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2017 College Football Announcing Crews, Ranked

Pasadena, CA – January 1, 2014 – Rose Bowl: Chris Fowler, Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit on the set of College GameDay Built by the Home Depot
(Photo by Scott Clarke / ESPN Images)

A major part of the college football viewing experience is the announcing crew. A bad announcing crew can at least partially ruin a great game, while a great crew can help keep viewers interested in a blowout or a 14-10 type game. Bad games in the hands of bad crews are the absolute worst. Below, I’ve ranked the announcing crews on every network that matters. (No one gets the Pac-12 Network, so they aren’t listed.) Hopefully, your favorite team excuses themselves from getting many of the bad or ignorable crews this season. If you’re a Big Ten fan…well, I’m sorry.

T-35. Big Ten Network announcing crews

They constantly rotate them from my knowledge, so it’s hard to list them out individually. However, it should be known from someone who still is a Michigan fan: they’re all pretty bad. I have never watched a Big Ten Network game and come away impressed with anything: camera work, announcers, in-game updates, graphics, etc. About the only good thing the BTN offers is free online streaming through their website, as far as I can recall.

34. SEC Network: Taylor Zarzour (PBP), Andre Ware (color), Olivia Harlan (sideline)

I’m sure Zarzour and Harlan are fine, and I don’t think it’s fair to rank them low despite me never having consciously heard either before. But Andre Ware is insanely bad at this. Every single game with commentary by Andre Ware is sacrilegious to the game of football. No comment Andre Ware has ever submitted clocked in at anything resembling above a 63 IQ. Every football game with Andre Ware is worse because of him. They broke up the absolutely horrific Tom Hart/Andre Ware power hour, but Ware has most of the stink.

33. ESPN: Mark Jones, Rod Gilmore, Quint Kessenich

A true shame for Kessenich to get saddled with these two idiots, but that’s how it goes. Jones gets lost frequently within the game and adds banal observations while I’m never very certain Rod Gilmore and I are watching the same game. Like, I think I’m watching Tennessee-South Carolina while Rod’s watching Vanderbilt-Missouri. He has zero clue what’s going on at any given time. If you get saddled with Jones/Gilmore, make plans to go to the game instead.

32. FOX: Tim Brando, Spencer Tillman, Holly Sonders

Tim Brando sucks, sorry.

31. SEC Network: Dave Neal, Matt Stinchcomb, Dawn Davenport

Dawn is awesome and deserves better. She’s been at WKRN in Nashville for a while and does sideline reporting for SECN on the side. Sticking her with one-third of the Three Daves (no, not the Chappelle version) and someone I had no clue was a real person despite definitely hearing his name the last few seasons is bad.

30. ACC Network: Tim Brant and Dave Archer

(EXPLETIVE) the Three Daves.

29-21. Any number of these people I’ve never heard call a game

Well, there’s a first time for everything.

CBS Sports Network: Rich Waltz, Aaron Murray, Cassie McKinney
Dave Ryan, Corey Chavous, Melanie Collins
John Sadak, Randy Cross, Tina Cervasio
Ben Holden, Jay Feely, John Schriffen
Jason Horowitz, David Diehl, Erik Coleman

ESPNU: Mike Couzens, John Congemi
Roy Philpott, Tom Ramsey
Mike Corey, Rene Ingoglia
Eric Clemons, Jay Walker

I look forward to learning who these people are. (Yes, I know who Aaron Murray is.)

20. ESPNU: Clay Matvick and Kirk Morrison

Uh, sure!

19. ESPN/2 Midweek: Chris Cotter, Desmond Howard, Quint Kessenich

Desmond is unlistenable enough on College GameDay; actually listening to him call a 3.5 hour game must be brutal. But I like Cotter and Kessenich, so they’re here.

18. ESPN Saturday: Beth Mowins, Anthony Becht, Rocky Boiman

I actually don’t mind Beth Mowins like a lot of the CFB-watching populace does; she calls games efficiently enough though I’ve never really heard her add an original observation to the game. She’s okay, though. Boiman doesn’t add much, either. It’s Becht that I like quite a bit: he was a tight end in the NFL for 12 years, and he performs the Cole Cubelic role of very smartly analyzing tight end/receiver play in-game. It speaks to how much better we’ve gotten with college announcers that this group only ranks 18th.

17. ESPN Saturday: Jason Benetti, Kelly Stouffer, Kris Budden

This group ranks so highly on the back of Budden alone, a Tennessee alumnus who’s going to be a star someday soon. I hope he’s not reading this, but Benetti has a very relaxing voice.

16. ESPN Saturday: Bob Wischusen, Brock Huard, Allison Williams

If you’ve ever watched Big Ten football, you’ve heard this crew call 25% of your life. Perhaps that’s why I’m not as harsh on them as some are. Wischusen/Huard have called so many Wisconsin-Iowa and Michigan-Northwestern games for me that I find them to be the family members you’re not super close to but still enjoy your time with.

