We here at The Big Lead are excited about the upcoming college football season. We’re suckers for the pageantry, non-conference cupcakes and fight songs. But if there’s one thing we love the most, it’s the media members who cover the sport. With that in mind, we held our second-ever College Football Media Draft.
Each writer was tasked with building their own network of talent. The goal was to assemble the best team for the upcoming year as opposed to the long-term. Each network had nine hires, one for each of the following categories:
- Play-by-play announcer
- Booth analyst
- Studio host
- Studio analyst
- Studio analyst
- Sideline reporter
Here’s how it shook out and why each person believes they’ve built the ultimate network:
Brian Giuffra Network: Brad Nessler (play-by-play), Brian Griese (booth analyst), Kevin Negandhi (studio host), Paul Finebaum (studio analyst), Urban Meyer (studio analyst), Jamie Erdahl (sideline reporter), Brett McMurphy (reporter), Wright Thompson (columnist), Reggie Bush (flex)
If you like controversy, and let’s be honest, who doesn’t, have I got a pregame for you! Paul Finebaum vs Urban Meyer. SEC vs Big Ten (and kinda SEC too). Historically-strong journalist vs historically-strong coach. Let the sparks fly (with Kevin Negandhi orchestrating and interjecting throughout and Reggie Bush making outlandish statements occasionally). What more could you want? Oh, that’s right, how about exceptional storytelling from the best sportswriter in the world, Wright Thompson, who also happens to be obsessed with college football, and one of the best insiders in the sport, Brett McMurphy. It’s honestly insane I got both of them. Throw in a booth that is both insightful (Brian Griese) and smooth (Brad Nessler) with an up-and-coming sideline reporter (Jamie Erdahl) and you have the best college football crew in the nation.
Ryan Glasspiegel Network: Jason Benetti (play-by-play), Joel Klatt (booth analyst), Rob Stone (studio host), Kirk Herbstreit (studio analyst), Desmond Howard (studio analyst), Olivia Dekker (sideline reporter), Bruce Feldman (reporter), Clay Travis (columnist/opinion), Joe Davis (flex)
This is a dominant lineup. Herbstreit and Klatt are the top analysts on two of the three preeminent CFB packages, Benetti and Davis are two announcers who will one day be calling championship-level sporting events, Feldman is an ace veteran reporter, Dekker is in line to be promoted in a year or two, Stone (shoutout 06070) is an immaculate host launching a significant new show, Clay Travis can keep my fanbase from getting a coach who doesn’t deserve it, and Howard rounds out a solid studio lineup.
Bobby Burack Network: Sean McDonough (play-by-play), Matt Hasselback (booth analyst), Laura Rutledge (studio host), Dan Katz (studio analyst), Marcus Spears (studio analyst), Maria Taylor (sideline reporter), Jen Lada (reporter), Dave Portnoy (columnist/opinion), Adam Amin (flex)
Who said television ratings are going down? This network has everything you need to pull in some massive numbers. You get the best young host in the business in Laura Rutledge. Maria Taylor will once again prove to be the top college football sideline reporter. Sean McDonough and Matt Hasselback will be excellent. It doesn’t get more entertaining than Big Cat and Dave Portnoy. And you add Marcus Spears to the desk? Come on. Oh, and nobody will top the features done by Jen Lada. And we didn’t even get to the future voice of college football Adam Amin as the flex. It’s really unfair.
Kyle Koster: Mike Tirico (play-by-play), Doug Flutie (booth analyst), Rece Davis (studio host), Danny Kanell (studio analyst), Joey Galloway (studio analyst), Tom Rinaldi (sideline reporter), Marty Smith (reporter), Dan Wetzel (columnist/opinion), Ryen Russillo (flex)
The pure flexibility of this network is its greatest strength. Tirico, who is good at everything, is fantastic when called upon to bring the magic of Notre Dame to life. Davis hosts the biggest college football show known to man, Rinaldi is the industry standard for depth and emotion, and Smith has more fun than anyone else. This network will have gravitas but understand that college football is supposed to be fun. It’s professional and traditional in a lot of ways, skewing toward the more sophisticated fan. It doesn’t rely on cheap bells and whistles. It does the work and will reap the rewards.
Liam McKeone Network: Tim Brando (play-by-play), Pat McAfee (booth analyst), Liam McHugh (studio host), Tim Tebow (studio analyst), Lee Corso (studio analyst), Todd McShay (sideline reporter), Pete Thamel (reporter), Rodger Sherman (columnist/opinion), Kayce Smith (flex)
I went for an enjoyable broadcast overall here. Brando brings the facts while McAfee brings the fun and opinion to the booth, while McShay offers deep knowledge and an ability to take McAfee’s many jabs. In the studio, McHugh is a solid personality who will let Corso and Tebow go off on any and all tangents that the pair will inevitably lean towards, but rein them in before it gets too crazy. Smith is my flex and I like her in the studio with Corso and Tebow as the one sane person of the three to balance their overly-optimistic takes about whoever they happen to be talking about. Thamel is my insider who gives us nearly unparalleled access to the NCAA’s inner workings. Sherman is one of the only college football writers that actually makes me laugh out loud, so it was an easy decision for a crew that’s there to bring the laughs and a quality viewing experience.
Ryan Phillips Network: Chris Fowler (play-by-play), Todd Blackledge (booth analyst), Matt Barrie (studio host), Jesse Palmer (studio analyst), Mark Sanchez (studio analyst), Molly McGrath (sideline reporter), Stewart Mandel (reporter), Phil Steele (columnist/opinion), Matt Leinart (flex)
The dulcet tones of Chris Fowler’s voice set the table for this group. Two criminally-underrated broadcasters help round out the game coverage with Todd Blackledge in the booth and Molly McGrath on the field. Then you’ll enjoy the best-looking studio squad in the business, as Matt Barrie hosts a team consisting of Jesse Palmer, Mark Sanchez and I’ll throw Matt Leinart in there as a flex. Swoon away, ladies. The venerable Stewart Mandel will handle reporting duties, while Phil Steele’s annual predictions and insider knowledge will make our work the best in the business. This group may not have the established, top-line names of some of the networks on here, but no one else will top this quality or long-term upside.
Here’s the full draft, pick by pick: