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“By the Numbers”: Three-Part Look at College Football on ESPN Networks – Part 2


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By the Numbers: Part 1
By the Numbers: Part 3

Total Games, Most Appearances, Most-Viewed Games, Thursday & Saturday Data, & More

Part two of ESPN’s three-part “by the numbers” series providing extensive historical information on the network’s college football coverage includes figures on ESPN’s Thursday night series, including total games and team information; production facts; memorable moments that happened on ESPN networks; and ESPN commentator credentials.

The third part – coming Thursday, Aug. 22 – will look into ESPN’s college football ratings history with the most-viewed games and top 25 rated markets for the 2012 season. Part one, released August 20, included total amount of live and exclusive college football games across ESPN platforms, coverage growth over the years and teams that have appeared most frequently on ESPN.

College football has been a cornerstone of ESPN’s programming since the network’s launch in 1979 and televised live on ABC every year since 1966. ESPN’s commitment to the sport has grown to include multiple weekly games across ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPN3, ESPN Radio and ESPN Mobile as well as daily studio programs, the Saturday morning College GameDay Built by The Home Depot, and content across, ESPN The Magazine, espnW and more.

Thursday Night Showcase
ESPN’s Thursday night series has grown from select dates in a season to a weekly showcase and one of the network’s most-viewed series. The first live Thursday night game was a Thanksgiving showcase in 1985 pitting Texas at Texas A&M on November 28. A regular schedule of live ESPN Thursday prime time telecasts began with the 1992 season when the network provided 10 matchups. Overall, ESPN has televised 283 Thursday College Football Primetime games involving 101 teams (73 different home teams and 78 as visitors).

  • Longest Streak: Virginia Tech holds the longest streak, playing at least one Thursday night game every season since 2002.
  • Most Games: Virginia Tech leads all programs with 26 home and away games combined followed by  Georgia Tech with 24; Texas A&M and West Virginia at 19 each; Miami (Fla.) and NC State with 18; Louisville and Pittsburgh at 17; BYU at 16; and Mississippi State, South Carolina and Texas with 15.
  • Ranked Matchups & Top Fives: The series, set in advance of the season unlike most Saturday games that are scheduled six or 12 days prior to the game, has included 25 matchups between ranked teams and 35 teams in the top five at the time they played. Nine of the contests between ranked teams have included a team in the top five, highlighted by No. 3 West Virginia at No. 5 Louisville (November 2, 2006).
  • Host with the Most: Georgia Tech has been the host for 18 games followed by Virginia Tech at 15; BYU and NC State at 12 each; Miami (Fla.) and Mississippi State at 11; Rutgers with 10; and Louisville and South Carolina nine.
  • Road Warriors: Florida State and Texas A&M lead all programs with 12 each followed by Virginia Tech and West Virginia at 11; Clemson and Pittsburgh with nine; Louisville, North Carolina and Texas at eight; and Maryland, Miami (Fla.), Syracuse and Virginia seven.
  • Frequent Matchups: Texas and Texas A&M have played each other on Thursday night games more than any other teams with 11 matchups. Mississippi vs. Mississippi State (this year’s Thanksgiving game November 28 at 7:30 p.m. ET), Boston College vs. Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech vs. Maryland are tied at second with six games each. Miami (Fla.) against Pittsburgh and Air Force against Colorado State have been featured five times each.

In addition to ESPN’s weekly showcase, ESPNU has offered a regular Thursday night series since its launch, televising 82 games involving 72 teams since 2005.

ESPN continues to research and develop production and technical advancements that enhance telecasts and best showcase the game. Elements include SkyCam; on-field virtual graphics such as the 1st and 10 line and play clock; the “BottomLine” graphic providing constant score and news updates; advanced telestrators; additional and more advanced cameras; audio enrichments; and more.

  • Production Needs: ESPN’s extensive equipment needs to produce games across multiple networks each week include:
  • Approximately 210 cameras, 41,000 feet of camera cable and 23 to 25 Mobile Unit production trucks on hold.
  • The Mobile Unit production trucks travelled approximately 200,000 miles during the 2012 season.

