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Countdown to Coverage: College Football’s Best TV Show

“College football is all over television on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. All of those games require A LOT of studio coverage.”

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College football season is nearly here.

Forget last Saturday. It’s called Week 0 for a reason. Do you really want to believe the first game of the 2022 season was 3-9 Northwestern and 3-9 Nebraska playing halfway around the world?

Here at Barrett Sports Media, we are celebrating college football from a media angle. All week long, our editors and resident college football superfans, Arky Shea, Demetri Ravanos and Garrett Searight, will be looking at the best the media has to offer in terms of college football coverage.

The entire schedule is as follows:

MONDAY: Best Local Show

TUESDAY: Best National Radio Show

WEDNESDAY: Best College Football Podcast

THURSDAY: Best TV Show

FRIDAY: Best TV Play-by-Play Booth

College football is all over television on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. All of those games require A LOT of studio coverage. So who does it best?

Do you prefer the pageantry and storytelling of College Gameday? Maybe the no-nonsense approach of Big Noon Kickoff is more your speed. What if the best TV show isn’t on in a pregame window?

As we inch closer to the inevitable tag team main event featuring the SEC and ESPN versus the Big Ten and FOX, this discussion may end up being the college football media’s most important pissing contest. Here are our picks for college football’s best TV show.

COLLEGE GAMEDAY by Arky Shea

You can debate the validity of any show you want, the king is still ESPN’s College GameDay. The show kicked off it’s 36th season and has lapped the field in terms of college fandom allegiance and tradition. The desk lineup is loaded with names that you associate with the sport: Rece Davis who has deep ties into college football as a graduate of the University of Alabama, Desmond Howard, a Heisman Trophy winner that’s been giving his hot takes since 2005 on GameDay, Kirk Herbstreit who has become the most influential broadcasting voice in the sport. THE MOST. And of course Lee Corso, a man that pioneered something so collegiate, so simple and so brilliant that nobody else can ever do it! Only one man’s headgear prediction matters.

It’s become everyone’s Saturday wake-up call for a reason. There is a chemistry on that set that is so pure that it’s morphed long ago into familial status. There’s not another college football TV show that effortlessly entertains the sport’s diehards until kickoff like GameDay. It will take a lot to knock the crown off their head. The show has spearheaded so many ideas we take for granted about a pregame show like showing up on location, promoting fan’s to bring their own signage and inviting celebrities to the table to beef up the curb appeal. Hands down, College GameDay still reigns.

BIG NOON KICKOFF by Garrett Searight

College GameDay is a lot like my 2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee. I loved that car. I had so many memories with it that I will cherish until my dying day. I openly wept the day a man didn’t tie down rabbit cages in the back of his truck and I had to stop on the highway to avoid hitting them and someone rear-ended me and the Jeep was totaled. I was gonna drive that Jeep for another 150,000 miles. And then I switched to a new car, and while I still love that old Jeep, you realized there’s a whole new wave of automotive technology out there.

When Big Noon Kickoff hit the airwaves, I couldn’t help but sample it. Demetri wrote a story a few weeks ago that included the mission of Big Noon Kickoff was to be new and relevant and he couldn’t be more correct. I’m 32 years old. Desmond Howard — who last week said he couldn’t understand how Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud, who last year threw for 44 touchdowns and was a Heisman Trophy finalist, was the Heisman frontrunner this year — won the Heisman Trophy the year after I was born. Kirk Herbstreit was Ohio State’s quarterback when I was in diapers. Lee Corso’s last year as a college head coach was a year after my mom graduated high school.

On the flip side, Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart were college football during my formative years. Urban Meyer, while a troubling figure, is great on TV and won a National Championship coaching my favorite school in the last decade. Bob Stoops, who wasn’t nearly as great at TV as Meyer, was as worthy of a replacement as you could find. The Big Noon Kickoff cast is as relevant as one could assemble. Their puzzling insistence on using Clay Travis every Saturday notwithstanding, Big Noon Kickoff’s strictly-football approach is a welcomed change to GameDay’s broader, softer storytelling elements.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL FINAL by Demetri Ravanos

With all due respect to my colleagues, who I think are bright guys, the pregame ain’t it for college football on TV. We pregame all week and then the national media makes a hard pivot to the NFL the second the clock hits zero in Honolulu. A real college football fan knows the value and importance of College Football Final! It’s not just the late-night airing, it is the consecutive reruns on Sunday mornings that give us one last chance to contextualize everything that happened the night before.

The show has had problems in the past. I would argue that Lou Holtz made the show nearly unwatchable for years. I like what they have going now though. Matt Barrie brings the right level of snarkiness to the show alongside experts Joey Galloway and Jessie Palmer. The helmet stickers, the poll projections, the general sense of closure to the week are all needed on a Sunday before those of us that live and die with the college game turn our collective attention to the NFL.

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Jason Whitlock: Ryan Clark Wanted More Than Mina Kimes

“The whole thing was about getting more than Mina Kimes. I wish he had the heart to just say that rather all the other performative stuff.”

