fran Fraschilla
ESPN2
10 p.m. NIT First Round: LSU at San Francisco
Roxy Bernstein & Bill Walton
ESPNU
10:30 p.m. NIT First Round: Utah Valley at California
Trey Bender & Jon Crispin
ESPN3

 

More information on the ESPN family of networks’ coverage of the NIT is available online at http://www.facebook.com/ESPNCollegeBasketball and http://espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Jon Gruden’s Quarterback Camp Returns This Spring

Courtesy:  ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

Jon Gruden’s “Quarterback Camp” will return this Spring.

Gruden’s series of SportsCenter specials will return this spring for its fifth season.  Gruden mentors a handful of college football’s top quarterbacks in the series, as they prepare to take the next step in their careers.  This year’s installment of Gruden’s “Quarterback Camp” will see nine of college football’s top quarterback prospects.  Those names include the likes of 2012 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M, two-time BCS National Champion A.J. McCarron of Alabama, and Teddy Bridgewater of Louisville.  The complete list of this year’s “QB Camp” participants is noted below.

2014 Gruden’s QB Camp participants:

Quarterback

School

Blake Bortles

Central Florida

Tajh Boyd

Clemson

Teddy Bridgewater

Louisville

Derek Carr

Fresno

Jimmy Garoppolo

Eastern Illinois

Jordan Lynch

Northern Illinois

A.J. McCarron

Alabama

Johnny Manziel

Texas A&M

Aaron Murray

Georgia

 

Gruden prepares a specialized lesson plan of sorts for each of the participants in his “QB Camp.”  Through his specialized plan, he points out to each prospect, a balanced look at both their strengths and weaknesses, allowing them to see where they need to improve in order to be successful NFL talent.  Over the past four seasons of his “QB Camp” Gruden has mentored no fewer than twenty-nine quarterbacks from twenty-seven schools.  Fourteen of those QBs went on to be NFL regular season starters.  Among the names that Gruden has mentored through his series are: Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Cam Newton and current NFL Super Bowl champion Russell Wilson, of the Seattle Seahawks.

Gruden’s “QB Camp” moves this year to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Arena at Walt Disney World Resort outside Orlando.  It replaces Gruden’s Tampa office, where the “QB Camp” was previously held.  The new set will replicate his Tampa office, playfully dubbed the “Fired Football Coaches Association.”  The 220-acre facility also includes athletic fields, which will be used for quarterback workouts.

More information on Jon Gruden’s “Quarterback Camp” and all things NFL is available online now at http://espn.go.com/nfl and http://www.facebook.com/NFLonESPN.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

ESPN Announces Preliminary 2014 ACC FootballBroadcast Schedule

Courtesy:  ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

The 2013-2014 college football season just recently wrapped.  But as many will note, it’s never too early or late to talk football.  Keeping that in mind, ESPN has announced the early details for coverage of its 2014 ACC Football schedule.  The upcoming schedule includes a prime time game on Labor Day, five Thursday night games, and three on Fridays this coming Fall.  More games will be announced as the 2014-2015 ACC season nears.

ESPN’s 2014 ACC college football coverage kicks off fittingly with Louisville (in its ACC debut) taking on Miami (Fla.).  The game is scheduled for an 8pm kickoff, Monday, September1st.  The Labor Day showdown marks the second consecutive year that a new ACC member school will make its debut in the conference’s leading Monday showdown.  Last year, new member Pittsburgh fell in its Labor Day debut to eventual NCAA college football champion Florida State.  Louisville has weathered “The U” in the two schools last two meetings, including a 36-9 manhandling of the Hurricanes in the 2013 Russell Athletic Bowl and an equally sound 31-7 thrashing of Miami in the teams’ last regular season meeting in 2006.

ESPN’s ESPN College Football Primetime, which broadcasts every Thursday night, will include five ACC matchups in the upcoming season.  Two of those games will feature the Virginia Tech Hokies.  The Hokies have played more Thursday night games—27 to be exact—than any other program.  And that streak continues in the 2014 season with matchups against Pittsburgh on October 16th and Miami (Fla.) on October 23rd.  Along with its ongoing streak, Virginia Tech has also played at least one Thursday night game each year since 2002.  That is the longest streak among every team.

