Derek Mason knows better than anyone how to slow Oregon’s offense.
Monday he gets to critique Ohio State’s effort to do the same during the first College Football Playoff championship game (7:30 p.m., ESPN).
Mason will be one of four college football coaches who will participate in Film Room, part of ESPN’s so-called “Megacast” of the national title game. Film Room (6:30 p.m., ESPN2) offers a real-time panel discussion of the action and access to all cameras in use during the game.
Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen, and recently hired Mike Riley (Nebraska) and Pat Narduzzi (Pittsburgh) will join Vanderbilt’s coach on the panel, which also will include ESPN’s Tom Luginbill and Chris Spielman.
All four coaches have some connection to the participating teams and/or coaches. Mullen, for example, was offensive coordinator for Ohio State coach Urban Meyer at Florida. As defensive coordinator at Michigan State, Narduzzi coached against both teams this season.
Mason was defensive coordinator at Stanford when the Cardinal defeated Oregon 17-14 in 2012 and 26-20 in 2013.
The show will be one of 12 alternate programming options across ESPN’s wide array of television and digital platforms.
Maybe it was that Vanderbilt was not nearly as entertaining in 2014. Or perhaps people just had better things to do.
Whatever the reason, local viewership dropped for ESPN college football broadcasts in 2014 from the previous season, according to information released by the network Wednesday.
ESPN college football games averaged a 2.9 rating in Nashville. That was still good enough to rank in the top 10. Actually, it tied for 10th with Columbus, Ohio.
Knoxville and Memphis both were in the top five and nine of the top 11 markets were in Southeastern Conference territory, topped by Birmingham, Ala., which was No. 1 for the 14th straight year.
Nashville was tied for fifth in 2013 with an average rating of 3.3.
ESPN college football ratings from the last two seasons, as reported by the network:
Top 25 Markets for 2014 Top 25 Markets for 2013 No. 1 Birmingham: 9.2 rating No. 1 Birmingham: 9.2 rating No. 2 New Orleans: 4.2 rating No. 2 Greenville: 4.9 rating No. 3 Knoxville: 4.1 rating No. 3 Knoxville: 4.4 rating Greenville: 4.1 rating No. 4 New Orleans: 4.3 rating No. 5 Memphis: 3.8 rating No. 5 : 3.3 rating Atlanta: 3.8 rating Memphis: 3.3 rating No. 7 Jacksonville: 3.5 rating Columbus: 3.3 rating No. 8 Oklahoma City: 3.4 rating Jacksonville: 3.3 rating No. 9 Tulsa: 3.1 rating No. 9 Louisville: 3.2 rating No. 10 : 2.9 rating Atlanta: 3.2 rating Columbus: 2.9 rating No. 11 Charlotte: 2.9 rating No. 12 Louisville: 2.7 rating No. 12 Oklahoma City: 2.8 rating No. 13 Richmond: 2.6 rating No. 13 Orlando: 2.7 rating Salt Lake City: 2.6 rating No. 14 Tulsa: 2.6 rating No. 15 Charlotte: 2.5 rating Tampa-St. Petersburg: 2.6 rating Austin: 2.5 rating No. 16 Austin: 2.5 rating No. 17 Portland: 2.4 rating West Palm Beach: 2.5 rating Orlando: 2.4 rating No. 18 Kansas City: 2.4 rating Las Vegas: 2.4 rating Norfolk: 2.4 rating West Palm Beach: 2.4 rating No. 20 Dayton: 2.3 rating No. 21 Norfolk: 2.3 rating No. 21 Greensboro: 2.2 rating Dayton: 2.3 rating No. 22 Raleigh-Durham: 2.2 rating Greensboro: 2.3 rating Richmond: 2.2 rating No. 24 Raleigh-Durham: 2.2 rating No. 24 Ft. Myers: 2.1 rating No. 25 Tampa-St. Petersburg: 2.1 rating No. 25 Dallas-Ft. Worth: 2.0 rating Phoenix: 2.1 rating Las Vegas: 2.0 rating
Tip-off times and broadcast plans for the 2014 SEC/Big 12 were announced Tuesday – and it is clear that Vanderbilt is not considered a star attraction.
The Commodores’ game against Baylor on Dec. 4 will tip at 6 p.m. (CST) and will air on ESPNU. At the same time LSU and West Virginia will play on ESPN. Two other games follow that night.
2014 SEC/Big 12 Challenge Presented by Sonic
Wednesday, December 3
Auburn at Texas Tech – SEC Network / ESPN3 (8 p.m.)
Thursday, December 4
LSU at West Virginia – ESPN2 (6 p.m.)
Baylor at Vanderbilt – ESPNU (6 p.m.)
Arkansas at Iowa State – ESPN2 (8 p.m.)
TCU at Ole Miss – ESPNU (8 p.m.)
Friday, December 5
Texas at Kentucky – ESPN (6 p.m.)
Florida at Kansas – ESPN (8 p.m.)
Missouri at Oklahoma – ESPNU (8:30 p.m.)
Saturday, December 6
Oklahoma State at South Carolina – ESPNU (11 a.m.)
Kansas State at Tennessee – ESPN2 (2:15 p.m.)
(all times CST)
Vanderbilt football coach Derek Mason will be in Bristol, Conn. on Monday.
The result of what he does there, however, will show up on ESPN properties throughout the coming weeks.
Mason is one of 63 coaches from college football’s five most powerful conferences who will make the rounds of the “Worldwide Leader in Sports” in advance of the season. In a span of roughly five hours he will appear on live programs, sit for interviews and a podcast with online reporters and smile for photographs to be used for gameday coverage.
A look at his schedule for the day (all times CDT):
9 a.m. ESPNU podcast with Ivan Maisel
9:30 a.m. SEC Network Talkbacks
9:45 a.m. Digital media
10 a.m. College Gameday
10:40 a.m. College Football Roundtable discussion hosted by Joe Tessitore
11:15 a.m. ESPN.com interviews with Chris Low, Travis Haney and Brett McMurphy
12:05 p.m. College Gameday
12:25 p.m. CFB Live
1:10 p.m. SportsCenter (taped segment)
1:55 p.m. ESPN Images
ESPN and Comcast have come to terms that will have the former broadcast the SEC Network on the latter in time for football season:
ESPN and Comcast Cable have reached an agreement for carriage of the SEC Network, which will begin rolling out to fans and followers of the Southeastern Conference across Comcast markets at the start of the SEC college football season. Comcast subscribers will also have authenticated access to additional live events scheduled for the SEC Network's and Comcast's digital platforms - including the Xfinity TV Go app and website, WatchESPN and SECNetwork.com - with the ability to watch SEC Network live and on-demand content anytime, anywhere on their television, computer, tablet or mobile device. With the addition of Comcast, the SEC Network will be available to 46 million households nationwide.
"We are extremely pleased to have reached this agreement with ESPN to deliver the SEC Network to Xfinity TV customers on multiple platforms," said Matt Strauss, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Video Services, Comcast Cable. "Whether in the home or on the go, Xfinity TV customers will be able to watch their favorite Southeastern Conference teams in more ways than ever before."
Comcast is the nation's largest cable provider.
ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski commenced his annual NFL quarterback countdown Monday, and it did not take long for him to get to Jake Locker.
Jaworski ranks the league’s starting quarterbacks from 1 to 32 and counts them down in reverse order. Locker is No. 29 this year, which – at the very least – puts him ahead of former teammate Ryan Fitzpatrick. Now the starter at Houston, Fitzpatrick is No. 31 on the list.
Jaworski’s take on the Titans’ starter:
“Locker was an improved quarterback before a foot injury ended his  season after seven starts.
… Locker was very effective on first down, both under center out of base personnel and out of the shotgun with more spread looks. In both instances the defense is a little more predictable and the reads more clearly defined.