15. ESPN/2 Midweek: Kevin Negandhi and Tom Luginbill

I like both of these people individually, and again, this is a strong group for 2017. As much flak as ESPN’s gotten, they seem to churn out new talent for CFB broadcasts yearly. Negandhi’s solid and Luginbill is a pleasing presence on the sidelines; I’m interested to see what he does with more time in the booth.

14. ESPN Saturday: Anish Shroff, Ahmad Brooks, Roddy Jones

This is a potential pick – I don’t know much about them based on previous experience but all three seem to be very highly regarded at ESPN. This could be a secretly really good crew.

13. ESPN Saturday: Steve Levy, Brian Griese, Todd McShay

12. ESPN Saturday: Dave Pasch, Greg McElroy, Tom Luginbill

No bad comments here; these are perfectly good crews. Levy struggled heavily to start last year but got into the zone by the Orange Bowl. McShay’s really good on the sideline, so’s Luginbill. Pasch is better for basketball but he’s fine here.

11. ESPN Saturday: Mike Patrick, Tommy Tuberville, Paul Carcaterra

They replaced Ed Cunningham (who was slightly underrated) with Tommy Tuberville (who will be absolutely hilarious). Perhaps one of the biggest upgrades we’ve seen.

10. SEC Network: Tom Hart, Jordan Rodgers, Cole Cubelic

Sure, it’s crazy that a crew with the winner of The Bachelorette ranks this high, and I’m not a huge fan of Hart. It’s just that Cubelic is phenomenal: I can’t name anyone working as a broadcaster who analyzes and dissects line play on both sides anywhere close to him. Cubelic could be a star one day.

9. CBS Sports Network: Carter Blackburn, Aaron Taylor, Jenny Dell

This crew also serves as the crew for the #2 SEC on CBS game when there’s a doubleheader. I maintain that Blackburn could have just as easily slid in for Verne had they not made the Brad Nessler power move – he’s really good and really smart. I hope he gets a promotion to something one day; he’s still saddled with Chris Simms for NFL coverage.

8. ESPN Friday: Adam Amin, Dusty Dvoracek, Molly McGrath

Speaking of future stars, Amin may end up as a #1 broadcaster someday soon. He’s one of the smartest we’ve got. But this group actually declined from last year after losing Mack Brown to (probable) studio coverage. The team of Amin and Brown was reason enough to watch every single Friday game last year, and they produced numerous highlights. I loved them, and I hope Dvoracek is even 20% as funny as Mack.

7. ESPN Thursday: Dave Flemming, rotating analyst, Laura Rutledge

Dave Flemming. Doesn’t matter who you put with him.

6. Notre Dame/NBC: Mike Tirico, Doug Flutie, Kathryn Tappen

TIRICO BACK! This crew used to be way worse when Tom Hammond color commentated with banal observations and zero rational thought. Flutie’s actually pretty good, and they’ll make Notre Dame commentating much more bearable than it’s been my entire life.

5. FOX: Joe Davis, Brady Quinn, Bruce Feldman

This is a hell of a crew. Quinn isn’t great, but he’s serviceable. It’s the other two that are phenoms: Davis replaced Vin Scully with the Dodgers and people think he’s going to be a legend, too. Feldman is Feldman; few offer smarter or more pointed observations about the landscape of college football, and he’s adjusted to sideline reporting very well. FOX is crushing it.

4. CBS: Brad Nessler, Gary Danielson, Allie LaForce

Yes, Danielson’s still pretty egregious at times. He’s got good observations occasionally, but they’re marred by bizarre mistakes and continuous hammering home of the same point over and over. How could you care, though? Nessler is possibly the best play-by-play man in all of college football, and LaForce is the best sideline reporter in CBS history. (Sorry, Tracy Wolfson.) There will be some growing pains for the first month or two, but I look forward to this group calling an all-star lineup of games in November.

3. FOX: Gus Johnson, Joel Klatt, Jenny Taft

It helps that Klatt is pretty solid, though any lineup that starts with Johnson will end up in at least the top seven. There will never be another Gus Johnson, and every March I wish CBS would hire him back.

2. ABC Primetime: Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit, Maria Taylor

Argh. I think this is an amazing crew, and it helps that Fowler and Herbstreit have two of the four most easily identifiable voices in the entire sport. Together, this is a great group that soundtracks several of the best games of every year, including the College Football Playoff and National Championship. If you have to dock anyone, it’s Herbstreit: everyone knows how hard Herbstreit works against sounding like a homer for one team or the other. Getting in the way of this is that he works too hard on it at times and is overly critical of both teams in the game. This works in bad games to keep interest, but they don’t call many bad games. It’s still the second-best crew in the sport, behind…

1. ESPN Primetime: Joe Tessitore, Todd Blackledge, Holly Rowe

Every single Joe Tess game comes down to the final play. This is a fact. It appears Blackledge has dropped the Saturday night classic “Taste of the Town” segment, which is a shame…but he’s still great as a color commentator. It’s Rowe who ties it all together: she’s the smartest and most well-articulated sideline reporter in the sport. I could watch these three call a bowling match, if we’re being honest.

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