The third of the currently announced slate of Thursday night broadcasts will see Louisville taking on defending National Champion Florida State on Thursday, October 30th.  Clemson will face the Demon Deacons of Wake Forest on November 6th for the fourth of ESPN’s current slate of Thursday night ACC broadcasts.  The fifth of the first slate of games will see Duke taking on in-state rival North Carolina on November 20th.  Both teams are coming off of winning seasons in the 2013-2014 ACC season.  Duke’s Coach Cutcliffe brought the Blue Devils to a surprising 10-4 record and an appearance in the Chic-Fil-A Bowl.  North Carolina made its appearance at the Belk Bowl in Charlotte, defeating the University of Cincinnati.

ESPN’s current Friday ACC broadcast schedule includes games between Boston College and Pittsburgh (September 5th), Louisville at Syracuse (October3rd), and Virginia at Virginia Tech on Black Friday, November28th.  The current schedule of ACC games across the ESPN Family of networks is listed below.

The 2014 ACC Labor Day, Thursday and Friday schedule (additional selections to be announced):

 

Date Time (ET) Game Network
Mon, Sep 1 8 p.m. Miami (Fla.) at Louisville ESPN
Fri, Sep 5 TBD Pittsburgh at Boston College ESPN or ESPN2
Fri, Oct 3 TBD Louisville at Syracuse ESPN or ESPN2
Thu, Oct 16 TBD Virginia Tech at Pittsburgh ESPN
Thu, Oct 23 TBD Miami (Fla.) at Virginia Tech ESPN
Thu, Oct 30 TBD Florida State at Louisville ESPN
Thu, Nov 6 TBD Clemson at Wake Forest ESPN
Thu, Nov 20 TBD North Carolina at Duke ESPN
Fri, Nov 28 TBD Virginia at Virginia Tech TBD

 

More information and updates on ESPN’s ACC football schedule for 2014 is available online at http://www.facebook.com/CFBonESPN, http://espn.go.com/ncf/index and http://twitter.com/espncfb.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Unbeatens, Top 25 Teams Highlight Weekend’s CFB Coverage On ESPN Family Of Networks

Courtesy:  ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

This weekend is going to be another busy one for college football fans.  ESPN’s college football coverage this weekend includes matchups between nine undefeated teams and thirteen of the nation’s Top Twenty-Five ranked teams.  It’s all capped off with an ESPN doubleheader this Saturday, October 12th.  The first game on the network’s doubleheader schedule will see unbeaten #18 Michigan taking on Big Ten rival Penn State.  That game is scheduled for 5pm ET.  The second game of the night will see #9 Texas A&M hitting the road to take on Ole Miss at 8:30pm ET.  Texas A&M has only one loss so far on the season.

Saturday’s extensive college football schedule kicks off on ABC at high noon with the annual Red River Rivalry between the Longhorns of Texas and the Sooners of #12 Oklahoma.  Brent Musburger will have the call on the game.  He will be joined by Todd Blackledge and Heather Cox.  Over on ESPN, the Bulldogs of #7 Georgia will host the undefeated #25 University of Missouri Tigers.  Dave Pasch will have the call on the game.  He will be joined by Brian Griese and Tom Luginbill.  Georgia’s only loss so far on the season has come at the hands of the Clemson Tigers.

ESPN and ABC’s coverage is just part of what the ESPN family of networks has to offer this weekend.  Thursday night, unbeaten #8 Louisville will take on Rutgers, which has only one loss on the season so far in an American Athletic Conference match.  The game is scheduled to air on ESPN Thursday night, October 10th at 7:30pm.

ABC will air two games in a reverse-mirror with ESPN2 at 3:30pm, the first pitting undefeated #3 Clemson against the Eagles of Boston College.  #19 Northwestern will take on the Wisconsin Badgers in the second of ABC’s games.

If Saturday’s main college football coverage isn’t enough for fans, then Saturday night’s doubleheader on ESPN2 is sure to keep fans happy.  #1 Alabama is scheduled to take on Kentucky at 7pm with #11 UCLA following at 10:30pm ET against California.

Over on ESPNU on Saturday, Pitt will be on the road against #24 Virginia Tech in an ACC Coastal Division matchup.  Both teams have only one loss.  That game is scheduled for a 12pm ET start time.