“The quicker the ball gets out of Locker’s hands. The more efficient he is as a passer.
“He also adds the dimension of mobility. He can throw on the move and he can break down defenses running out of the pocket.
“… There will be more growing pains under new coach Ken Whisenthunt.”
It was telling that the vast majority of highlights that Jaworski used to show Locker’s strengths were from last year’s Week 3 victory over San Diego. In that game Locker competed 23 of 39 passes for 299 yards and rushed five times for 68 yards and a touchdown. Jaworski called Locker’s game-winning touchdown pass to Justin Hunter “a signature play.”
In all, there was nothing enlightening about Jaworski’s analysis. It was pretty much right in line with what Titans fans have seen the last two years – some really good moments, too many injuries and not enough information to say for certain whether Locker is a guy who belongs higher up on the list.
The start times and broadcast plans for Vanderbilt’s first three football games have now been set.
The Southeastern Conference announced Friday that the Commodores’ SEC opener against Ole Miss (Sept. 6 at LP Field) will kick off at 3:30 p.m. (CDT) on ESPN. The following week Vanderbilt will host Massachusetts at 11 a.m. on Fox Sports network.
Those were included among a dozen SEC games in the first three weeks of the season for which the start time and broadcast plans were set roughly three months in advance.
Previously, the Aug. 28 opener against Temple was set for 8:15 p.m.
The list of start times the SEC announced Friday:
South Dakota State at Missouri, 3:30pm ET on ESPNU
Clemson at Georgia, 5:30pm ET on ESPN
Idaho at Florida, 7pm ET on ESPNU
UAB at Mississippi State, 2pm ET on FSN
Ohio at Kentucky, 3:30pm ET on ESPNU
Ole Miss at Vanderbilt, 4:30pm ET on ESPN
San Jose State at Auburn, 7pm ET on ESPN2 or ESPNU
East Carolina at South Carolina, 7pm ET on ESPN2 or ESPNU
Massachusetts at Vanderbilt, noon ET on FSN
Southern Mississippi at Alabama, 6pm ET on ESPN2
Louisiana-Monroe at LSU, 7pm ET on ESPNU
Rice at Texas A&M, 9pm ET on ESPN2
More than 4.25 million viewers tuned in to Tuesday’s NCAA women’s basketball national championship game at Bridgestone Arena, which made it ESPN’s most-watched women’s basketball game in more than a decade.
The telecast of Connecticut’s 79-58 victory over Notre Dame earned a 2.8 rating, which was a 40 percent increase over the 2013 championship game, and the highest since UConn’s victory over Tennessee in 2004.
It was the first championship game – men or women – between two undefeated teams.
The contest drew great interest locally and throughout the state. Among metered markets, ESPN reported, Nashville’s rating was second only to Hartford/New Haven. Knoxville and Memphis also were among the top 10.
The ratings rundown:
Hartford/New Haven, 29.3
New York 4.6
The SEC’s streak of BCS titles ended with Auburn’s loss to the Florida State in January but the conference remained unchallenged in terms of interest, both in person and on television.
The SEC led all conferences in average attendance for the 16th consecutive season and the The SEC on CBS was the highest rated piece of college football programming for the fifth consecutive year, according to a report released by the National Football Foundation on Wednesday.
Even though its team failed to qualify for a postseason bowl for the second consecutive season, the University of Tennessee contributed to the league’s attendance success as one of 13 teams that played before more than one million fans overall (home and away) and one of nine that averaged more than 90,000 per home game.
Overall attendance at NCAA football games topped 50 million for the first time in 2013.
Some highlights from the report:
• The SEC set an all-time, all-conference record of 7,567,406 fans in 2013 and led all FBS conferences in average attendance for the 16th consecutive year with 75,674 fans per game.
• The top-five conferences for average-home-game attendance included the SEC (75,674), Big Ten (70,431), Big 12 (58,899), Pac-12 (53,619) and ACC (49,982). The SEC, Big Ten, ACC and Pac-12 all set overall attendance records in 2013.
