The college football season is now just days away, and Wednesday brought a reminder of how real it's becoming and how weird this season is going to be.
ESPN has set its broadcast schedule for Weeks 0 and 1, which consists of just nine games to be aired on its family of networks. In a normal year, Week 1 would've been highlighted by games like USC vs. Alabama, Florida State vs. West Virginia, Ole Miss vs. Baylor, and ended with Georgia vs. Virginia.
Instead, Saturday, Sept. 5 -- the traditional Opening Day of the season -- will see just three games aired on ESPN, none on ABC, none on ESPN2, none on ESPNU, and none on the SEC, ACC or Longhorn networks.
That, of course, will change throughout the season as the SEC, ACC and Big 12 come online, but for Week 1 it'll just be the American, Conference USA and the Sun Belt.
And that is how we wound up with Eastern Kentucky at Marshall in the ESPN noon window, SMU at Texas State in the afternoon and Arkansas State at Memphis in prime time. This, of course, is those conferences' reward for pressing on while other leagues delayed and/or postponed.
Notice that ESPN is not using any of its top broadcast crews -- the teams play-by-played by Chris Fowler, Sean McDonough, Dave Pasch and Joe Tessitore -- at all in Week 1.
Those groups will join the fray -- as will the other broadcast networks, CBS, Fox and NBC -- when the Power 3 start playing.
But for now, this is the football we've got and we're all damn grateful for it.
Elsewhere, ESPN also announced it has selected a new earworm to be played in commercial breaks this season...
... as well as a new animation and graphics packages.
“We pride ourselves on being the Willy Wonkas of graphics,” ESPN motion graphics design supervisor Dana Drezek said. “We set out to make something fun, inventive and visually delicious. With the game scoreboard, we made something akin to an Everlasting Gobstopper. It never disappears, but rather morphs into many different layouts and shapes based on the needs of the game and production. More stats. More content. More possibilities.”
Viewers can begin consuming those visual Everlasting Gobstoppers this Saturday.
In the meantime, stay tuned to The Scoop for the latest.