Fans with ESPN3 will get to see undefeated #23 Northern Illinois taking on Akron at 5pm ET.  And on ESPNEWS, unbeaten Houston will face off against Memphis in a battle of the big cats.  A complete schedule of this week’s college football coverage across the ESPN family of networks is available below.

ESPN, ABC, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPN3, ESPNEWS, Longhorn Network and ESPN Radio Schedule

Date Time (ET) Matchup/Commentator Network
Thu, Oct 10 7:30 p.m. Rutgers at No. 8 Louisville

Rece Davis, Jesse Palmer, David Pollack & Samantha Ponder

ESPN
South Carolina State at North Carolina Central

Mark Neely & Jay Walker

ESPNU
Valdosta State at West Alabama ESPN3
10:30 p.m. Arizona at USC

Bill Rosinski, David Norrie & Joe Schad

ESPN Radio
Fri, Oct 11 8:30 p.m. Temple at Cincinnati

Carter Blackburn, Danny Kanell & Allison Williams

ESPN or ESPN2
Sat, Oct 12 Noon No. 12 Oklahoma vs. Texas (from Dallas)

Brent Musburger, Todd Blackledge & Heather Cox

ABC
No. 25 Missouri at No. 7 Georgia

Dave Pasch, Brian Griese & Tom Luginbill

ESPN
Indiana at Michigan State

Beth Mowins, Joey Galloway & Paul Carcaterra

ESPN2
Pitt at No. 24 Virginia Tech

Tom Hart & John Congemi

ESPNU
Memphis at Houston (from BBVA Compass Stadium)

Paul Loeffler & John Bunting

ESPNEWS
South Florida at Connecticut

Eamon McAnaney, Anthony Becht & Brooke Weisbrod

ESPN3 * & RSN
12:21 p.m. No. 14 South Carolina at Arkansas

Dave Neal, Andre Ware & Cara Capuano

ESPN3 * & SEC TV
12:30 p.m. Navy at Duke ESPN3 * & RSN
2 p.m. Buffalo at Western Michigan

Dan Gutowsky & Rocky Boiman

ESPN3
Western Carolina at Auburn ESPN3 *
Central Michigan at Ohio ESPN3 *
Missouri State at North Dakota State ESPN3 *
3 p.m. Kent State at Ball State

Jim Barbar & Mark Herrmann

ESPN3
Miami (Ohio) at Massachusetts

Bob Picozzi & KC Keeler

ESPN3
3:30 p.m. No. 19 Northwestern at Wisconsin

TV: Sean McDonough, Chris Spielman & Shannon Spake

Radio: Bill Rosinski, David Norrie & Joe Schad

ABC & ESPN2 ** & ESPN Radio
Boston College at No. 3 Clemson

Bob Wischusen, Rod Gilmore & Quint Kessenich

ABC & ESPN2 **
Virginia at Maryland

Anish Shroff & Kelly Stouffer

ESPNU
Syracuse at NC State ESPN3 * & RSN
Troy at Georgia State ESPN3 * & RSN
4 p.m. South Dakota State at Western Illinois ESPN3 *
Northwestern State at Nicholls State ESPN3 *
5 p.m. No. 18 Michigan at Penn State

Joe Tessitore, Matt Millen & Maria Taylor

ESPN
Akron at No. 23 Northern Illinois

Shawn Kenney & Bob Chmeil

ESPN3
6 p.m. Gardner-Webb at Coastal Carolina ESPN3 *
Furman at Tennessee-Chattanooga ESPN3 *
7 p.m. No. 1 Alabama at Kentucky

Mark Jones, Brock Huard & Lewis Johnson

ESPN2
Georgia Tech at BYU

Clay Matvick, Matt Stinchcomb & Dawn Davenport

ESPNU
Louisiana-Monroe at Texas State

Andrew Monaco & Kevin O’Connell

Longhorn Network
Idaho at Arkansas State

Brock Bowling & Warrick Dunn

ESPN3
Bowling Green at Mississippi State ESPN3 * & RSN
Illinois State at Youngstown State ESPN3 *
8 p.m. Stephen F. Austin at Southeastern Louisiana ESPN3 *
8:30 p.m. No. 9 Texas A&M at Ole Miss

Brad Nessler, Kirk Herbstreit & Holly Rowe

ESPN
10:30 p.m. California at No. 11 UCLA

Mike Patrick, Ed Cunningham & Jeannine Edwards

ESPN2
Oregon State at Washington State

Joe Davis & Jay Walker

ESPNU
Tue, Oct 15 8 p.m. Louisiana-Lafayette at Western Kentucky ESPN2

 

* Local blackout may apply

** Reverse mirror in which ESPN2 will regionalize two games on ABC to markets not receiving the telecast

 

All of the games scheduled for this weekend can be viewed both on TV and online at WatchESPN.com and the WatchESPN app on all mobile internet outlets.  Xbox owners can access all games through ESPN as long as they have Gold membership.  And Apple TV subscribers can get video through affiliated subscription services.