• Michigan averaged 111,592 fans per home game, marking their 16th consecutive attendance title. The Wolverines have now captured the title 44 times since 1949 and 38 since 1974. Two other programs also averaged more than 100,000: Ohio State at 104,933 and Alabama with 101,505, and six programs averaged more than 90,000 fans at each home game: Texas (98,976), Penn State (96,587), Tennessee (95,584), Georgia (92,746), LSU (91,418) and Nebraska (90,933).
• Auburn led all teams with 1,204,185 fans attending 14 games in 2013. Thirteen teams eclipsed more than one million spectators during the season: Ohio State (1,191,436), Michigan (1,174,360), Alabama (1,156,256), Nebraska (1,096,097), LSU (1,084,293), Georgia (1,071,401), Texas A&M (1,058,585), Tennessee (1,039,732), Texas (1,026,744), Penn State (1,011,515), South Carolina (1,002,947) and Florida State (1,001,074).
• The SEC on CBS averaged 7.4 million viewers and a 4.5 rating in 2013, a 20 percent increase in viewership and a 15 percent increase in ratings from 2012, making it the highest average of any network for the fifth consecutive year and giving CBS its best college football season since 2001.
• The six highest-rated and most-viewed games of the season were all SEC or Big Ten conference games, led by the SEC Championship Game between Missouri and Auburn on Dec. 7, which averaged 14.4 million viewers and an 8.6 rating. Including out-of-conference games, an SEC or Big Ten team was involved in 14 of the top 16 telecasts.
• The SEC owned four of the top five highest-rated games in 2013: LSU v. Alabama, Alabama v. Texas A&M, Alabama v. Auburn and Missouri v. Auburn.
• ESPN’s Aug. 29 season-opening doubleheader of North Carolina-South Carolina and Mississippi-Vanderbilt was the network’s second highest-rated and third most-viewed Thursday night season-opening since 1999, with a combined average of 3,135,000 viewers and a 2.1 rating.
James Franklin’s name has shown up a lot of places lately.
Monday he’ll lend his face and his voice to ESPN’s coverage of the BCS National Championship game. He might even become part of the story.
Vanderbilt’s football coach has been one of the most talked about members of his profession in recent days. He’s been linked to job openings in both college football (Texas and Penn State) and the NFL (Cleveland, Washington and Houston) and with each passing reference the sense that his departure is a matter of ‘when’ not ‘if’ grows.
“I feel honored to represent this program and go out to Pasadena with ESPN and continue to talk about our brand,” Franklin said, according to The Tennessean, following Vanderbilt’s BBVA Compass Bowl victory on Saturday. “We’ve got eight home games next year, which is going to be really important for us. … We’re going to be better next year because of the foundation these (seniors) have laid. Really, really excited about next year and what we’re building and the direction we’re going, and this is just the beginning.”
Based on reports, Penn State looks to be the most serious contender for Franklin’s services.
Here’s the rundown of the latest news involving Franklin, who is 24-15 with three bowl appearances (two victories) in three seasons at Vanderbilt:
• Miami coach Al Golden withdrew from consideration for the Penn State job on Sunday, the same day a separate report said Franklin was scheduled to interview.
• The Washington Post quoted a source who said Franklin is “definitely on the radar” of NFL teams.
• ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweeted the following Saturday: “Vanderbilt HC James Franklin, who interviewed for Texans HC job two weeks ago, has gotten requests to interview with Redskins and Browns.”
• A separate ESPN report Sunday said Franklin was expected to interview with the Browns this week.
• Orangebloods.com said Franklin was a finalist to coach Texas, which officially hired Charlie Strong from Louisville on Sunday.
For this one day, anyone who wants can hear what he has to say simply by tuning into ESPN. He is slated to appear on multiple programs across several networks during the buildup to the Auburn-Florida State contest.
It is an opportunity to raise his stature some more and to showcase himself as a speaker and a personality in an age when those things are becoming increasingly important to both college and professional teams.
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