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One former ESPNer is alleging one of its talents wanted to make sure his new deal paid him more than a colleague. According to Jason Whitlock on X, Ryan Clark’s recent social media activity was all about securing a contract that was worth more than NFL analyst Mina Kimes’ deal:

For the uninitiated, Ryan Clark posted a lengthy video to his social media pages discussing the uncertainty of his future with ESPN, saying that his last deal with ESPN “wasn’t what he wanted” and that he “felt played.” This time around, he vowed things would be different, saying that he would, “leave no doubt that there was nobody in the world that was like [Clark].” That manifested in a new deal with ESPN, totaling over $2 million per year according to Michael McCarthy of Front Office Sports, making him one of the highest-paid analysts at ESPN.

For what it’s worth, Kimes signed a deal in Sept. that pays her $1.7 million annually, meaning that Clark did wind up getting more than Kimes. However, it’s unknown if Kimes’ contract specifically was a sticking point for Clark or if he just simply wanted to be a top-X paid analyst within the company.

Outside of contributing to ESPN’s football coverage on NFL Live, he makes appearances on ESPN’s other shows, like First Take, Get Up, SportsCenter, and more. He is also the host of The CW’s Inside the NFL, a role that Clark admitted was something different. He also previously hosted an MMA show alongside former UFC heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier before it was revealed that “DC” would now host a new show alongside fellow UFC alum Chael Sonnen.

As part of Clark’s video, he mentioned his energy being finite, which may have led to his MMA show and other responsibilities going by the wayside as part of this new deal, but there has been no official word as to whether that’s the case or not.

“What I realized is, you only got so much to give, and all you can give is all the energy that God gives you,” Clark said. “And I did that, but I also learned that you run out. And at some point, you don’t have nothing left. I’d do whatever it took to get what I want, and that I’d work harder and longer now to work less and make more then. And I felt like I put myself in that spot.”

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Ryan Clark Reportedly Returning to ESPN

This past season, Clark appeared on a variety of programming centered around the National Football League, including NFL Live and Monday Night Countdown.

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Ryan Clark
Courtesy: Allen Kee, ESPN Images

ESPN NFL analyst Ryan Clark has reached a verbal agreement to remain at ESPN, extending his time at the network. This past season, Clark appeared on a variety of programming centered around the National Football League, including NFL Live and Monday Night Countdown. News of Clark deciding to remain at ESPN was first reported by Andrew Marchand of The Athletic. Additionally, Michael McCarthy of Front Office Sports has reported that the deal will pay him over $2 million per year. ESPN confirmed the news on Monday afternoon, stating that he would continue his role across network programming.

Just days after the Super Bowl, Clark outlined how he wanted to prove his worth and leave no doubt the last time he signed an extension with ESPN three years ago. At the time, he felt he was worth more than what he received and set out to end the conversations about who he was in the sports media business. Although Clark’s contract expired before Super Bowl LVIII, he and the network agreed to extend it through the conclusion of the championship matchup.

During the NFL postseason, ESPN studio programming garnered multi-year peaks in viewership. Editions of NFL Live averaged 486,000 viewers over 14 programs between Jan. 9 and Jan. 26, rendering it the most-watched playoff run of the program in nine seasons. The Postseason NFL Countdown show featuring the Monday Night Countdown cast averaged 4.7 million viewers on ESPN and ABC ahead of the network’s broadcast of the divisional round matchup between the Houston Texans and Baltimore Ravens on Saturday, Jan. 20.

Outside of his role at ESPN, Clark recently completed his first year hosting Inside the NFL on The CW. The Emmy award-winning weekly series moved to the network after it was dropped by Paramount+ last April and featured a new cast starring Jay Cutler, Chad Johnson, Chris Long and Channing Crowder. He and Crowder work alongside Fred Taylor on The Pivot podcast, an independent venture outside of ESPN. Clark balanced these roles with his ESPN obligations, which has also included appearances on programming such as Get Up, First Take and SportsCenter.

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ESPN Hires Jorge Castillo to Cover Yankees & Mets

“As someone who grew up consuming everything ESPN, this opportunity is truly a dream come true for me. I’m honored to join such a great baseball crew…”

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Jorge Ramos ESPN Beat Writer

Longtime Los Angeles Times writer Jorge Castillo will switch coasts and cover the New York Mets and Yankees for ESPN. The company announced the news earlier today, sharing that Castillo’s assignments will begin on ESPN.com today.

“As someone who grew up consuming everything ESPN, this opportunity is truly a dream come true for me,” Castillo said. “I’m honored to join such a great baseball crew and excited to work with so many talented people.”

According to ESPN, Castillo will, “contribute news, analysis, storytelling, and live event coverage on the Yankees and Mets, with additional national MLB coverage throughout the season and postseason. He will also contribute on TV and radio.”

Castillo is no stranger to the area, though — he previously covered baseball for the New York Times and the Star-Ledger in New Jersey. Now, he returns to cover the local clubs for the Worldwide Leader.

“We’re thrilled to welcome Jorge to ESPN’s baseball team. He’s covered some of baseball’s biggest franchises in some of its toughest markets, and we expect nothing less from him in New York,” said Rachel Ullrich, ESPN Deputy Editor for ESPN.com. “We can’t wait to add his incredible reporting, thoughtful analysis, and creative storytelling to our talented team.”

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