ESPN Goal Line network will have unlimited live cut-ins and highlights from a number of the weekend’s top college football games beginning Saturday at noon.  ESPN Goal Line is available to customers of Time Warner Cable, Bright House Networks, Cox, Cablevision, Verizon FiOS TV, Comcast, and Midcontinent Communications.

More information on this weekend’s college football coverage across the ESPN family of networks is available online at http://www.facebook.com/CFBonESPN and http://espn.go.com/ncf/index.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

ESPN Announces New Signing Day Details

Courtesy:  ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

ESPNU has announced that it will now offer more than eleven hours of coverage this Wednesday for National Signing Day.  The coverage will include a record number of on-air commitments including that of the nation’s top recruit, Robert Nkemdiche.  The coverage begins at 7:30am on ESPNU.  It will include the announcement of seventeen total players from the ESPN 150 to the college of their choice.  The network will be embedded with thirteen of the nation’s best college football teams getting interviews with each team’s coaching staff and providing the most up-to-the-minute news on each incoming freshman class.  Along with the already extensive programming set to run Wednesday, ESPN’s RecruitingNation.com will have reporters set up at fourteen different high schools across the country providing all the latest news from those locations. 

The day’s coverage will be hosted live by Rece Davis and Dari Nowkah at ESPN’s Charlotte, North Carolina studio.  ESPN’s national recruiting director Tom Luginbill and recruiting analyst Craig Haubert will also join the in-studio discussions alongside football analysts Mike Bellotti and Rod Gilmore.  As an added bonus for ESPNU viewers former Auburn coach Gene Chizik and former Tennessee coach Derek Dooley will also be on hand as special guests.  Audiences can get even more details on National signing day online through ESPN at http://espnmediazone.com/us/press-releases/2013/01/espnu-expands-national-signing-day-presence-for-the-eighth-consecutive-year/.

Below is a list of the players on the ESPN 150 list set to announce their college decision Wednesday. Announcement times are all EST and are subject to change.

Time (ET)

Player

Final Schools

7:30 a.m. No. 1 Robert Nkemdiche (DE) Florida, LSU, Ole Miss
9 a.m. No. 6 Matthew Thomas (OLB) Alabama, FSU, Georgia, Miami, USC
  No. 144 Denver Kirkland (OT) Arkansas, FSU
  No. 5 Laremy Tunsil (OT) Alabama, FSU, Georgia, Ole Miss
  No. 13 Montravius Adams (DT) Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida, Georgia
10 a.m. No. 50 Vonn Bell (Safety) Alabama, Ohio State, Tennessee
  No. 107 Jordan Cunningham (WR) Miami, Stanford, Vanderbilt
  No. 24 Antonio Conner (Safety) Alabama, Ole Miss
11 a.m. No. 47 Stacy Coley (WR) FSU, Miami, Ole Miss, South Florida
  No. 4 Mackensie Alexander (CB) Auburn, Clemson, Mississippi State, Texas A&M
Noon No. 26 Dee Liner (DT) Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, LSU
  No. 99 Quinton Powell (OLB) Arkansas, Florida, South Carolina, USC
  No. 143 Asiantii Woulard (QB-DT) Kentucky, NC State, UCLA, South Florida
1 p.m. No. 135 Keith Bryant FSU, Miami, South Carolina
2 p.m. No. 138 Jermaine Grace Louisville, Miami, Tennessee
3 p.m. No 32 Alvin Kamara (RB) Alabama, Georgia
4 p.m. No. 125 Tyrone Crowder (OG) Clemson, Georgia

 

To keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it or its companion page, http://www.facebook.com/pages/Reel-Reviews/381028148587141.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.