A Moment in Time
ESPN has televised many of college football’s great moments in the past 30 years. A few select moments include:

  • Heisman Appearances: ESPN networks have captured multiple Heisman Trophy-worthy moments, including:
  • Doug Flutie throwing six touchdowns for Boston College in a 52-20 victory over North Carolina (September 22, 1984 on ESPN)
  • Bo Jackson running for 240 yards in a 41-0 Auburn shut-out of Mississippi (October 5, 1985 on ESPN)
  • Barry Sanders rushes for 215 yards and two scores for Oklahoma State in a 31-28 loss to Oklahoma in the only national television appearance of his Heisman Trophy-winning season (November 5, 1988 on ESPN)
  • Ty Detmer leads BYU over Miami 28-21, completing 38 of 54 passes for 406 yards and three touchdowns (September 8, 1990 on ESPN)
  • Michigan’s Desmond Howard sets a school-record 93-yard punt return or a touchdown in a 31-3 victory over rival Ohio State (November 23, 1991 on ABC)
    • Streak-Breaker: Defending national champion BYU has their 25-game winning streak snapped by UCLA 27-24 (September 7, 1985 on ESPN)
    • Big Victory: Grambling defeats Mississippi Valley State for coach Eddie Robinson’s 400th career victory (October 7, 1995 on ESPN2)
    • Heartbreaker: Top-ranked Florida State loses at Virginia 33-28 when Seminole running back Warrick Dunn is stopped at the goal line as time expired (November 2, 1995 on ESPN)
    • On and On: Arkansas defeats Kentucky 71-63 in seven overtimes, the longest college football game in history (November 1, 2003 on ESPN2)
    • BCS Crowned at Rose Bowl: Texas winning the BCS National Championship in a thrilling 41-38 victory over USC in the Rose Bowl Game (January 4, 2006 on ABC)
    • Unbeaten and Tops: No. 1 Ohio State defeating No. 2 Michigan 42-39 in the first-ever meeting between the two rivals when both were unbeaten and the top two ranked teams (November 18, 2006 on ABC)
    • Most-Viewed Telecast: Auburn’s last-second 22-19 victory over Oregon in Glendale, Ariz. stands as the most-watched program in cable television history with 27,316,000 viewers (January 10, 2011 on ESPN)

Championships, Awards and Honors
ESPN’s roster of analysts includes winners of several of the most prestigious honors in football:

  • Five members of the College Football Hall of Fame: Lou Holtz, Desmond Howard, Mark May, Chris Spielman and Andre Ware;
  • Six National Championships: Todd Blackledge (1982 with Penn State); Ed Cunningham (Washington in 1991), Brian Griese (Michigan in 1997), Lou Holtz (as head coach of Notre Dame in 1988), Danny Kanell (Florida State in 1993) and Trevor Matich (BYU in 1984);
  • Two Heisman Trophies: Desmond Howard (1991) and Andre Ware (1989);
  • Eight All Americans: Kevin Carter (1994), Desmond Howard (1991), Mark May (1980), Matt Millen (1978), David Pollack (2002, 2003 & 2004), Chris Spielman (1986 & 1987), Matt Stinchcomb (1997 & 1998), Andre Ware (1989);
  • Recipients of Seven Top Player Awards: Todd Blackledge (Davey O’Brien, 1982), Desmond Howard (Maxwell Award & Walter Camp, 1991), Mark May (Outland Trophy, 1980), David Pollack (Chuck Bednarik Award & Lombardi Award, 2004), Chris Spielman (Lombardi Award, 1987), Matt Stinchcomb (William V. Campbell Trophy, 1998) and Andre Ware (Davey O’Brien, 1989);
  • Six Super Bowls: Kevin Carter, David Diaz-Infante (two-time), Brian Griese, Desmond Howard (also a Super Bowl MVP), Mark May (two-time) and Matt Millen (four-time).